Medically reviewed by Melissa Nieves, LND, RD
Garcinia cambogia (Garcinia gummi-gutta) is a tree that bears tropical fruit. It is native to Southeast Asia and India and is one of more than 300 species of Garcinia, a genus of the Clusiaceae family.
Trees and shrubs of the Garcinia family are commonly referred to as sap trees. Their fruit is sometimes called monkey fruit.
Garcinia cambogia contains several active compounds, including hydroxycitric acid (HCA), that may benefit human health. Because of these compounds, it has been used for centuries in folk medicine. However, not all health claims surrounding garcinia cambogia are supported by scientific evidence.
This article will provide an overview of garcinia cambogia, including health claims, relevant research, side effects, precautions, dosage, and more.
Active ingredient(s): Organic acids (including HCA), amino acids, benzophenones, xanthones, flavonoids
Alternate name(s): Garcinia gummi-gutta, garcinia, Malabar tamarind, brindle berry
Legal status: Garcinia cambogia is sold over the counter in the United States.
Suggested dose: Dosage varies depending on the product and reason for use.
Safety considerations: For some people, using garcinia cambogia may lead to headache, nausea, diarrhea, and liver damage.
What Is Garcinia Cambogia?
Garcinia cambogia is a tree that grows small, round fruit that is greenish-yellow. The fruit also has vertical nodes, leading some people to say it resembles a pumpkin.
Both the rind and flesh of the garcinia cambogia fruit can be consumed. However, both are said to have sour, bitter flavors. Garcinia cambogia is often used as a flavoring agent or food preservative but may also be cooked into various dishes.
Garcinia cambogia is commonly used in supplement forms like capsules, extracts, and tablets. Garcinia cambogia supplements are typically made from extracts of the fruit. These extracts contain bioactive compounds, including organic acids, xanthones, and benzophenones.
Probably the most widely studied compound in garcinia cambogia is HCA, an organic acid and form of citric acid. HCA is found in the rinds of garcinia cambogia. It is thought to account for many of the fruit's potential health benefits.
Garcinia Cambogia Health Claims
Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, or NSF.org.
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, they are not necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.
Garcinia cambogia is used in traditional and folk medicine for its perceived health benefits. There are claims that garcinia cambogia can be used to treat many conditions. However, many of the health claims surrounding garcinia cambogia are unfounded.
In folk medicine, garcinia cambogia is often used to treat:
At this time, though, there are very few human studies on any of these or other garcinia cambogia uses.
One of the most popular claims of garcinia cambogia is its involvement in weight loss. Yet, research on whether garcinia cambogia can help you lose weight is mixed.
No supplement can directly cause healthy, long-term weight loss. Additionally, there is some evidence that taking garcinia cambogia for weight loss and other purposes may cause liver damage, which can be severe.
To better understand these and other health claims of garcinia cambogia, it's important to look at the research.
What the Research Says
There are very few human studies on garcinia cambogia, which means much of the research on this tropical fruit comes from lab and animal studies. And while much can be learned from lab and animal studies, more human studies must be conducted to know how garcinia cambogia works in the body.
Garcinia cambogia supplements are sometimes promoted for weight loss. However, studies on this use have produced mixed results.
According to one review, animal and human studies have examined garcinia cambogia's effects on body weight. Many of these studies have yielded conflicting results. While lab studies have found that garcinia cambogia suppresses fat cells, human trials have yet to confirm these results.
The bioactive compound, HCA, is thought to be responsible for garcinia cambogia's potential weight loss effects.
According to a review of eight human trials, HCA-containing garcinia cambogia appears to have body weight-reducing properties. However, it's difficult to say for certain that garcinia cambogia will directly lead to weight loss, given the inconsistencies in the study designs.
It's worth mentioning that garcinia cambogia has not been proven effective as a long-term weight loss solution. Although some studies have shown short-term weight loss success with garcinia cambogia, others have reported the fruit's inability to lead to weight loss. Additionally, garcinia cambogia use has been linked to liver damage and other side effects, like mania and serotonin syndrome.
Overall, more research is needed. Until then, talk with a healthcare provider about the potential benefits of using garcinia cambogia supplements.
In rare cases, side effects may occur when using garcinia cambogia. These side effects may be mild or severe.
It should be noted that there is a lack of safety information regarding using garcinia cambogia. Little is known about the effects of using the supplement in large doses or for long periods. For this reason, it's important to stay within dosage limits when using garcinia cambogia.
Common Side Effects
Some people may experience common side effects when taking garcinia cambogia. Possible side effects include:
Other minor side effects have been reported in some studies, including:
Increased menstrual bleeding
You may be more likely to experience side effects if you take high doses. Be sure to talk with a healthcare provider about using garcinia cambogia and other supplements safely.
Severe Side Effects
In rare cases, garcinia cambogia may lead to severe side effects.
There are reported cases of severe liver damage and ocular complications (decreased vision and eye pain) as a result of taking garcinia cambogia.
Such severe side effects may be caused by high doses of garcinia cambogia that contain more than 2,800 milligrams (mg) of HCA. These and other severe side effects may also occur if you take garcinia cambogia with other medications or if other harmful ingredients are present in the supplement.
