Caralluma fimbriata is a popular edible cactus from India. It grows abundantly throughout India’s interior, even along the roadsides. It’s part of the diet of several native Indian populations. It has been used for thousands of years in Indian culture for helping suppress appetite during long hunts and times of famine. It typically blooms in late summer. Its blossoms are usually brown, purple, tan, yellow, and red. The plant can also be found throughout parts of:

  • Africa
  • Middle East
  • Southern Europe, especially the Canary Islands

Recently, people have begun to use the extract of C. fimbriata to help them:

  • lose weight
  • build endurance
  • suppress thirst

In India where C. fimbriata grows, people use it in a variety of ways. Despite its foul smell, many choose to eat it raw or simply boil it first. Others cook it as a vegetable with spices or add it to condiments like chutneys and pickles. In the United States, it is most often taken in extract form as a supplement.

Caralluma fimbriata is considered safe for consumption. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added it to the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list of food ingredients in 2014.

As an extract — the form most often used in the United States — the recommended dosage is 500 milligrams taken up to twice daily for 60 days. Its effect on the body when used for longer than 60 days is unknown. For this reason, long-term use should be avoided.

You run the risk of stomach problems if you take too much C. fimbriata. Be sure to pay attention to the product label and limit yourself to 500 milligrams at a time. As with any supplement, be sure to check with your doctor before taking it.

Research results on the effectiveness of C. fimbriata are mixed. Some studies say ithas little effect, and others say that it helps reduce hunger and helps people lose weight. No studies have showed any harmful effects from taking C. fimbriata at recommended dosages.

A study published in the journal Perspectives in Clinical Research concluded that more research is needed before C. fimbriata extract can be recommended as an anti-obesity drug. No statistically significant loss in weight or body measurements was found among obese participants of the study who used C. fimbriata extract for 12 weeks. However, study participants did not experience any adverse effects from taking the extract.

On the positive side, a review of clinical trials published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that Caralluma fimbriata extract was one of only two plant extracts from 14 studies that had measurable outcomes in reducing appetite or food intake.

Another study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine concluded that C. fimbriata supplementation has the potential to curb central obesity when combined with dietary control and physical activity. Central obesity is a key factor in metabolic syndrome, which can increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In the study, 43 adults between the ages of 29 and 59 combined dietary control and physical activity with C. fimbriata supplementation. Those in the group that took the C. fimbriata lost a little more than 2 inches around their waists during the study period. This was more than double the average loss of less than 1 inch among the control group participants.

A study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences found that C. fimbriata extract significantly helped curb compulsive overeating among children and adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). This is a condition that leads to compulsive overeating. Researchers conducted a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial for 10 weeks with participants in Australia and New Zealand. Everyone took either C. fimbriata extract or a placebo for four weeks before a two-week break. After the break, participants switched groups. Those on the placebo took C. fimbriata extract, and vice versa. Results showed that the C. fimbriata helped curb appetite, with no adverse effects at any stage of the trial.

C. fimbriata may have other health benefits and is being researched for its role as an anticancer agent and as an effective antioxidant.

Although C. fimbriata is generally considered safe for consumption, you might experience some side effects when you first start ingesting it. These might include:

  • stomach pain
  • constipation
  • other gastrointestinal issues

If these issues don’t go away within a week, it’s best to stop taking the extract. See a doctor if the pain becomes severe.

C. fimbriata is a generally safe product to use as an addition to your weight-loss plan. You should always use it as a complement to a healthy diet and exercise routine, and not in place of it. Be sure to limit yourself to the recommended dosage — 500 milligrams for 60 days. Insufficient evidence is available on the effects of long-term use beyond 60 days.

If you are using a supplement, buy from a reputable source. Food supplements are not monitored by the FDA and could have issues with purity, strength, quality, and packaging. As always, consult a doctor before beginning any weight-loss and physical activity program, especially if you’ve been sedentary for an extended period of time.