Garcinia cambogia is a plant known for its claimed weight-loss action, especially its extracts. Garcinia cambogia may not only prevent obesity, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, but also boost the immune system, and prevent ulcers. Keep reading to learn more about the potential health benefits and side effects of Garcinia cambogia.
Garcinia belongs to family Guttiferae (Clusiaceae), which includes over 200 species, today mostly found throughout Asia and Africa. Garcinia cambogia, also known as Garcinia gummi-gutta or Malabar tamarind, originated in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa [1, 2].
The plant rind is used to polish gold and silver, its resin is used as a pigment for paintings and watercolors, and the gum is used as a varnish .
The fruit of the plant has a yellow or red color and resembles a pumpkin. Although the fruits can be eaten, they are usually not consumed raw because their taste is very acid .
However, Garcinia cambogia supplements have a variety of other potential benefits, including:
- Lowering cholesterol, and triglycerides [8, 9, 5, 10]
- Helping with diabetes [11, 12, 13]
- Boosting immunity [14, 15]
- Antioxidant activities [14, 16, 17, 18]
- Fighting cancer [19, 20, 21]
- Preventing ulcers [22, 23]
- Killing bacteria [24, 25]
- Xanthones (also found in the root) 
Other parts of the plant also contain many alkaloids, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds.
The Garcinia cambogia fruits also contain many amino acids (such as arginine, asparagine, glutamine, threonine, glycine, proline, γ-aminobutyric acid, leucine, isoleucine, ornithine, and lysine) .
Hydroxycitric acid may prevent fat buildup and lower blood fat levels by:
- Reducing the levels of a fat-producing enzyme (fatty acid synthase) and blocking an enzyme (ATP citrate lyase) that promotes fat production (via acetyl-coenzyme A) [39, 33, 1, 2].
- Decreasing the activity of proteins that increase the levels of fat-producing enzymes (C/EBP-α, PPAR-γ, SREBP1c, and aP2) [40, 41, 42, 43].
- Increasing the levels of a fat-burning enzyme (lipoprotein lipase) .
- Decreasing the production of triglycerides, phospholipids, cholesterol, and fat (free fatty acids) in the liver .
It also lowers appetite by:
- Blocking the ATP citrate lyase, in response to which the body produces more glycogen in the liver and increases the feeling of satiety [37, 46, 47].
- Increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that suppresses the feeling of hunger [48, 49].
Garcinia cambogia may fine-tune immune function by:
- Decreasing inflammatory cytokines (CPR, TNF-α, IL-1β) [14, 50, 15]
- Blocking and reducing the levels of enzymes causing inflammation (myeloperoxidase (MPO), cyclooxygenase (COX-2), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), PGE2, 5-lipoxygenase) [15, 51]
It acts as an antioxidant by:
- Increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase) 
- Decreasing fat damage caused by oxidative stress, 
- Reducing brain, liver, and kidney oxidative stress markers (malondialdehyde (MDA), catalase, protein carbonyl (DNPH), catalase, protein tyrosine nitration, and butyrylcholinesterase, and increasing brain nitric oxide) [17, 14, 16].
In a clinical trial on 99 obese men, Garcinia cambogia together with a weight-loss drug (orlistat), lowered BMI, belly fat, overall fat under the skin, and waist circumference in 3 months .
After 16 weeks, Garcinia cambogia extract decreased total fat, belly fat, and fat under the skin in a clinical trial on 39 overweight people .
In an 8-week study on 40 obese adults, Garcinia cambogia reduced belly and under-the-skin fat better than the placebo .
Garcinia cambogia extract reduced body weight by 4.67% in 30 overweight or obese adults (compared to only 0.63% in 28 adults receiving placebo) in a 60-day study .
Hydroxycitric acid decreased body weight in a study of 21 obese adults after 2 weeks .
In chicken cells, both Garcinia cambogia extract and hydroxycitric acid increased fat breakdown, leading to fat loss .
However, not all clinical trials with Garcinia cambogia or hydroxycitric acid found it effective at reducing weight.
In a 10-week study, Garcinia cambogia did not decrease the bodyweight of 86 overweight adults .
Similarly, hydroxycitric acid did not decrease body weight or fat more than the placebo in a 12-week trial of 135 overweight adults. This compound had no effect on fat or carbohydrate breakdown in 10 cyclists [4, 67].
