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Herbs for Weight Loss: What's Medically Proven To Work?

Herbs for Weight Loss: What's Medically Proven To Work?

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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.

Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regards to weight management.

We’ve recently reviewed many ineffective (and potentially dangerous) herbal weight loss products, from Meticore to Hydroxcut, and we figured it would be useful to consumers to publish an article on herbs which actually are proven to aid in weight loss efforts on average.

It’s important to note that no herbal supplement will be effective for everyone, and any company that claims otherwise should be avoided. We will report the results of medical research on herbs that have been shown to be effective for weight loss on average, but we want to make clear that this doesn’t guarantee results for any individual.

In this article we’ll review three different botanicals that have promising weight loss benefits based on clinical studies published in scientific journals: green coffee extract, blood orange and white kidney bean extract.

Green Coffee Extract

Coffee beans are typically roasted to create the brown beans consumers are used to seeing, which are used to make coffee, but prior to roasting the beans are green. Green coffee extract is more potent than raw green coffee beans, and is made through an extraction process that increases the levels of the active chemical compounds like chlorogenic acid.

Green coffee extract is often confused for coffee fruit extract, which is a totally separate botanical ingredient commonly used in nootropics like Neuriva Plus.

A medical review of green coffee extract for obesity found that it was effective for weight loss in overweight individuals, and even more effective for patients starting at a higher weight. The study researchers analyzed 16 different medical trials on green coffee extract and weight loss to come to those conclusions.

An animal study found that green coffee extract at 0.5% and 1% of dietary intake “significantly suppressed” body weight of the mice, though this a relatively high dose that would be difficult to replicate in humans.

A third study analyzed the effects of green coffee bean extract on patients with metabolic syndrome, which is a grouping of conditions that increase overall risk of chronic health problems. A patient with diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity would be considered to have metabolic syndrome.

The study found that green coffee extract at 800 milligrams (mg) daily caused twice as much weight loss and Body Mass Index (BMI) reduction as placebo.

One downside to green coffee bean extract for weight loss is that the safety of its use long-term hasn’t yet been confirmed by medical studies. Most of the human studies have been medium or short-term, and even though animal studies have shown no toxicity even at very high doses, we can’t definitively say the compound is safe for consistent long-term use until there’s research on human subjects proving so.

Blood Orange

The botanical name for blood orange is Moro, and it’s been studied in medical trials for its effect on weight loss.

Blood orange juice was shown in an animal study to improve weight loss compared to water alone.

Most of the medical trials on blood orange use an extract version rather than juice due to the increased potency. An incredibly thorough review published in the Heliyon medical journal cited 42 individual studies on blood orange extract, and concluded that the compound “stimulates the oxidation of fatty acids.” The researchers also noted that blood orange extract has “an important role as a nutraceutical in the prevention of obesity.”

Like with green coffee bean extract, there is unfortunately lacking safety and toxicity data on blood orange extract. The juice or whole fruits are likely safer to consume than the extract because they’re less potent. 

Blood orange extract has an increased concentration of chemicals like synephrine which may increase the risk of adverse cardiovascular events as outlined in the above-linked review. The increased potency which makes blood orange extract more effective for weight loss than blood orange juice may also make it riskier to take.

White Kidney Bean Extract

This botanical ingredient isn’t one that gets much attention in popular health media, but there’s some fascinating research on its weight loss effects.

A study published in the Food Science and Nutrition journal found that 2400 mg of white kidney bean extract taken daily for 35 days caused a 2.24 kilogram (kg) reduction in weight in human subjects, which is equivalent to 4.94 pounds (lb). This is quite significant considering there were no other differences between the group taking white kidney bean extract and the group taking placebo.

A medical review of white kidney bean extract for weight loss explained how the compound is effective: it limits carbohydrate absorption. This suggests that its benefit as a weight loss aid is greater in the context of a high-carb diet than a low-carb one. Patients on a keto diet may see little benefit from white kidney bean extract, though this should be studied to confirm.

White kidney bean extract seems safe to use for short periods of time, with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stating that few safety concerns are reported in use up to 12 weeks.

Like with the previous two weight loss botanicals, there is lacking long-term safety research. This doesn’t necessarily mean that white kidney bean extract is unsafe when used over longer durations, just that there unfortunately isn’t much funding for years-long human trials for botanical ingredients.

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Green coffee extract, blood orange and white kidney bean extract stand out as botanical ingredients which may be effective for short-term weight loss. While all three aren’t necessarily herbs, they are naturally-derived botanical ingredients which consumers who have an aversion to pharmaceutical medications may want to discuss with their doctor.

We don’t recommend any of these compounds for long-term daily use, because there isn’t medical research proving they’re safe to take indefinitely by humans.

We tend to recommend lifestyle modifications for weight loss, such as increased fiber intake, which is medically proven to be effective without any significant side effects as we discussed at length in our review of weight loss program Optavia.

Herbs may be beneficial for short-term weight loss, but shouldn’t be considered a primary strategy for losing fat.

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