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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Ephedra?

On December 30, 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer alertregarding the safety of dietary supplements containing ephedra. The FDA determined that consuming these supplements poses an unnecessary risk of illness or injury, and that consumers should stop buying and using ephedra products immediately. The FDA also notified manufacturers and marketers of these dietary supplements that effective 60 days (March 2004) after the publication of its final ruling, the sale of all products containing ephedra in the United States would be banned. This ruling was temporarily overturned in April of 2005, but was later upheld the following year, making it illegal to sell these products.

The Chinese herb ma huang is a member of a primitive family of plants that...

Although it can still be found in a few over-the-counter drugs for asthma and sinus congestion (in a safer form than the banned dietary supplements), physicians seldom prescribe ephedrine anymore. The problem is that ephedrine mimics the effects of adrenaline and causes symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, agitation, insomnia, nausea, and loss of appetite. The newer asthma drugs are much safer and easier to tolerate.

Meaningful evidence suggests ephedrine/caffeine combinations can assist in weight loss . 1 Note: Due to safety risks, we strongly recommend that you seek physician's supervision before attempting to lose weight with ephedrine/caffeine combination therapy. We do not recommend using herbal sources of ephedrine, which are now banned, for weight loss at...

Safety Issues

While ephedra is an herb with a long history of use in Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese tradition attaches numerous warnings: It should only be used by very robust people, for certain specific purposes, and only for a short period of time. These ancient warnings seem to have been disregarded in the transition of ephedra use from Asia to the United States, where it is now often sold for continuous use by overweight, relatively unhealthy people. Herbal products containing ephedra caused the majority (64%) of reported adverse effects from herbs in the US. This proportion is particularly impressive given that less than 1% of all herbal products sold in the US contain ephedra. On a per-use basis, for example, ephedra has 720 times the risk of causing harm as ginkgo...