FDA's Ephedra Ban Takes Effect

Sale of Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedra Now Illegal

From the WebMD Archives

April 12, 2004 -- Buying or selling a dietary supplement containing ephedra is now against the law. The FDA's ban on ephedra officially takes effect today.

In February, the agency announced that it would prohibit the sale of any dietary supplement containing ephedra in the U.S. due to the risk of illness or injury. Months earlier, officials advised consumers to stop using ephedra products and asked companies to stop selling them.

"This FDA rule reflects what the scientific evidence shows -- that ephedra poses an unreasonable risk to those who use it," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson in announcing the ban in February. "The regulations prohibit the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra, and we intend to take swift action against anyone who puts consumers at risk by continuing to sell such products after the prohibition takes effect."

FDA Bans Ephedra

Ephedra, also known as ma huang, has become an increasingly popular ingredient in dietary supplements promoted for weight loss and boosting athletic performance or energy.

Officials say research shows there is little evidence supporting ephedra's effectiveness in promoting anything but modest, short-term weight loss without any clear health benefit.

At the same time, researchers say it's clear that ephedra raises blood pressure and puts additional stress on the circulatory system. Those effects have been linked to potentially deadly conditions, including heart attack and stroke.

"Do not take these products. They are simply too risky," says FDA commissioner Mark B. McClellan, MD, PhD, in a news release.

How to Spot Ephedra

Ephedra is one of a group of plants that are a source of ephedrine alkaloids, including ephedrine and pseudophedrine. When chemically synthesized, these substances are regulated by the FDA as drugs.

But the safety of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids is not regulated by the FDA, and they may be hazardous.

Here's a short list of some products that have been known in the past to contain ephedra. Some companies may have already removed ephedra from these products:

  • Metabolife
  • Ripped Fuel
  • Diet Fuel
  • Stacker 3
  • NaturalTRIM
  • Hydroxycut
  • Xenadrine RFA-1
  • Metab-O-Lite
  • Metabolift
  • Up Your Gas
  • Truckers Luv It
  • Yellow Jackets

Products that contain ephedra may list it on their label. Products with any of the following ingredients contain ephedra:

  • Ephedra
  • Ephedrine
  • Ma huang
  • Ephedra sinica
  • Sida cordifolia
  • Pinellia