Caralluma is an Old World cactus that is said to have several important health benefits. Several species are found in the Arabian Peninsula, from northwest Saudi Arabia to Oman. Those species that grow in Arabia look like grayish stones and have a “carrion-like” aroma which attracts flies, aiding in pollination.
Caralluma grows in many parts of Africa also, but it is best known for its health properties in India, where it grows wild, can be found along roadsides, and is sometimes used to border gardens.
Traditionally, tribal people in India chewed pieces of caralluma to keep from being hungry during a long hunting expedition.
Says WebMD: “These days, a solution that contains chemicals taken from the plant (extract) is used to decrease appetite for weight loss. It is also used to quench thirst and to increase endurance.”
However, WebMD adds that there is “insufficient evidence” to prove caralluma’s weight-control abilities.
The FDA website carries a research paper contending that one caralluma species, Caralluma fimbriata, is an effective appetite suppressant:
Caralluma fimbriata has been clinically demonstrated to suppress appetite and to stop hunger pangs in patients. It is believed that the pregnane glucosides in Caralluma fimbriata inhibit the hunger sensory mechanism of the hypothalamus.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Patients on Caralluma … report feeling more energetic and have gained lean muscle mass, while losing fat.
The reason for this is, that CaraIluma not only inhibits fat synthesis as mentioned above, it also increases the burning of fat. This makes more energy available to the body and makes the patient more active and lively.
In foods in India, caralluma is cooked as a vegetable and is used in preserves such as chutneys and pickles. It is also eaten raw.
In Oman, caralluma is said to be good for liver ailments and its freshly cut stems are used to treat burns. Caralluma juice is also added to milk; the resulting curdled product is used to strengthen the sick during convalescence and is given as a general tonic.