weight loss

The Plant Detective
5:00 am
Sat November 29, 2014

Usnea: Bearded Medicine

Usnea sp. lichen. (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Kirill Ignatyev

You might have brushed by it in the forest, where this hairy-looking symbiosis between algea and fungi perches on tree limbs. The look of the lichen usnea explains its nicknames: "old man's beard," "tree's dandruff," "women's long hair," and "beard lichen." For centuries, it's been considered a handy medicinal. People grab some to dress wounds, or take it internally for infections or oral inflammation. But in the 1990s, when manufacturers of weight-loss drugs started adding sodium usniate (usnic acid) to their formulas, several cases of liver damage emerged.

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The Plant Detective
8:00 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Hoodia

3/15/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" Hoodia, native to the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa, works as an appetite suppressant by telling the brain that the stomach is full without affecting the rest of the body's functioning. After a long legal battle, the San bushmen of the Kalahari won a settlement for traditional claims to the knowledge of the plant. 

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