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J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Dec 24;176:286-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.10.038. Epub 2015 Oct 28.

A systematic review of medicinal plants used for weight loss in Brazil: Is there potential for obesity treatment?

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Department of Physiology, Federal University of Sergipe, (UFS), São Cristóvão 49100-000, SE, Brazil.
Department of Physiology, Federal University of Sergipe, (UFS), São Cristóvão 49100-000, SE, Brazil. Electronic address:



Obesity is a pandemic disease and its prevalence is still increasing. Moreover, it has important costs to public health. In Brazil, many plants are used for weight loss by overweight or obese people, but there is a lack of scientific basis for this practice. Many ethnobotanical studies aiming to characterize this usage have been published, but they are still limited by the region considered and the diversity of the popular knowledge.


The present study was undertaken to systematically review the ethnobotanical surveys regarding the species utilized to reduce body weight in overweight or obese people in Brazil.


Ethnobotanical surveys related to this usage and performed in Brazilian regions were systematically found in MEDLINE, LILACS and Scopus.


Thirty-three studies were included in this review. Fifty species were popularly utilized to lose weight. The most cited species were Baccharis trimera (Less.) DC, Annona muricata L. and Hancornia speciosa Gomes. Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze and Hibiscus sabdariffa L. were also cited and are supported by either animal or human investigations that indicate some beneficial activity against obesity. However, for the majority of species cited in the included studies, there is no scientific basis that assures the biological effects of this usage. Many studies have demonstrated important effects of these plants on glycemia, serum lipid levels or body weight control in non-obese conditions, which is not sufficient to recommend the use of these plants to reduce body weight in overweight or obese people.


Although many plants are popularly used to reduce weight in overweight or obese people in Brazil, there is little scientific evidence corroborating its usage. Based on the ethnobotanical data presented, this review indicates the plants that should be considered for scientifically controlled studies devoted to investigating their effects on obesity.


Brazil; Ethnobotanical survey; Medicinal plants; Obesity; Weight loss

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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