Garcinia (Garcinia Cambogia) Herbal Monograph

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Garcinia Cambogia Fruit
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Garcinia cambogia is the yellow to reddish fruit of the garcinia tree also known as the brindle berry. The fruit resembles a miniature pumpkin. It has been primarily grown in southern India and Southeast Asia and is used commercially as an ingredient in weight loss programs.

The rind is rich in hydroxycitric acid (HCA) and it has been used for hundreds of years throughout Asia as a preservative, natural flavoring and carminative (reduces gas and bloating). Garcinia has been safely used for centuries in South East Asia to make meals more filling and satisfying.

The extract and rind of Garcinia cambogia is a curry condiment in India. According to Indian folk tradition, Garcinia cambogia is also used for colon complaints and rheumatic pain. Animal research supports these claims but subsequent human trials have been equivocal.

The mode of action for garcinia cambogia is:
HCA inhibits an enzyme called “citrate lyase”, an enzyme that helps turns excess carbohydrates into fat. By inhibiting this enzyme, it is believed the body boosts carbohydrate breakdown, in other words, it burns more carbs.

Hydroxycitrate complex (HCA),
 from Garcinia cambogia,
 is the active ingredient of brindle berry and is synthesized from the rind of the fruit. HCA is a substance which has been studied extensively for more than twenty years. Various studies have shown that HCA supports the liver’s fat digestion and sugar storage processes, helping to regulate appetite and body weight.

HCA also has a thermogenic effect, during which extra calories are burned. Research has found that HCA supports energy expenditure, maintains cholesterol and also reduces the amount of fat synthesized from excess carbohydrate calories.

HCA was also shown to be a potent inhibitor of ATP citrate lyase, (which catalyzes the extra-mitochondrial cleavage of citrate to oxaloacetate and acetyl-CoA). The inhibition of this reaction limits the availability of acetyl-CoA units required for fatty acid synthesis and lipogenesis when on a lipogenic diet, that is, a diet high in carbohydrates.

Extensive animal studies indicated that HCA suppresses fatty acid synthesis, lipogenesis, reduces food intake and induced weight loss. In vitro studies revealed the inhibitions of fatty acid synthesis and lipogenesis from various precursors.

By this stage, we are getting a clear picture of the potential of this wonderful herb. The small pumpkin-like fruits that make us feel full, perhaps that’s the secret behind the signature of this plant.

Garcinia Combogia

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories or limited scientific research.

  • Significantly lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Increases beneficial HDL cholesterol, and increases urinary fat metabolites (markers of fat oxidation or breakdown).
  • Lowers leptin, an enzyme involved in triggering appetite.
  • Promotes release of serotonin in the brain which is a feel-good hormone that supports healthy weight control. Also improves melatonin metabolism.
  • Increases energy stores in the liver and other tissues, improving energy and reducing appetite.

This list below is not meant to be used to recommend treatment but is merely indicative of this medicinal herb’s potential uses.

Anthelmintic (expels worms), antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiviral, appetite suppressant, bowel disorders, bronchodilator (opens the airways), carminative (reduces gas), coughs, cathartic (encourages bowel movements), constipation, diabetes, fluid retention (edema), dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), gastric ulcer, prophylaxis, hepatoprotection (liver protection), lazy bowel, menstrual disorders, rheumatism, sore throat, urinary tract disorders, uterus disorders.

HCA has antioxidant properties that reduce oxidative stress (free radical damage) in body cells and is proven to reduce inflammation.

It also reduces insulin resistance. This is when the body’s cells are unable to uptake insulin which carries glucose into the cell to be used as energy. Insulin resistance is an increasingly common disease brought about by excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates. It is a pre-diabetic condition.

Raised blood sugars and raised blood fats and cholesterol usually go hand in hand. HCA helps to regulate both.

In extensive animal studies, Garcinia cambogia was found to reduce food intake by suppressing the appetite thus decreasing body fat. Some double-blind studies using Garcinia cambogia and a placebo showed the HCA group as doubling or tripling weight loss over a 12-week period as compared to the control group. 

The results of one study showed that daily treatment with hydroxy citrate for two weeks reduced serum cholesterol LDL levels from 63 mg/dl to 50 mg/dl, increased HDL level from 35 to 63 mg/dl and reduced body overall weight. It was concluded that hydroxy citrate derived from the fruit of Garcinia might be useful for lowering cholesterol levels and enhancing overall body weight loss.

Garcinia cambogia reduced abdominal fat accumulation in subjects, regardless of sex, who had the visceral fat accumulation type of obesity. No rebound effect was observed. It is therefore expected that Garcinia cambogia may be useful for the prevention and reduction of accumulation of visceral fat. (1)

Studies have shown that the extracts as well as hydroxy citric acid (HCA), a main organic acid component of the fruit rind, exhibited anti-obesity activity including reduced food intake and body fat gain by regulating the serotonin levels related to satiety, increased fat oxidation and decreased de novo lipogenesis. HCA is a potent inhibitor of adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase, a catalyst for the conversion process of citrate to acetyl-coenzyme A, which plays a key role in fatty acid, cholesterol and triglycerides syntheses. The crude extract or constituents from the plant also exerted hypolipidaemic, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anthelmintic, anticholinesterase and hepatoprotective activities in vitro and in vivo models. (2)

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can eat donuts with impunity; rather, your body will use healthy, complex carbohydrates more efficiently, less readily storing them as fat.

HCA is a popular weight loss ingredient. Lesser known is HCA’s effect on immuno-regulation by reducing glucocorticoid levels.  These are a group of hormones released by the adrenals as part of the stress response.

The most important glucocorticoid is cortisol which regulates several body functions. In excess, cortisol inhibits immunologic activity and increases pro-inflammatory substances.

HCA can improve depressed immune activity as well as reduce overactive immune function, especially where antibodies are involved.

With HCA, muscle mass is preserved and wound healing assisted due to:

  • reduced corticosteroids
  • improved insulin response
  • reduced inflammation and
  • improved melatonin metabolism (melatonin helps maintain muscle and skin integrity)

NB: As with all herbal medicines, a dose of HCA is important. Remember to read and compare label claims to make sure you are receiving therapeutic doses in the product you choose. If in doubt, ask a health professional to explain the label.

Adults (over 18 years old) – Dosing evidence is vague and there is no scientifically proven effective dose for Garcinia. There is sufficient available scientific evidence suggesting that intake of hydroxy citric acid at levels up to 2,800 milligrams per day is safe for human consumption. Garcinia has been well tolerated for up to 12 weeks in available human trials. To improve physical performance, 250 milligrams of HCA capsules administered for five days may be beneficial.

For weight loss, HCA given three times daily up to 1 hour before meals at doses up to 5,000 milligrams (eg: 3 x daily as 1750 mg in capsules) per day reduced body weight index and body mass index in 60 moderately obese subjects.

Children (under 18 years old) – There is no proven safe or effective dose for Garcinia in children and use is not recommended.

Neither acute nor chronic toxicity is reported with regular consumption of Garcinia products. Garcinia has been used routinely in the coastal areas of South Asia for centuries and continues to be consumed in large amounts. There is preliminary evidence for the use of Garcinia in improving physical performance and weight loss.

The use of Garcinia Cambogia for weight loss or during a weight loss program should be a safe option and there appears to be enough evidence to include this herb amongst other beneficial herbal treatments.

Long-term use seems safe and like many herbal medicines, it may actually lead to an improvement in the body’s own metabolic function over time.

Garcinia can be found in the following Ultimate Herbal Health products:

Brett Elliot ®

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