Although the results are mixed, the evidence overall suggests that Garcinia cambogia may help lose weight. You may discuss with your doctor if it may be recommended in your case. However, other strategies such as doing more exercise and improving your diet may be more effective. Importantly, never implement lifestyle changes aimed at losing weight without first consulting your doctor.
In an 8-week study on 82 obese adults, hydroxycitric acid (the main component of Garcinia cambogia) decreased LDL-cholesterol levels by 12.9% and triglycerides by 6.9% while increasing HDL-cholesterol by 8.9% .
In a 60-day study of 43 obese women, Garcinia cambogia reduced triglyceride levels by 28% .
In an 8-week study on 35 healthy adults, Garcinia cambogia decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels better than the placebo .
However, in 86 overweight adults undergoing a 10-week study, Garcinia cambogia did not impact the blood fat levels .
Again, some contradictory results exist but the evidence overall suggests that Garcinia cambogia may help lower blood fat levels. You may discuss with your doctor how to take it for this purpose. Never take Garcinia cambogia in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.
In a 6-week study on 24 overweight adults, hydroxycitric acid, the main component of Garcinia cambogia, reduced food consumption while maintaining the feeling of satiety .
After 8 weeks, hydroxycitric acid decreased food consumption in another study of 60 moderately obese adults .
However, in a 12-week study of 89 mildly overweight adults, Garcinia cambogia decreased bodyweight but did not affect appetite .
Garcinia cambogia extracts reduced food consumption and appetite in rats within an hour .
Because there are only a few clinical trials on small populations and with mixed results, there is insufficient evidence to claim for certain that Garcinia cambogia suppresses appetite. Larger, more robust clinical trials are needed to shed some light on this potential effect.
Hydroxycitric acid had no effects in 8 patients with type 2 diabetes, but did lower blood sugar levels in 12 healthy adults .
In rats, hydroxycitric acid decreased sugar uptake in the gut, lowering blood sugar levels after a meal. It also reduced fasting levels of insulin and blood sugar, preventing insulin resistance [79, 14].
A small clinical trial and some animal and cell-based research cannot be considered sufficient evidence to support this potential health benefit. Further clinical research is required.
In a 5-day experiment of 6 male athletes, hydroxycitric acid increased fat burning while decreasing carbohydrate breakdown. This may help boost endurance performance while sparing sugar reserves .
A 5-day treatment with Garcinia cambogia increased fat breakdown and enhanced exercise performance in 6 untrained women .
Only 2 small trials have evaluated the effects of Garcinia cambogia on exercise performance. More clinical trials on larger populations are needed to confirm their preliminary results.
No clinical evidence supports the use of Garcinia cambogia for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
In rats with gut inflammation (colitis), Garcinia cambogia extracts reduced inflammation by blocking the production of inflammatory enzymes and molecules (myeloperoxidase (MPO), cyclooxygenase (COX-2), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)) .
In mice with multiple sclerosis, hydroxycitric acid decreased nerve damage and lowered inflammation. It decreased the levels of inflammatory compounds (cytokines IL-6, TNF-α, nitric oxide, and malondialdehyde), and increased those of antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase) .
In rats, Garcinia cambogia decreased the amount and acidity of the stomach fluid and helped to prevent damage to the stomach. It activated the stomach’s natural defense, helping to prevent ulcers [22, 23].
- Escherichia coli (gut infections)
- Klebsiella pneumoniae (lung infections, pneumonia)
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa (lung, urinary, and blood infections)
- Bacillus subtilis (gut infections)
- Staphylococcus aureus (skin infections, airway infections, food poisoning)
However, these are very preliminary results that haven’t been replicated in humans and even in animals. Further research is needed to determine if Garcinia cambogia may help with the infections caused by these microorganisms.
In rats, extracts of Garcinia cambogia leaves increased flushing of excess fluids, acting as a diuretic. In fact, this may contribute to its weight-loss effect, as herbs that are used for weight loss usually act as mild diuretics as well .
Although there is a sufficient number of studies about the effects of Garcinia cambogia on weight loss and appetite reduction, the results are mixed. In most cases, the number of participants was limited or the sample very specific (obese or overweight).
With regard to the other benefits, studies are limited and most of them are on animals or cells. More human studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness.
