Ephedra was a popular weight loss pill, until it was banned in the United States due to safety concerns. This naturally occurring substance is chemically similar to amphetamines and may suppress the appetite and increase metabolism. Although ephedra may be effective for short-term weight loss, potentially dangerous side effects are possible. Some of these side effects may include heart attacks, strokes, or seizures.
What Is Ephedra?
Ephedra (also known as ma huang) is a naturally occurring substance that is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It was popular as a weight loss supplement, until it was banned in the United States due to safety concerns. Ephedra is still allowed in traditional Chinese medicine and in food products, such as tea.
The active ingredient of ephedra is a chemical known as ephedrine (as well as several other similar chemicals). These ingredients are chemically similar to amphetamines and act as powerful stimulants. While these chemicals may suppress the appetite or increase metabolism (both of which can help with weight loss), they are also responsible for many of the pill's dangerous side effects.
Is It Effective?
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that ephedra may be effective for short-term weight loss. Unfortunately, while it may be effective, it is also potentially dangerous.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed November 21, 2007.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Ephedra consumer advisory (October 2004). NCCAM Web site. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/alerts/ephedra/pdf/ephedra.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2007.
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