Chickweed is an herb high in vitamin C, and various parts of the plant are used in herbal preparations.
Chickweed gets its reputation as a slimming agent from folk medicine; there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. The herb has diuretic properties, however, and may produce a temporary loss of water weight.
Chickweed is considered to be relatively safe when taken in recommended doses for short periods of time.
Cinnamon, derived from a tree of the laurel family, is everyone's favorite spice.
In addition to spicing foods, cinnamon is used as a medicine to treat nausea, relieve stomach gas, and reduce fevers. In one scientific experiment, the spice was found to help the body better digest sweets by improving the ability of insulin to move sugar into cells. It has been described as an herbal lipotropic (an agent that removes fat from storage or prevents its buildup in the body). A few natural weight-loss supplements contain traces of cinnamon; however, it has no proven effect on fat loss.
Cinnamon is very safe.
Citrus Aurantium (Bitter Orange, Synephrine)
Citrus aurantium is the botanical name of the Chinese fruit zhishi. An alkaloid called synephrine is extracted from this fruit and used as an ingredient in several natural weight-loss supplements. Both synephrine and its source, citrus aurantium, are found in marmalade.
EAS, a supplement manufacturer, conducted a preliminary test on one of its natural weight-loss supplements, a product called Phen-Free. It is formulated with synephrine, caffeine, cordyceps, and other nutrients. Seven healthy men and women were recruited for the study four were weight-trainers, and three were nonexercisers. Using a sophisticated test, the researchers first assessed the volunteers' metabolic rate, body temperature, and fuel utilization (a measure of how much fat or carbohydrate is burned). One week later, the same assessment was applied, with one exception. The volunteers took a dose (four capsules) of Phen-Free half an hour prior to the assessment. Remarkably, supplementation with Phen-Free boosted fat-burning by more than 18 percent.
If synephrine turns out to be as good as it sounds, it could be a powerful natural fat-burner. But to date, not enough is known about its exact effects.
Proceed with caution until more is known about the safety of citrus aurantium and its active component, synephrine. Even manufacturers who formulate supplements containing citrus aurantium are issuing caveats. Case in point: A product called Synephrinol, which contains pure citrus aurantium along with some caffeine-containing herbs, carries the following contraindications on its label: "Do not consume this product if you have high blood pressure, prostatic hypertrophy [enlarged prostate], hyper-thyroidism, glaucoma, cardiac arrhythmias, or pheochromocytoma [an adrenal gland tumor that causes overproduction of epinedrine or norepi-nephrine]. This product should not be consumed in combination with MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors or with any antidepressant drug which blocks the transport of norepinephrine. Curtail or discontinue use if nervousness, sleeplessness, or nausea occurs. Not intended for use by persons under the age of 18."
Cordyceps is a mushroom native to mountainous regions of China and Tibet. It is unusual in that it grows on caterpillar larvae.
This mushroom has been used for centuries in China as a food and as a tonic to boost immunity, alleviate fatigue, fight old age, and strengthen the lungs, kidneys, and reproductive system. It is more of a folk remedy than a proven medicine.
Cordyceps is available as a supplement and is found as an ingredient in some natural weight-loss supplements. However, no one knows if cordy-ceps has any direct effect on weight loss.
Most likely, the reason cordyceps is included in multinutrient weight-loss products is its possible effect on exercise performance. In fact, many Chinese athletes swear by cordyceps. Some researchers think that it opens up breathing passages to let more oxygen circulate. With more oxygen available to cells, endurance increases.
Cordyceps is described as safe and gentle, but very little information exists on its safety. Some people in China use it once a week; others, daily.