- Skin rash
Less common side effects of Garcinia cambogia include:
- Mania/psychosis [88, 89, 90, 91, 92]
- Hallucinations, delusions, and impaired coordination 
- Heart problems (irregular heart rate, heart muscle damage, and heart failure) [94, 95]
- Serious muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis) [96, 97, 98]
- Pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis) 
- Extremely high levels of ketones (diabetic ketoacidosis) 
Garcinia cambogia and its main component, hydroxycitric acid, caused acute liver and irreversible liver damage in a series of case reports. The dosage varied from 240 mg to 500 mg hydroxycitric acid daily [26, 27, 28, 29, 86, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113].
People with liver disease should probably avoid Garcinia cambogia due to its potential to damage the liver.
Garcinia cambogia extract caused testes damage and shrinking in a study in rats. This may be a concern for men, but probably only at very high doses. The extract had no effect on testosterone, estrone, and estradiol levels in a 12-week trial on 44 adults and a study in rats [64, 60, 114].
Due to the lack of safety data, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Garcinia cambogia 
Supplement/Herb/Nutrient-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. Always consult your doctor before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.
Garcinia cambogia extract may decrease blood sugar levels and should be avoided in people on antidiabetic medications .
Its compounds may also block the activity of CYP2B6. This may dangerously increase the levels of drugs broken down by this enzyme (such as blood thinners, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory, chemotherapeutics, opioids, and antiepileptics) [116, 117].
Garcinia cambogia blocks the activity of obesity-related genes (C/EBP-α, PPAR-γ, SREBP1c, CCAT, and aP2). Its weight-loss effects may differ depending on your genetic variant for these genes [40, 41, 42, 118].
Some people believe that they can’t lose weight, but really have some metabolic issue that is caused by a mismatch between their genes and environment or diet. If you got your genes sequenced, SelfDecode can help you determine if you may be gaining weight and having health issues as a result of your genes, and then pinpoint what you can do about it.
If you’re sick and tired of guessing about your health, SelfDecode can help you find specific answers that conventional doctors/diagnostics may never uncover.
Because Garcinia cambogia is not approved by the FDA for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error. Discuss with your doctor if Garcinia cambogia may be useful as a complementary strategy in your case and which dose you should take.
The highest levels of Garcinia cambogia extract which found to be safe without adverse effects is 2,800 mg/day .
Garcinia cambogia supplements can be found in powder form, liquid extracts, tablets or capsules .
Most supplements contain hydroxycitric acid extracted from the dried fruit rind of Garcinia cambogia, in doses ranging from 250 mg to 900 mg .
In the same study, cholesterol levels decreased by 8%, triglycerides by 10%, and blood sugar by 3% in 3 months and by 13%, 15.3%, and 6% in 6 months .
In a 12-week study on 58 obese adults, Garcinia cambogia combined with Amorphophallus konjac greatly decreased total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels in 32 of the participants but did not lower body weight, waist circumference, or body composition .
In 98 overweight adults, a multi-herbal supplement with Garcinia cambogia and these botanical extracts decreased fat mass but did not lower body weight, BMI, or waist-to-hip ratio after 12 weeks .
The combination of Garcinia cambogia and pear pomace extract promoted fat-burning in cells. It blocked the activity of fat-producing genes (C/EBP-α, and PPAR-γ), decreased fat production, and increased fat breakdown (hormone-sensitive lipase) .
Garcinia and apple cider are often used together to boost weight loss. Users report mixing two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water and taking two standard pills of natural garcinia cambogia.
However, there are no studies confirming the benefits of this combination.
Garcinia cambogia and green coffee beans are often consumed together to speed up weight loss. However, there are no studies confirming the benefits of this combination.
The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of Garcinia cambogia users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.
Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
Many users reported that Garcinia cambogia helped them lose weight, reduced their appetite and made them feel more energetic and lively.
Users with fibromyalgia reportedly experienced reduced joint pain from taking Garcinia cambogia. Another user reported feeling increased sex drive and stamina.
However, many users complained that Garcinia cambogia did not affect their health or help with weight loss in any way. Some experienced dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, diarrhea, dry mouth, stomach cramps, nausea, hair loss, insomnia, allergic rash, chest pain, and low energy. Surprisingly, one user even felt hungrier after taking Garcinia cambogia.