Weight Loss Guide

Is Ephedra Safe or Does It Pose a Health Risk?

Till February 2004, Ephedra was an easily available formulation encouraging the weight loss hopes of many. It had been reported that it could initiate weight loss in conjunction with the consumption of caffeine. Things, however, changed soon after.

A February 6, 2004 ruling of the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of all dietary supplements containing ephedra throughout the U.S. The grounds upon which the ruling was issued was that ephedra contained alkaloids such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine which were found to initiate central nervous system stimulation, vasoconstriction, and bronchodilation. The ruling was struck down in 2005 but was introduced again after four months. Since then, sale of any dietary supplement with ephedra is banned.

Clinical studies have revealed that there are some major safety concerns associated with the use of ephedra or ephedrine use. These involve risks such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, tachycardia, hypertension (high blood pressure), CNS excitation, and arrhythmia. However, it is best to evaluate the affect of ephedra in individual cases before a sweeping judgment is passed. Here is an individual evaluation of the role that ephedra plays on entering the body.


The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine present in Ephedra are well known as bronchodilators. They help in easier breathing by expanding the airways and hence have been used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in both children and adults. However, its use has been discontinued.

Low blood pressure-
Studies have shown that Ephedrine present in ephedra can raise blood pressure and increase heart rate. Due to this property, it is sometimes used in hospitals to help control blood pressure. However, it is used only done sparingly. So there is no major study documenting the effects of over-the-counter, orally administered ephedra supplements.

Weight loss-
Scientific studies show that the chemical ephedrine present in ephedra contains causes weight loss. However, it needs to be consumed along with caffeine. The effects without caffeine are not widely known. As a result of this, dietary supplements containing ephedra were popular before the ruling against its sale. However, after the ruling was passed, other type of weight loss measures were actively recommended.

Treatment of nasal allergies-
Studies had earlier indicated that an ephedrine-based nasal spray could help treat symptoms of nasal allergies. However, no studies have been conducted off late to concretize this claim, due to which ephedrine nasal sprays are still absent from the market.

Sexual arousal-
Studies conducted previously had suggested that in the case of women, consumption of ephedra may increase sexual arousal. However, the study was not coherently designed due to which its findings were not taken seriously. Additional research can help in to corroborate or falsify the claims of the study.

Whatever might be the condition, the Food and Drug Administration has kept the ban on sale of ephedra-based formulations on hold. Some more research needs to be done before clearing it off the charges of a being a health-risk.
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