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Ephedrine: Everything You Need to Know
by Justin Leonard
Written on September 30, 2001

Note: As of 30 December 2003, ephedra is now a banned supplement.

Ephedrine. What is it? How does it work? How effective is ephedrine for fat loss? Is it safe? What is the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doing to regulate ephedrine in supplements? What's the difference between ephedrine, ephedra, and ma huang?

In the following article, I will answer these questions and outline additional information about ephedrine.

What is ephedrine?

Ephedrine, ephedra, and ma huang are all terms used to describe the same substance or derivative of the plant, ephedra. Ephedra is a stimulant containing the herbal form of ephedrine.

Is ephedrine safe?

Ephedrine is considered a relatively safe herb when taken in moderation or per FDA regulation. It works extremely well and is highly effective. Almost every weight loss and energy supplement contains some form of ephedrine. Millions of people consume supplements containing ephedrine annually whether they realize it or not. Ephedrine is also found in many over-the-counter asthma, cold, and flu medications.

Is ephedrine dangerous?

What makes ephedrine potentially dangerous are the [ephedrine] alkaloids which stimulate the heart and central nervous system, which ultimately speed up the metabolism. Side effects most commonly associated with ephedrine use are jitters and headaches. Additionally, ephedrine use has been linked to heart attacks, high blood pressure, nerve damage, strokes, dizziness, seizures, and death.

What does the FDA have to say about ephedrine?

In 1997, the FDA's proposal would prohibit the marketing of dietary supplements containing 8 milligrams or more of ephedrine alkaloids per serving. Labeling that recommends or suggests conditions of use that would result in an intake of 8mg or more in a 6-hour period or a total daily intake of 24mg or more also would not be allowed.

In addition, the proposal would require label statements instructing consumers not to use the product for more than 7 days, and would not allow label claims for uses for which long-term intake would be necessary to achieve the purported effect.

My take on ephedrine.

If you talk to two doctors about ephedrine, you'll get two different opinions.

I definitely believe that the dangers of ephedrine have been overstated. One could argue that anyone who experiences or has experienced side effects with ephedrine shouldn't be taking it.

The list of restrictions on taking ephedrine-based supplements include recurring heart problems, diabetes, alcohol abuse, liver problems, pregnancy, thyroid disorders, or in conjunction with another prescription medication to name a few.

In the case of ephedrine-related deaths, it could also be said that the intake was too much or the subjects were too young and should not have been using ephedrine in the first place.

The media seems to underscore athlete or teen ephedrine-related deaths without addressing misuse of the herbal stimulant.

Lastly, if you plan on supplementing with ephedrine, consult with a physician and pay close attention to the recommended dosage on the bottle/container. Even consider taking less than the manufacturer's recommendations.

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