In ancient Greece during times of fasting or famine, people kept seeds of fennel handy to chew as an appetite suppressant. For those who were wealthy and weighty due to over-indulgence in food, fennel tea may also have been used as a treatment for obesity (its Greek name comes from the word maraino, which means “to become thin”).

The Greeks understood well that plant extracts can support the body in maintaining a healthy weight and appetite — a wisdom largely lost in our modern world. There is no single herb or even combination of herbs that will magically melt excess kilos. Instead herbal teas, supplements, tonics or tinctures may help to address issues such as 3pm sugar binges or 6am exercise blahs that compromise weight loss.

If you’ve been struggling with weight loss, you may want to consider some of the following herbal remedies to assist you and make your diet and exercise approach much more effective.

It’s important to keep in mind that herbal medicines will normalize your appetite, not suppress it and allow you to skip meals. Any weight loss achieved by skipping meals will damage your metabolism and you’ll regain the lost weight plus more as soon as you start to eat again. By stabilizing your appetite and reducing food cravings, the following herbs will help you to regain control over both serving size and the type of food you eat. This will ensure sustained and permanent weight loss without damaging your metabolism.

Gymnema sylvestre (gymnema) acts like a natural force field against sugar, aiding weight loss. Taken in a tincture or tea, it will inhibit your ability to taste anything sweet for up to two hours. If sugar cravings are your biggest weight issue, swish some gymnema tincture around your mouth then chew on some sugar — it will feel like you’re eating sand, so effective is gymnema’s ability to neutralize your sweet taste receptors. Gymnema tincture taken every few hours can help to rapidly curb comfort eating — there’s no comfort or enjoyment to be had eating cakes and biscuits that taste like cardboard, assisting weight loss.

Hoodia gordonii is native to the Kalahari Desert region of southern Africa and is currently the latest “it” herb for weight loss. Despite a lack of human clinical trials, hoodia has a long history of use throughout South Africa. Keep in mind, though, that hoodia’s traditional use by Kalahari Bushmen was limited to occasional use in order to keep appetite and thirst at bay in the desert, not long-term use for weight loss.

Sadly, trade in hoodia as an appetite suppressant for weight loss is threatening the plant’s survival in the wild. To ensure the herb’s long-term survival, the plant is listed on the treaty for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Australia is a party to CITES and regulates imports of hoodia-containing products through a permit system. If you plan to purchase any such products over the internet, check out whether you need a permit first, otherwise your goods may be seized by customs.

Psyllium hulls contain a soluble fibre that absorbs water, swelling in your stomach to help you feel full. If you’ve been over-eating for a period of time, your stomach, a stretchy muscular bag, may have adjusted to the increased amount of food. This may mean it’s slower in sending “I’ve had enough” signals to your brain to let you know you’re sated.

Alex Strande, ND, Ph.D., is a naturopath and microbiologist. His primary location is in Houston, Texas. If you have any issues concerning your health, please visit us at or call us to set up a consultation on 713.660.1420. We do long distance phone/Skype consultations with people from all around the world.

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