Where it comes from: Inula racemosa is an herb—that grows in high mountain areas—that's often used for medicinal purposes. The root has been used for centuries in Eastern cultures to treat coughs and support a healthy cardiovascular system. It's found in many weight-loss pills in the U.S. such as LipoCut, LeptiSlim and Hydroxycut Hardcore.
What it'll do for you: "This product has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of heart disease," says Roberta Anding, RD, ADA spokesperson and sports dietitian for the Houston Texans. "There are some animal models (with albino mice and guinea pigs) suggesting that it may lower cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease." Here, a look at the key possible benefits:
- May possess anti-cancer properties
An article published this year in the journal Toxicology in Vitro suggests that inula racemosa may have some anti-cancer properties. In an ongoing study, researchers have noticed that extracts of the root may help kill certain leukemia cells. More research is certainly necessary but many experts are hopeful.
- Can lower cholesterol
A 2009 study in India monitored animals on a high-fat diet for 30 days. At the end of that time period, six animals were killed (sad!) and evaluated for fatty materials built up in the coronary artery, aorta and major organs. The remaining animals were assigned to five groups of six animals and each fed for 90 additional days—some were given diets with inula racemosa. The findings? Inula racemosa decreased total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increased HDL cholesterol (the good kind). The experts confirmed that the root does, in fact, possess legit cardio-protective and anti-obesity claims in traditional medicine.
- Can help treat heart disease
Two hundred patients with ischemic heart disease were studied in a setup that tested inula racemosa with another cholesterol-lowering herb, guggul. At the start, about 80 percent of the patients suffered from shortness of breath and all of them complained of chest paints. After six months of treatment with the combine roots, 25 percent of the subjects had no chest pain and only 32 percent still complained of shortness of breath.
- May stimulate weight loss
Inula Racemosa contains alantolactone, which enhances insulin sensitivity. This means, you secrete less insulin after eating and less of the meal is stored as dietary fat.
Suggested intake: Most weight-loss pills contain 20-100mg.
Associated risks/scrutiny: Weight-loss pills with inula racemosa often have about 300 mg of caffeine (equal to three cups of coffee), which can lead to over-stimulation in people who are sensitive to the drug.
As for the root on its own, no serious side effects have been reported. "Of concern, however, is the fact inula racemosa may also function as a beta blocker," warns Anding. "Beta blockers are used for those with heart failure and high blood pressure. If it is indeed an herbal beta blocker, you wouldn't want to take this herb with a beta blocker that's prescribed by your doctor." With that in mind, always talk to your doctor before you begin taking herbal supplements or weight-loss pills.