What Is Caralluma Extract?
Caralluma fimbriata, otherwise known simply as Caralluma, is a fibrous cactus that grows widely throughout India. Its edible qualities were discovered during a time of extreme famine. Now, people consume it raw, cooked and pickled as part of Indian cuisine.
Caralluma is more than just food, though. In its whole form or as an extract, practitioners of Ayurveda use it for its therapeutic effects. Specifically, Caralluma can suppress the appetite and aid in weight loss.
People have been taking advantage of this botanical’s benefits for a very long time. Modern scientific research on it is only recently emerging, but it appears that Caralluma can indeed help reduce appetite as well as stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce oxidative damage and improve digestion. It even has antimicrobial effects.
Caralluma’s health benefits are largely thanks to its unique phytochemical profile. It contains relatively high amounts of dietary fiber, amino acids (especially proline, isoleucine and valine) and several types of phenols. Phenols are compounds that act as antioxidants in the body and neutralize damaging free-radicals (x).
People discovered the appetite suppressing effect of Caralluma a long time ago. Science is now beginning to validate this and shed light on how it works. While no one knows yet for sure, it appears that the plant’s high levels of compounds called pregnone glycosides are responsible for this. These compounds seem to impact certain brain neuropeptides that play a role in appetite. Additionally, they might interfere with usual functioning of specific digestive enzymes (x).
Aids in Weight Loss
Caralluma’s appetite suppressing effects were probably helpful during times of famine when the plant was first discovered to be edible. Now, we have an opposite problem. Suppressing the appetite obviously goes a long way in helping people lose the extra pounds that can lead to other health problems.
Research backs this up. In one study of 50 overweight adults, those who took 1 gram of Caramulla extract per day for 60 days experienced a reduction of appetite compared to those who took a placebo. Food simply didn’t seem as appealing. The Caramulla group also saw significant changes in reduction of waist circumference (x).
Reducing waist circumference is considered an important factor in lowering the risk for metabolic syndrome — a condition that is associated with high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and high cholesterol. Another study found that not only did 1 gram of Caramulla extract per day for 12 weeks reduce waist circumference, it improved other metabolic markers. Participants had lower blood pressure, triglycerides, body weight, BMI and overall fat intake (x).
May Reduce Blood Sugar
Consumption of this edible cactus can help lower blood sugar levels. Animal studies show that intake of the extract can promote the activity of enzymes that break down glucose and stabilize its uptake. It also can reduce glucose production. These studies suggest that Caralluma could potentially minimize the effects of dysfunctional glucose metabolism and promote lower blood insulin levels. As a result, it can also prevent tissue damage to the kidneys and liver (x, x).
Caralluma contains several types of phenols. Phenols are compounds that interact with — and ultimately neutralize — free radicals that can cause cell damage and oxidative stress (x). Many things can create free radicals in the body, including diets that are high in calories. According to preliminary animal research, Caralluma extract can prevent protein oxidation, stop fat breakdown and promote additional antioxidant activity despite intake of a high-calorie diet (x, x).
Caralluma could improve digestive functioning thanks to its high fiber content. It is especially useful when consumed as a vegetable rather than extract since it’s composed of about 15 percent crude fiber (x). Fiber is recommended to normalize bowel movements, maintain intestinal health, lower cholesterol and even prevent certain diseases (x).
Antimicrobial and Antiparasitic
Caralluma consumed as a food or extract kills bacteria including Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, in addition to the worm Pheretima posthuman and fungi Aspergillus niger and Candida albicans. One traditional use for the plant is to alleviate problems like diarrhea, and this may be one reason why (x).
Caralluma Extract Side Effects and Dosage
In 2014, the FDA recognized Caralluma as GRAS, or “Generally Recognized As Safe.”
The most common dosage found to be safe and effective in human studies is 1,000 mg per day for appetite suppression.
The Bottom Line
Caralluma extract is not a weight loss miracle. Alas, nothing is. Those that lost weight in studies also had to improve their diet and increase their activity levels. However, the freedom from food cravings that Caralluma offers can certainly help! Since many weight loss aids are over-stimulating or cause unwanted side effects, Caralluma can be a gentler, safer alternative. As a bonus, it can even reduce oxidative stress and improve digestion.
By: Sukriti Taneja