What is Ephedra?

Ephedra is a controversial herb that has been used for thousands of years to help treat asthma, hay fever, colds and coughs, emphysema and even obesity. The Chinese are documented as having been using this herbal remedy for over 5,000 years to help treat breathing problems by regulating the proper functions of the lungs. Native Americans and early Mormons in the US drank an ephedra tea, but the plants grown in the wild in the US today have evolved to the point that they can no longer be used in tea.

This dynamic herbal remedy has been known to stimulate the brain and expand bronchial tubes. As the ephedra expands the bronchial tubes it allows for easier breathing. This is why asthmatic patients and patients suffering from emphysema and colds have tried using this herb as an alternative to modern medicine.

Ephedra has also been used as a diuretic. In a study of overweight US citizens, when the herb is taken in regulated doses it can aid in weight loss. Unfortunately the study stated that those who become dependent on ephedra and quit after they have reached their desired new weight will generally binge eat and gain their newly lost weight right back.

Benefits of Ephedra:

To some, ephedra may seem like a safe and effective weight loss herb, but it actually has fewer benefits than potential side effects. Some benefits include the following:

  • Weight loss aid
  • Eases constricted breathing
  • Brain stimulant
  • Rich in vitamins


In 2004, the FDA banned the sale of Ephedra in the US due to its potentially severe and life threatening side effects. Following deaths of athletes on all levels, from high school all the way to the professional ranks, the FDA re-evaluated their prior stance on Ephedra. After extensive studies, the administration deemed it unsafe for human consumption and banned the sale of Ephedra effective April 2004.

Several known side effects of Ephedra are increased heart rate, constricted blood vessels (causing high blood pressure), skin reactions, nervousness, irritability, headaches, insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety leading to psychosis, kidney stones, tremors, irregular heartbeat, increased urination and sweating, seizures, heart attacks, stroke and even death. In people with existing conditions, these side effects can be even more intense.

Also, Ephedra is considered an amphetamine. As with other many amphetamines, it can become very addictive. If someone was to quit using Ephedra after prolonged use, they may have even more side effects including but not limited to cold sweats, mood swings, and heart palpitations.

As you can see the intense side effects of this herb greatly outweigh its few benefits. Some scientists believe that the reason the side effects are so high with this herb is because medicinal companies have extracted the active ingredient in the Ephedra plant, ephedrine, and use its purest source for medicine only. These people believe that if the herb was left in its simplest form then users would have no problems.

How and where to buy Ephedra

Today, you are still able to see bottles labeled Ephedra at your local gas station or vitamin shops. The truth of the matter is that these products are labeled “Ephedra-free” in their fine print. The producers of the pills have replaced the Ephedra most commonly used with the herbal stimulant bitter orange. While this may sound safe to some, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has found that there is little evidence to lead them to believe that bitter orange is safer than Ephedra.

Since Ephedra is considered illegal for sale in the US, you can’t find Ephedra products at your local vitamin shops. You can buy Ephedra seeds at online vitamin and herb stores and grow the herb yourself though if you are determined to obtain it.

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