Some evidence shows that garcinia cambogia may cause other severe side effects, including:
More safety studies are needed to better understand the potential risks of taking garcinia cambogia. Additional research may help us learn more about safe doses and how long you can take garcinia cambogia without experiencing side effects.
Garcinia cambogia may provide health benefits, but it isn't right for everyone. Some people should limit or avoid the use of garcinia cambogia.
It's recommended that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid using garcinia cambogia. There isn't enough scientific evidence on garcinia cambogia to know if it is safe for these sensitive populations.
There also isn't enough reliable information on using garcinia cambogia in children. The safest thing to do is not give children garcinia cambogia until more research is available.
Talk with a healthcare provider before starting garcinia cambogia if you have any medical conditions. It's vital that you understand all the potential risks of taking a supplement, especially one like garcinia cambogia, which is not well-researched.
There is often a risk of potentially harmful interactions between supplements and medications. Some supplements may also interact with herbs, foods, or other supplements. Such interactions may change the effectiveness of a medication, supplement, or herb.
When it comes to garcinia cambogia, there is a lack of information regarding potential interactions.
There is some evidence that garcinia cambogia may raise serotonin to dangerous levels. Although evidence supporting this claim is generally weak, it may be best to avoid taking garcinia cambogia with serotonin supplements or any medications that increase serotonin (like certain antidepressants).
Other interactions may exist but are not documented in the literature.
It is vital that you carefully read the ingredients list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients are included. Please review all supplement labels with a healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.
Dosage: How Much Garcinia Cambogia Should I Take?
Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.
Dosage guidelines have not been set for garcinia cambogia. This may be due to the lack of human research on garcinia cambogia.
The few human trials that do exist on garcinia cambogia have used a range of dosages. For example, one small weight-loss study used 1,200 mg of garcinia cambogia caplets daily.
HCA, the main active component of garcinia cambogia, is considered safe when doses are no more than 2,800 mg daily.
Remember that little is known about the safety of long-term use of garcinia cambogia. It is best to follow the dosage instructions on the product label.
What Happens If I Take Too Much?
In general, taking large doses of supplements increases the risk of side effects. If you take too much garcinia cambogia, you may experience headache, nausea, diarrhea, and other potential side effects.
Toxicity may also be possible if you take too much garcinia cambogia. Rarely, garcinia cambogia toxicity has led to liver damage, pancreatitis, serotonin syndrome, and psychosis. However, it's worth noting that many of these cases of toxicity occurred when garcinia cambogia was mixed with other supplement ingredients.
Due to the risk of toxicity, never take more garcinia cambogia than directed.
What to Look For
Garcinia cambogia supplements are sold over the counter and are widely available online. You can also find garcinia cambogia in certain grocery stores, retail stores, and supplement shops.
Garcinia cambogia comes in a variety of forms, including capsules, tablets, soft gels, and gummies.
Be sure to read the ingredients list when choosing a garcinia cambogia supplement. Some products contain only garcinia cambogia but others include additional ingredients. These ingredients may include herbs, vitamins, minerals, or fillers.
It's important to do some research to ensure you are buying a reputable brand of garcinia cambogia. You may find good brands through word of mouth or by reading customer reviews.
Keep in mind that supplements should never replace a healthy diet or standard medical care. Many supplement brands make big promises that will more than likely fall short. For most people, health can be achieved with the help of a well-balanced diet.
Garcinia cambogia (Garcinia gummi-gutta) is a tropical fruit-bearing tree native to parts of Asia. The small, green fruit of garcinia cambogia is thought to possess bioactive compounds, like HCA, that may have health benefits.
The biggest health claim for garcinia cambogia is that it may help you lose weight. However, this claim has yet to be definitively proven by scientific research.
Using garcinia cambogia may lead to side effects or toxicity. Liver damage has been reported.
Talk with a healthcare provider to learn more about garcinia cambogia. It may not be appropriate for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What medications should you not take with garcinia cambogia?
Some medications may interact with garcinia cambogia.
Garcinia cambogia may cause serotonin levels to become too high if taken with supplements or medications that increase serotonin.
Other interactions may exist. Always talk with a healthcare provider before starting a new supplement if you take any medications.
Can I take garcinia cambogia while breastfeeding?
You should not use garcinia cambogia while breastfeeding. This is because there isn't enough solid evidence regarding the safety of garcinia cambogia in breastfed infants. Avoid using garcinia cambogia if you are breastfeeding.
Is garcinia cambogia bad for your liver?
Although rare, garcinia cambogia may cause liver damage in some people.
Liver damage has been reported due to taking too much garcinia cambogia or using multi-ingredient products.
It's best to stay within dosage limits for garcinia cambogia and use products from reputable brands.
Is garcinia cambogia FDA approved?
The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements under the same guidelines as it does for drugs and food. This means garcinia cambogia is not approved by the FDA.
To make up for the lack of FDA regulation, some brands undergo voluntary reviews to ensure their products are contaminant-free. These reviews, which are undertaken by third-party organizations such as USP, also ensure that nutrition labels are accurate.