Herb of the Season: Yugmaphallottatna (Caralluma fimbriata)

Caralluma Fimbriata, known to Sanskrit as Yugmaphallottatna, is a species of the Caralluma genus of succulent cacti that has long been used as an appetite suppressant, often serving as a ‘famine food’ and thirst quencher when other sources of nourishment are in poor supply or absent. Western-based biomedical research is scant, but apparently validates these usages. Caralluma grows widely throughout India.

The variety of the herb most often utilized for appetite suppression is Caralluma adscendens var. fimbriata and is commonly referred to as Caralluma fimbriata or as Yugmaphallottatna, or called by one of its regional names: Kullee moofiyan or kallimudayan (Tamil), KaraIlamu (Telegu), and Ranshabar, Makad Shenguli or Shindalavmakadi (in Marathi).

The plant contains some unique molecules, and the most suspect bioactive ingredients are the Pregnane Glycosides (note that the appetite suppressing plant Hoodia gordonii also has pregnane glycosides as an active constituent), but the exact glycoside mechanism causative of most of the effects is not known although it is believed that fatty tissue accumulation is prevented by blocking citrate lyase. Most pregane glycosides from Caralluma share very similar structures with Hoodia.

The genus Caralluma belongs to the family Apocynaceae and the subfamily of Asclepiadaceae, with over 260 species bearing the name of Caralluma being distributed across Asia and the Mediterranean and in general the genus is traditionally associated with a very wide variety of therapeutic applications including the treatment of rheumatism, diabetes, leprosy, paralysis, and inflammation while also possessing antimalarial, antitrypanosomal, anti-ulcer, antioxidant, antinociceptive, and antiproliferative properties. Visually, Caralluma plants are quadrangular, perennial succulents with small caducous leaves, and are sometimes used for food.

Dosage is a matter of varying opinions, but animal studies fail to note any significant toxicity associated with daily dosages as high as 5g/kg body eight. The one human study on the subject matter using 1g Caralluma daily did not note any side-effects significantly different than placebo, although there is one known instance – possibly anecdotal – reported by a user taking Prozac where consumption ensued in dazedness, diminution of attention span and memory and a general feeling of mental “fogginess.”

According to the website WebMD, Caralluma seems to be safe for most people when 500 mg of the extract is taken twice daily for up to 60 days, although long-term safety is not known. It is reported that Caralluma might cause some mild side effects such as stomach upset, intestinal gas, constipation, and stomach pain, but these side effects usually end after a week of the herb’s use. Currently, the only human study utilized 1,000mg of a 14:1 concentrated extract (equivalent to 14g of the plant in dry weight). This dose appeared to be moderately effective, and is currently the only lead for what oral dosage of supplementation is needed.

Some users of Caralluma report it is particularly effective in alleviating hunger pangs (hence its traditional use as a ‘famine food’) and have used it efficaciously to support juicing and fasting regimes and have recommend its use especially when beginning new dietary regimes. Caralluma fimbriata appears to require up to a month or so to work for appetite suppression.

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