Images are constantly presented to the consuming public of sveldt people without creases or wrinkles in sight. Models are shown in glossy magazines without a blemish. A smooth, honed, toned shape is air brushed or computer enhanced to the original photo shots leaving us with the impression that this glossy world is real. A walk along any beach in the summer, observing sunbathers shows this to be false, unreal.

There is an ideal for all of us and few attain it. Looking good, ones best, is hard work. We can reduce the signs of aging and we can reduce weight that generally is considered undesirable. Much of our appearance is related to personal fitness but few ask fit for what. For example a person training for the marathon or endurance racing needs to be lean and incidentally, hungry. A person living and working in a cold environment such as the sub arctic will carry more protective fat.

Our body shape, our features, are all inherited. Our ethnicity clearly plays a role in what we look like. We are a gene pool of our ancestors. Whether we like it or not how they developed to survive their environments will mostly determine what we look like, our proneness to disease our body shape and its capacity to look toned or not.

The term cellulite was coined somewhere in the mid 20th century. It is not a disease but refers to the sort of appearance commonly seen on mostly female thighs as orange peel skin. The skin appears to be dimpled. The condition is not exclusive to women and is not restricted to thighs. However this is the common perception and wherever it is seen it is not considered visually desirable.

Women appear to have this condition more than men simply due to the differences in physical make up. Supportive tissue placement, muscle bulk and fat storage tissues are clearly different and differently distributed between men and women. Women have a more naturally rounded figure than the more angular male. This genetic gender difference is further enhanced by hormones, our chemical message system, giving more bulk to women’s thighs and buttocks and eventually to men’s stomachs.

How we look is just that, a moment in time based on life style and ancestry. Dimples are natural and in truth whilst we can perhaps cause transient or cosmetic changes we cannot change our nature and whilst hormones may play a part especially in the female cycle they do not hold any major key for any dimpling reduction treatment.

On the assumption that most of us want look as sleek as possible we can now ask the question as to whether there is anything we can do to improve our condition. Yes we can but first we have to be realistic. If we are tall or short that is what we are and likewise if we have a lot of fat tissue in one place or another then equally that is just the way we are built. Human beings have enormous natural variation in shape and size.

A key therefore is found in the phrase ‘fat storage’. Eating more than we output in energy will result in us laying down more fat as stored fuel or energy. We have areas where we store fat especially thighs, buttocks and waist or lower abdomen. Where our body favours storing fat is decided by genetic and racial factors. There are natural fat storage seasonal variations with most of us. We lay down more fat in winter and less in summer. If things get out of hand we become obese, really overweight and visually really disproportionate with consequent health implications.

Let us be quite clear that cellulite or any so called fat problem is best dealt with by recognising and adopting a healthy lifestyle and appropriate diet of good food with some moderate exercise suited to you. Nothing else pays off better.

Under our skin, subcutaneous, lies a layer of fat specialised cells (adipocytes) that give roundness and smoothness to our body shape. If we overfill these cells or stimulate too many they fill up and dimpling and sags result. It’s that simple. As we get older our skin is not as elastic as it was and indeed gets thinner and so dimpling shows more say in our upper arms.

What additional things can we do about fat other than burn it off by high-energy output and low consumption? Neither of which is pleasant.

There is a possibility that some materials ingested as supplements might reduce the body’s ability to convert food to fat (lipogenesis).  Carbohydrates, starch and sugars, are our main energy source along with certain proteins. Fat production, lipogenesis, occurs when substances are hydrolysed by the action of the lipoprotein lipase enzyme (LPL). The resultant natural fatty acids and glycerol are stored in adipose or fat store cellular tissues. Both of these substances incidentally are fundamental to good health and a shortage produces disease! It follows that if (LPL) can be reduced then fat conversion is lessened and there is less to store. A variety of herbs have been promoted for this purpose in the form of teas, pills and potions.

The reduction of weight by diet control or supplementation is no guarantee of specific area weight loss. There is generalised weight reduction but not to a specific area like buttocks. That being said if a specific area is the body’s main storage zone then it is possible that the ‘offending’ area will reduce quicker.

In commercial products apart from supplementation there are several consistent approaches to treating cellulite especially in the thigh area. These are: –

Electrical stimulation


Massage and massage contraptions

Certain materials from a variety of sources frequently occur and these are: –

Vitamin P better known as bioflavonoids

Methyl xanthines

Essential oils

The xanthines are found in innumerable plants and therefore are a constant source of newfound miracles to cure cellulite. We must note that the chemical group yield some familiar names i.e. caffeine, theophylline and theobromine. Theophylline also commonly called aminophylline is commonly found in bronchodilators as anti asthma drug. Caffeine needs little introduction but in view of its bad press needs review. Theobromine is mostly known for its inclusion in chocolate.

