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What Is Ephedra Used for Today?
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 all. (See Safety Issues .)
One highly preliminary study has been used to claim that ephedrine is helpful for women with sexual dysfunction . 2 However, this trial was very small, enrolled women without sexual problems, and only examined sexual responsiveness to visual stimuli; at this time, we do not recommend that women with sexual dysfunction use ephedra. Another study examined the possible benefits of ephedrine for treatment of female sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants in the SSRI family (eg, Prozac). 3 Ephedrine failed to prove more effective than placebo.
There is no meaningful evidence that ephedra enhances sports performance . 4
Note: Individuals taking ephedra or ephedrine may test positive for methamphetamine (speed) on drug screening. 5
- Astrup A, Breum L, Toubro S, et al. The effect and safety of an ephedrine/caffeine compound compared to ephedrine, caffeine and placebo in obese subjects on an energy restricted diet. A double-blind trial. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1992;16:269-277.
- Meston CM, Heiman JR. Ephedrine-activated physiological sexual arousal in women. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 55(7):652-6.
- Meston CM. A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study of ephedrine for SSRI-induced female sexual Dysfunction. J Sex Marital Ther. 2004;30:57-68.
- Shekelle PG, Hardy ML, Morton SC, Maglione M, Mojica WA, Suttorp MJ, Rhodes SL, Jungvig L, Gagné J. Efficacy and safety of ephedra and ephedrine for weight loss and athletic performance: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 289(12):1537-45.
- Nishiguchi M, Kinoshita H, Higasa K, et al. The false positive reaction of the Triage panel drug-of-abuse by herbal drugs ma-huang (Ephedra sinica Ephedraceae). Nippon Hoigaku Zasshi. 2001;55:331-338.