Most of the journalists used the name, "the African Hoodia Cactus" when they learned about the hunger-suppressing plant from South Africa. What they meant was "Hoodia Gordonii," found wild in the Kalahari Desert. It does not belong to the cactus genus.
Hoodia Gordonii is a succulent. The Genus is Trichocaulon and the family name is Asclepiadaceae. It is a grayish brown plant with ten or more tentacles, resembling a long cucumber with spikes. The height of the plant can be 18 inches to 6 feet. It is bitter-tasting, with an unpleasant smell.
The San Bushmen have been using this plant for thousands of years as a hunger suppressant while on long hunts. CSIR of South Africa took a patent on the plant as a weight-loss aid and sold it to a British pharmaceutical company, Phytopharm. The plant grows only in a desert climate and takes about 5 to 7 years to mature. Attempts to grow them in China, Mexico and the USA failed.