ImageWith so many "weight loss miracles" on the market, it is only natural to want to put them all under "s" for scams.

Quick weight loss... Never feel hungry again... Lose extra pounds in your sleep... The list of empty promises goes on and on. So why would the hype surrounding Hoodia gordonii be different? Well, according to several experts, this exotic plant actually performs and does so effectively.

A natural appetite suppressant that looks like a cactus, Hoodia gordonii has been used by African tribesmen to fight off hunger on long trips for centuries. It has also been touted by the Bushmen as a treatment for abdominal cramping, hemorrhoids, tuberculosis, indigestion and diabetes. The authentic Hoodia is culled from the Kalahari Desert region in South Africa.

What most people do not know is that there are actually 20 different varieties of hoodia, but they are not all created equal. It is the hoodia gordonii that has earned a reputation for its appetite-supressing properties.

Hoodia contains a molecule called P57 which actually prevents hunger pangs by making the brain think you have already eaten. Individuals who eat the Hoodia do not think about hunger, feel fuller longer and maintain an overall feeling of well being.

ImageIn one study, Hoodia was injected into the brains of rats. Researchers found that the Hoodia was broken down by the liver. This called into question the amount necessary to make sure that Hoodia would have an effect. The author of the study debated whether there is enough Hoodia in supplements to achieve any type of reaction.

According to the proponents of Hoodia, a chemical similar to glucose is put in the body. This chemical, said to be 100,000 times more powerful than glucose, signals the hypothalamus, tricking the body into believing that it has eaten enough food, thereby stopping any feelings of hunger.

Because you do not get famished as often, the amount of calories you consume decreases, contributing to weight loss.

So far there are no known side effects from ingesting Hoodia. The actual Hoodia plant isn't found in the U.S. Experts warn consumers to watch out for nutritional supplements that falsely say they contain Hoodia. These days, Hoodia is available in capsules, patches, sprays, teas and liquid extracts.

In 2007, at least 300 products are being sold throughout the world that claim to contain "authentic Hoodia gordonii." The street value of Hoodia is $250 per kilogram.

One major pharmaceutical company is currently working on a formula that should hit the shelves by 2008. In the meantime, you are left to take your chances with the brands currently on the market.