Xanthines have certain effects that may cause a reduction in fat. They appear (but there is little evidence) to cause lipolysis of adipose tissue into free fatty chains in other words releasing or breaking down fats for elimination (toxin reduction). There is again some suggestion that xanthines dehydrate the cellular fluids by the release of sodium (salt) so having a drying or shrinking effect. Any fluid reduction would quickly be replaced by drinking but a transient effect may be seen.

The commonest xanthine to be used for slimming is caffeine. Let us explore why this natural drug has such a bad name. Firstly please note that religious groups often promoting dietary regimes as part of their philosophy have dominated the supplement industry and multi level marketing industry. Noted amongst these groups are Scientologists and Mormons both with considerable public relations clout. The latter are well known for their prohibition of coffee in a largely coffee drinking climate.

Fashion, health and beauty writers are primarily interested in tit bit information. Of course there are more informed individuals. Coffee is bad for you has become a commonplace statement followed by because it contains caffeine. For some reason tea has got off very lightly in this argument. Caffeine free ‘teas’ are sold although there are at least 60 plant species that contain caffeine! Please also note that the human race has been consuming these plants since the dawn of time, tea and coffee drinking is not new.

The pros and cons are as follows. Ingested xanthines of whatever sort including caffeine are absorbed 100%by the body from whatever plant source. They appear in the blood about five minutes after ingestion and effects last for up to five hours. Interestingly nicotine ingestion by smoking helps eliminate caffeine whereas alcohol reduces xanthine metabolism, as do some oral contraceptives. Make of this what you will but at least these are agreed facts.

Theophylline is the most effective xanthine at smooth muscle relaxation and urine production often associated with the anti cellulite claims to remove toxins, which is a polite way of putting things. Coffee enemas are well known to stimulate bowel elimination by increasing muscle contractions! Theobromine mostly found in chocolate is a good mental stimulant. The reason for the consumption of any of these materials or drugs is that they are perceived to be mood elevators, fatigue relievers and work capacity enhancers. In past times methylxanthine containing substances were universally viewed as the food of gods. Today pharmacognosy confirms their usefulness for these activities.

Now let us turn to other aspects of ingestion. Theophylline has the greatest effect on the central nervous system (CNS). Xanthines improve thought flow and sustained intellectual effort and so up to three cups of coffee in five hours will act as a good mental stimulant. Above this some people will get tremors, restlessness and nervousness, irritation and along with increased heart rate especially if taken with alcohol. These effects may be taken as adverse reactions but note the dose dependency.

Xanthines may effect affect the circulatory system especially caffeine and theophylline but again depending on the condition at ingestion. Not only are we talking about the possible raising of blood pressure and pulse rate but also the microcirculation of the brain.

All the above point to the fact, leaving adverse reactions aside, that xanthine consumption will contribute to weight loss and therefore cellulite reduction. Topical applications though cannot work. Caffeine can be shown however to reduce dermatitis but it cannot break through the skin barrier to effect subcutaneous tissue. This is why xanthine-containing creams do not work except alongside other regimes. Various members of the Theaceae family are used to disguise the basic caffeine inclusion. Most of these creams are seasonal (highest use in Spring) and as hope springs eternal, after one failure a new brand may be tried another year. The better creams will use materials that are formed into liposomes sometimes called microencapsulation or indeed to place liposomes into some form of macro or micro bead.

Into this anti cellulite discussion we may now bring essential oils. These are the most spectacularly successful of anti cellulite treatments. There are now a number of commercial brands that include essential oils. Unlike their herbal cousins the molecules of essential oils are able to penetrate to subcutaneous levels quite easily by topical application. Essential oils may be found in the blood stream shortly after topical application. They may also have a targeted effect i.e. whilst they are dispersed via the blood stream and thereafter broken down by the liver local application can have a direct effect e.g. increase in local blood supply. Such activity can be genuinely called a flushing of the system or an aid to toxin removal.

Certain essential oils have an affinity to specific organs and are therefore capable of stimulating an elimination process. This would be especially true for water retention.  Essential oils detox, stimulate the lymph system and balance hormones as well as being diuretic.

Neither should we dismiss the power of aroma alone. It may seem incomprehensible to the older generation that smell alone can cause weight loss but there is a strong body of evidence to support this. We eat until we are full or we eat more than we should because we don’t feel full. There is a difference between hunger and satiation. In the hypothalamus, the hormone master, the drive and instinct controller lies a satiety centre. Of course aroma transits through and affects the hypothalamus. It is this centre that says we are full not our stomach with its juices! It is perfectly possible to devise odours which if regularly sniffed will repress appetite. If this is too much to take on board then a twice-daily friction rub or some other device can be invented to encourage the sniff and slim routine.

