Many Hoodia species are protected plants, typical of the Namib Desert, ranging from Central Namibia to southern Angola, especially in plains and rocky areas. Common names include "Bushman's Hat" and "Queen of the Namib".
Several species are grown as garden plants, and one species, Hoodia gordonii, is being investigated for use as an appetite suppressant. "In the last few years, hoodia has been heavily marketed for weight loss and has become immensely popular."
On January 18, 2008, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (representing botanic gardens in 120 countries) stated that "400 medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, from over-collection and deforestation, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease." These included Yew trees (the bark was used for cancer drugs, paclitaxel, although current licensed syntheses do not); Hoodia (from Namibia, source of weight loss drugs); half of Magnolias (used as Chinese medicine for 5,000 years to fight cancer, dementia and heart disease); and Autumn crocus (for gout). The group was said to have found that five billion people rely upon traditional plant-based medicine for health care.
Hoodia is currently listed in Appendix II to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which includes species not currently considered endangered but are at risk if trade is not controlled.