The ephedrine in ephedra is responsible for its therapeutic effects and also its serious safety concerns. It stimulates the heart, lungs, and nervous system.
People use ephedra for weight loss and athletic performance. It's also used for allergies, nasal congestion, asthma, common cold, headache, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses. Ephedra is also unsafe.
Ephedra has been banned by the US FDA since April 2004. It's also banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), International Olympic Committee (IOC), and National Football League (NFL). Don't confuse ephedra with Mormon tea. Mormon tea comes from Ephedra nevadensis, an Ephedra species that doesn't contain ephedrine.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
Possibly Ineffective for
Special Precautions and Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Ephedra is likely unsafe when taken by mouth while pregnant or breast-feeding. It's been linked to several cases of severe side effects. Do not use it.
Children: Ephedra is likely unsafe when taken by mouth in children. It can cause severe life-threatening side effects.
Anxiety: Large doses of ephedra might make anxiety worse. Do not use it.
Diabetes: Ephedra might interfere with blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Do not use it.
A movement disorder called essential tremor: Ephedra might make essential tremor worse. Do not use it.
Heart conditions: Ephedra can stimulate the heart, making chest pain and irregular heartbeat worse. Do not use it.
High blood pressure: Ephedra might make high blood pressure worse. Do not use it.
Overactive thyroid and related conditions: Ephedra might stimulate the thyroid and make the symptoms of overactive thyroid worse. Do not use it.
Kidney stones: Ephedra and its active ingredient ephedrine can cause kidney stones. Do not use it.
Narrow-angle glaucoma: Ephedra might make this condition worse. Do not use it.
Pheochromocytoma: Ephedra might make the symptoms of this condition worse. Do not use it.
Seizure disorders: Ephedra might bring on a seizure in some people who are prone to seizures. Do not use it.
Medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat (QT interval-prolonging drugs) interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra might affect electrical currents in the heart. This can increase the risk of having an irregular heartbeat. Some medications can have this same effect. Taking ephedra with these medications might increase the risk for a serious heart issue.
Methylxanthines interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra can simulate the body. Methylxanthines also stimulate the body. Taking ephedra along with methylxanthines might cause side effects such as jitteriness, nervousness, a fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
Stimulant drugs interacts with EPHEDRA
Stimulants, such as amphetamines and cocaine, speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can increase blood pressure and speed up the heartbeat. Ephedra also speeds up the nervous system. Taking ephedra along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure.
Do not take this combination
Dexamethasone (Decadron) interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra might increase how quickly the body breaks down dexamethasone. Taking ephedra along with dexamethasone might decrease the effects of dexamethasone.
Ergot derivatives interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra can increase blood pressure. Ergot derivatives can also increase blood pressure. Taking ephedra with ergot derivatives might increase blood pressure too much.
Medications for depression (MAOIs) interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra contains chemicals that stimulate the body. Some medications used for depression can increase these chemicals. Taking ephedra with these medications might cause serious side effects including fast heartbeat and very high blood pressure.
Some common MAOIs include phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate).
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra might increase blood sugar levels. Taking ephedra along with diabetes medications might reduce the effects of these medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
Medications used to prevent seizures (Anticonvulsants) interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra may increase the risk of seizures. Therefore, taking ephedra may decrease the effects of medications used to prevent seizures. This might increase the risk of seizures.
Medications for asthma (Beta-adrenergic agonists) interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra can stimulate the heart. Some medications for asthma can also stimulate the heart. Taking ephedra with these medications might cause too much stimulation and cause heart problems.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates) interacts with EPHEDRA
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Ephedra might change how quickly the liver breaks down these medications. This could change the effects and side effects of these medications.
Medications that can harm the liver (Hepatotoxic drugs) interacts with EPHEDRA
Ephedra might harm the liver. Some medications can also harm the liver. Taking ephedra along with a medication that can harm the liver might increase the risk of liver damage.
Be cautious with this combination
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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.