Essential oils that are commonly used for anticellulite activity are: –

Geranium, Sweet Fennel, Black Pepper, Juniper Berry, Oregano, Citrus (including Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit), Cypress, Sage.

There are a host of others that can be blended but only with great skill into active perfumes that are functional at different levels and that smell good with a great chance of consumer acceptability.

The market for firming, slimming or anti cellulite products grew 111% in the year 2003 according to Euromonitor. Even mass-market brands like Nivea have entered the market with relatively high priced products. Most of these products appear to be a fruit and natural cocktail claiming a 2cm reduction in thigh size after about four weeks of use when of course allied to a diet and exercise routine.

There is a definite trend to use facial skin care ingredients in these products principally for moisturisation and softening claims. Up market brands such as Givenchy stress this skin care attitude but rely on hidden caffeine. All the toning claims of facial products may now be applied to this new generation of firming products.

Product difference is mostly based upon texture rather than performance. Body enhancement with a hedonistic application routine is a significant part of the commercial offer.

Scent is being used as a further active ingredient to promote weight loss. Shiseido have led this route using the term Aromachology for a gel product and bath essence.  In the first month of sales this aromatic product sold 693,000 units in Japan. In the UK Selfridges department store recorded it as their most successful cosmetic launch ever. Decleor too use aromatic power and in Italy a new slimming oil by Claudalie simply uses essential oils in a vegetable oil at very high price.

In essence anti cellulite products no longer concentrate on massage and detoxification but promote tissue strengthening and firming as well as fat breakdown alongside traditional claims. 

In conclusion of this section we can see that a ‘good’ product will perform many functions and that there are a variety of pathways but with few key ingredients that are by name at least unpopular (caffeine) but which need to be present.

So let us accept that primarily we are talking about weight loss. What is the best approach?

Weight control is not easy what anyone says. It is a balance between energy input and output. There are a host of reasons why we may overeat. Such as eating family meal leftovers because we think it wasteful or comfort eating when upset. It is claimed 50% of the UK population is overweight if not downright obese. This subject is not about aesthetics but health. Carrying optimum weight will make us less liable to arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure for a start. Aim for good health and cellulite reduces. Aim for a supermodel figure and you may end up with more trouble than you would wish. Eating disorders are not funny.

We have to balance our weight and this requires a variety of activities.

 First make sure our natural elimination system works. We need lots of moisture or water. Whether that is plain water or a beverage or juice is somewhat immaterial. Once water hits the stomach unless it is empty which it rarely is all water becomes a soup! Eat fibrous foods such as unrefined spaghetti and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Look at your stools and if they float a little that’s fine as it shows you are eating enough fibre. If they sink like a stone change your diet! Your bowels should move once a day or perhaps every other day. If not use a gentle  herbal laxative until a natural rhythm is established. Don’t overuse laxatives.

Taking proper time to eat is not a modern thing to do. Eating off a tray, in front of a TV show, can actually add weight as in our interest or excitement we bolt down food. Chewing and allowing saliva to penetrate the food starts digestion. Make sure the food is not swallowed in lumps half chewed like a dog eats. The stomach is a slow starter and does not get its digestive juices flowing until this chewing/salivation kicks it off. If you gulp a lot take some liquid with your food, anything from water to wine. Slowly does it, eat relaxed and unbelievably people start to eat less and feel fuller. The thighs will come down in size!

Similarly those people prone to work all day on a snack are opening themselves up to fat store problems. The body is designed to eat small and often say three or four times a day rather than one big meal a day. Fluid intake too is a constant consideration as is fluid retention by overindulgence in salt added or hidden.

Supplements may have a role but eating a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables should provide all our needs. There are additives that stimulate our appetite or digestion and in themselves may be digestive aids or nutrient boosters. These are the condiments or herbs and spices we add to plate or cooking. Most of these contain essential oils such as mustard, horseradish, caraway, pepper, rosemary and traditional ‘stuffing’. All these condiments are good for you containing micro aromatic nutrients and incidentally may slow down food intake as noted above when discussing satiation. However we describe them they are actually food additives.

My paper suggests that there are no miracle cures that do not involve lifestyle. Only transient effects will be found with treatments unless combined with lifestyle and a proper appreciation of what is possible with our genetic make up.

Jan Kusmirek 16/07/2004

About Jan Kuśmirek

Having brushed with the Security Services in my late teens and early twenties, I went on to become one of the world's leading exponents of aromatic medicine and skin care. I am an accepted authority on the subject and a sought-after lecturer. In the last few years I have turned my hand to literature and am the author of three spy novels that retell the European confilcts of the 20th century from a Polish perspective. The central character in the series - Teddy Labden - has resonated with the Polish media, who have claimed him as their own "James Bond".
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