Finding Authentic Hoodia Gordonii and the CITES Certificate

Anyone who has considered hoodia diet pills and has done any research on them has read about the importance of looking for a CITES certificate to identify authentic hoodia gordonii. I often wonder if people even understand what the certificate is and why it so important to look for one. If you have a basic understanding of what a CITES certificate is and what its role is within the hoodia trade, you’ll know why looking for one is so important when trying to find authentic hoodia gordonii.

The hoodia gordonii plant is a protected species due to its limited supply and high demand. It is only found in South Africa and until recent years, was only grown wild. Due to the increasing popularity for hoodia gordonii, farming began in an attempt to keep up with skyrocketing demand. In order to protect the hoodia plant and the industry as a whole, including the San people who have a vested interest in their native crop, the South African government implemented controls, licenses, and regulations for the harvesting and exportation of hoodia gordonii.

CITES certificates are one of the basic controls put in place to protect the endangered hoodia plant. There are other documents that are required as well, but for the purposes of this article I’ll only address the CITES certificate. CITES refers to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and is an international agreement between governments. Their goal is to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of endangered species.

In order for a company to legally export hoodia gordonii from South Africa, an export permit from CITES must be obtained. Every shipment exported from South Africa must be accompanied by a CITES permit. These permits expire in six months, but the expiration period only pertains to the actual shipment of hoodia gordonii out of South Africa. In other words, a supplier has six months from the time they are issued a CITES permit to actually ship the hoodia gordonii out of South Africa. If they don’t and the shipment of hoodia sits in the port, the supplier must reapply for a new permit.

This is important to understand because there is some confusion in the hoodia industry about the dates shown on CITES permits. People are led to believe that CITES permits must be “current” in order to be valid, otherwise they don’t mean anything. They mistakenly believe that if the CITES certificate is older than six months the company must be lying or must be trying to pull a fast one on the consumer. In some instances an “old” CITES certificate may be just that, but it is not necessarily the rule.

Suppose a supplier exports several thousand kilograms of hoodia on one permit, and that inventory of hoodia gordonii doesn’t actually sell out for eight or nine months. The original CITES permit, along with the original issue date shown on the permit, will always be attached to that inventory. Even though the date on the CITES permit will be older than six months, that CITES permit is still valid and still provides proof that the hoodia gordonii used is authentic. Keep that in mind as you are looking at CITES certificates from companies you are considering buying from. An older date doesn’t necessarily mean the CITES permit is invalid and the hoodia gordonii used isn’t real.

Another point to keep in mind is that the company or supplier shown on a CITES certificate doesn’t always match the name of the company selling the actual end product. For example, you may be interested in buying a hoodia supplement from “Helen’s Health Company” so you go to their website and you view their CITES certificate. Everything checks out except you notice the supplier shown on the permit is a company called, “Supplier Incorporated.” Shouldn’t the company listed on the permit be Helen’s Health Company? Not always.

There are only a few suppliers who are issued CITES permits. Supplement companies then buy their hoodia gordonii from these few suppliers. In the example above, Supplier Incorporated is listed on the permit so that means they were the actual supplier that exported the hoodia gorodnii. Helen’s Health Company is displaying a CITES certificate issued to Supplier Incorporated so that means Helen’s Health purchased the hoodia gordonii they use in their products from Supplier Incorporated.

Finally, just because a CITES certificate is displayed on a website doesn’t mean the company uses as much authentic hoodia gordonii as they claim. Hoodia products are classified as supplements so they are not regulated. As a result, companies can make claims that aren’t necessarily true. For example, you may be interested in a hoodia diet pill that contains 500mg of hoodia gordonii per capsule. You go to the company’s website and sure enough, they display a CITES permit so you immediately think the product is authentic.

That is not always true. Keep in mind that the only thing a CITES permit proves is that a supplier was given the right to export “X amount” of hoodia gordonii from South Africa. Once the supply is exported, the supplier and any company purchasing hoodia from the supplier can do what they want with the hoodia gordonii. A company may claim they are selling a hoodia diet pill that contains 500mg of authentic hoodia gordonii, and while they may have a CITES certificate for the supply they purchased, they may not use a full 500mg in each capsule! They may only use 250mg or 150mg or whatever may be the case.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the CITES certificate is and what its role is, you know why looking for one is important when trying to find authentic hoodia gordonii diet pills and products.