Ephedrine and Ma Huang, are both names given to the same substance derived from a shrub-like plant called ephedra. This plant is found in desert regions in central Asia and other parts in the world; once its greens are dried, they can be used medicinally. But only the ones that contain high levels of the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine can be useful in those terms, since they are ephedra’s medical active compounds. Usually, its concentration varies depending on the species.
Regarding its actions, ephedrine alkaloids are amphetamine – like compounds with stimulant effects on the central nervous system and heart that may be potentially lethal. Therefore, the FDA has received a large amount of reports – apparently more than 800 – that testify about ephedrine’s adverse effects over the past ten years. The reactions detailed on those reports includes hypertension, palpitations, neuropathy (nerve damage), myopathy (muscle injury), psychosis, stroke, memory loss, heart rate irregularities, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, and death.
Hence, many organizations have taken some actions regarding the free use of this substance. In fact, ephedrine is the primary precursor utilized in the clandestine synthesis of methamphetamine and methcathinone, both potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulants controlled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It is also a listed chemical under the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act (CDTA) of 1988. The CDTA imposes reporting and record keeping requirements for regulated transactions, which meet or exceed these threshold amounts of a listed chemical. However, the terms of those “regulated transactions” are continuously reviewed by DEA to determine if they are satisfactory to prevent diversion without overburdening industry, and in order to prevent the diversion of ephedrine to clandestine laboratory operators.
On the other hand, some time ago the FDA has proposed to prohibit the marketing of dietary supplements containing 8 milligrams or more of ephedrine alkaloids per serving. Although, it took some more serious measures lately. Over the past years many functionaries and demanding affected people urged the FDA to recommend strong mandatory warning labels for ephedrine-containing products, which the organism finally did. One of the facts the FDA analyzed before giving the consumers alert, was the existence of synthetic ingredients in herbal ephedrine products – such as dietary supplements – which of course, is not legal. But of course, as it still can be obtained, there are still many people that use it with diverse objectives – sometimes even combining it with caffeine – in spite of the danger it may involve. In fact, over the last decade, dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids have been labeled and used primarily for weight loss, energy, or to enhance athletic performance.
Many scientific studies have shown that the famous ephedrine and caffeine combination, when consumed 1½ hour before exercise may improve both anaerobic and high-intensity aerobic performance, which can lead to some fat loss action.
In terms of its direct effect on weight loss, this same combination, when consumed three times per day, with a low calorie diet (approximately 1,000) may be helpful in those terms.
Although these effects may be attracting, most experts state that the risks associated with this supplement far outweigh the benefits. The direction taken in the current rulemaking on dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids is consistent with the Commission’s advice. Ingredient panels on these products may list ma huang, Chinese ephedra, ma huang extract, ephedra, Ephedra sinica, ephedra extract, ephedra herb powder, or epitonin, all of which indicate a source of ephedrine.
Deep research studies have also been done related to athletic activity. Based on those studies, physicians claim that supplements containing ephedrine will not enable them to reach their goals. Sound nutrition, hydration and training programs will.