Overview

Ephedra is an herb. Usually, the branches and tops are used to make medicine, but the root or whole plant can also be used. Ephedra is banned in the U.S. due to safety concerns.

Mormon tea and ephedra are often confused. Mormon tea or American ephedra comes from Ephedra nevadensis, and ephedra or ma huang comes primarily from Ephedra sinica. Mormon tea lacks the chemicals (notably ephedrine) that give ephedra its effects and potentially serious side effects.

Ephedra is used for weight loss and obesity and to enhance athletic performance. It is also used for allergies and hay fever; nasal congestion; and respiratory tract conditions such as bronchospasm, asthma, and bronchitis. It is also used for colds, flu, swine flu, fever, chills, headache, inability to sweat, joint and bone pain, and as a “water pill” to increase urine flow in people who retain fluids.

There has been a lot of debate about the safety of ephedra and legal wrangling over its status. In June 1997, the FDA proposed restrictions on the ephedrine content of dietary supplements, new warning labels for products that contain the active ingredients in ephedra, and a ban on combination products containing ephedra and other natural stimulants, such as guarana and cola nut, both of which contain significant amounts of caffeine. These proposals were dropped after the link between ephedra use and serious adverse effects was challenged by the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the dietary supplement industry. According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, FDA must prove a supplement is unsafe before it can be withdrawn from the market. The FDA reviewed numerous adverse event reports involving ephedra-containing products, with 140 of the reports receiving in-depth clinical review by FDA and outside experts. Findings from experts outside the FDA support the FDA's initial finding that ephedra is likely the cause of many of the events noted in the reports.

On December 30, 2003, the FDA announced the ban of ephedra products in the U.S., effective April 2004. In April 2005, the dietary supplement industry successfully challenged the FDA ban on ephedra. A year after the ban on ephedra began, a federal judge in Utah struck down the FDA's action saying that FDA didn't prove that low doses of ephedra are harmful. In August 2006, an appeals court reversed the Utah judge's decision and upheld the FDA's ban of ephedra-containing dietary supplements.

Ephedra use is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, International Olympic Committee, and National Football League.

Ephedra is sometimes marketed as a recreational drug "herbal ecstasy." The FDA has announced that ephedra products marketed as recreational drugs are unapproved and that misbranded drugs can be taken by the authorities.

How does it work ?

Ephedra contains a chemical called ephedrine. Ephedrine stimulates the heart, the lungs, and the nervous system.

View References

CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
© Therapeutic Research Faculty 2020.