What is the difference between Ephedra and Ephedrine?
Ephedra is a term that covers several related species of herbs that grow naturally in desert areas. Chinese Ephedra, or Ma Huang, is a potent herb that is a key ingredient in diet pills and supplements. It is best known as a botanical source of the alkaloid Ephedrine.
Ephedra has been used since ancient times in traditional Chinese medicines, to treat asthma and other lung related diseases. When combined with caffeine or other substances containing caffeine, these pills can stimulate the body’s central nervous system, resulting in a boost in energy and vitality, increased metabolic rate and thermogenesis, and reduced appetite. Ephedra diet pills and Ephedra-based weight loss supplements are also used by athletes to enhance energy release and improve performance.
Ephedrine Hydrochloride or Ephedrine Sulfate is the chemical derivative of the Ephedra plant itself. It is the active component of the plant. Ephedrine is normally used for medical purposes, primarily in operating theatres and intensive care units, as well as for the treatment of lung problems, such as asthma.
At present, the use of both Ephedra and Ephedrine are regulated and monitored in the United States. Companies have been fined, prosecuted and banned from selling any Ephedra diet products because of the plant’s dangerous side effects that can result in death.
How does Ephedra Work?
Ephedra contains the alkaloid Ephedrine. By interaction with neurotransmitter receptors Ephedrine stimulates the central nervous system, increases blood pressure, elevates heart rate and dilates bronchial tubes in the lungs. These effects promote thermogenesis. To boost the thermogenic effect, Caffeine, Guarana and other ingredients are often included with Ephedra in diet pills.
Ephedra Side Effects
Traditional contraindications for ephedra include general poor health, high blood pressure, nervousness, insomnia, cardiac arrythmias, heart disease and gastrointestinal problems. Ephedra may also cause contraction of the uterus, and should not be used during pregnancy.
Is Ephedra Legal?
Diet pills containing Ephedra have come under close scrutiny by regulatory bodies, such as the FDA, because of a high risk of potential adverse side effects. The FDA has been issuing warnings related to Ephedra containing slimming pills since the early 1990’s.
In April 2004, the FDA banned the sale of Ephedra based products due to concerns about the potential health risks. A suit by an Ephedra manufacturer was upheld by a Federal District Court judge in Utah on April 14, 2005, because it was found that the FDA had not provided sufficiently robust scientific evidence to justify a ban. The FDA appealed this ruling, and on August 17, 2006 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the FDA’s ban on Ephedra.
At present, it is not possible to legally purchase diet pills containing Ephedra in the United States.