Ephedra 101. Learning The Basics of Ephedrine.
Ephedra also known Ephedrine. Never before has a supplement created so much interest and confusion in the diet world. Millions of people take it everyday. Yet many people misunderstand it. We decided to look into the facts on it.
Ephedra Is An Herb
Ephedra sinica, also known as ma huang, is the plant most commonly used as a source of Ephedra products. Ma huang is a popular dietary supplement in the United States and has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Ephedra includes "ephedrine alkaloids," which are naturally occurring compounds that are found in plants.
Ephedra dietary supplements generally contain standardized extracts that have 6 to 8 percent ephedrine alkaloids. Manufacturers are required by law to declare the amount of ephedrine alkaloids in each serving.
There is a difference between ephedrine alkaloids and synthetic ephedrine. Ephedrine is only one of the naturally occurring alkaloids present in Ephedra extracts. Other alkaloids include pseudoephedrine (which is less potent than ephedrine) and alkaloids that slow the absorption of ephedrine from the digestive tract and/or counteract the stimulant effects of the ephedrine in the extracts. However, synthetic ephedrine, which is used in a number of common cold remedies, is not a naturally occurring substance. Synthetic ephedrine can be easily identified on the label of these cold products as "ephedrine hydrocloride."
Ephedra Is Safe When Taken As Directed
Experts who have reviewed all of the available historical and clinical data agree: You can take Ephedra safely if you stick to the serving limits and follow the warnings and precautions adopted by the Industry.
Industry adopted these standards as a recommendation for distributors, marketers and consumers of dietary supplement products containing ephedrine alkaloids. A panel of experts from a variety of scientific and medical backgrounds endorsed the standards that the trade recommendation established. In addition, several states, including Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Washington have adopted portions of these standards as state law.
What are Industry's recommended serving limits, warnings, and precautions?
Although many Ephedra product manufacturers follow the industry recommendation, not all do, so check the label of your Ephedra product to make sure it bears the recommended serving limits and warnings. If information and warnings comparable to those listed in the trade recommendation are not included on the label, then the EEC recommends that you do not purchase the product. It is very important that you read products labels, warnings and cautions, and follow the directions. Ephedra is not for everyone and must be used responsibly.
Science Supports The Safety And Effectiveness Of Ephedra
Scientific studies confirm that Ephedra products are safe when used as part of an overall weight-loss program. In particular, a six-month study by researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities on Ephedra/caffeine products concluded that the products were safe and produced significant weight loss. Nevertheless, critics of Ephedra often cite Adverse Event Reports (AERs), which are anecdotal reports compiled by the Food and Drug Administration, as cause for concern. However, even the critics agree that AERs are not reliable. The same medical and scientific experts that supported AHPA's trade recommendation have also reviewed the AERs. The panel of experts concluded that the AERs do not provide sufficient evidence to link significant adverse events to Ephedra. The General Accounting Office investigators reached the same conclusion in its report to Congress.
AERs Do Not Negate The Science Supporting Safety And Efficacy Of Ephedra
An AER is a report made to FDA by a consumer or health care professional. These reports contain information of widely varying degrees of quality concerning adverse events that may be related to the ingestion of a product. While widely reported as a basis for concern, FDA itself admits that these reports are subjective, do not represent scientific data, cannot be used as a basis for scientific regulation, and ordinarily cannot be used to determine if the adverse event was caused by the product in question.
FDA's longstanding practice is to use AERs as a signal to consult the available data on a product to determine if the reported events are consistent with the data. Without such consultation, an AER has no scientific significance. Industry's principal objection to FDA's statements and ensuing public debate is that it has been based entirely on the scientifically invalid AERs and not on scientific data.
A relatively small number of ephedra AERs have been reported when one considers how widely consumed the product is in the United States. (See industry survey) In spite of the proportionally small number of reports, the EEC has been a strong advocate for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and its Office of Dietary Supplements to study all the available scientific data on Ephedra in order to evaluate whether the AERs collected by FDA provide any cause for concern.
Ephedra Is Useful
The ephedrine alkaloids in Ephedra act as a mild stimulant, with effects similar to those of caffeine. Ephedra products can enhance energy and, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet, they can also lead to weight loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I take Ephedra if I am pregnant or nursing a child?
No. The label adopted by responsible members of Industry, which Industry has urged FDA to adopt and has also become law in several states, specifically states that Ephedra should not be used if you are pregnant or nursing
2. Will Ephedra cause insomnia?
Ephedra has a stimulant effect on the body. Therefore, if it is consumed too close to going to bed, it may cause sleeplessness.
3. Can I take Ephedra and continue to follow my normal diet and still lose weight? Do I need to lower my caloric intake and exercise to ensure that it will work?
Everyone agrees that the way we lose weight is to burn more calories than we consume. Ephedra helps in that process by producing a thermogenic effect, which causes one to burn more calories. Further, it appears that by taking Ephedra people seem to eat less and have more energy and thus are more active. Whether one also needs to consciously lower their caloric intake and/or exercise depends on a variety of circumstances, which is best discussed with your health care professional.
4. What is the difference between Ephedra and Phen-Fen?
Ephedra and Phen-fen are two completely different substances. Phen-Fen is a synthetic pharmaceutical drug. Ephedra, a naturally occurring substance, is derived from a plant known as Ma Huang. These are two very different substances and there are no similarities between the two.
5. Is Ephedra the same substance that was banned from cold medicines like Sudafed because it causes strokes in women?
No. The product that was banned in certain cold medications was phenylpropanolamine. Ephedra does not contain phenylpropanolamine.
6. My son is trying out for a high school sports team and wants to take Ephedra to better prepare him. Is this okay?
No. The label adopted by responsible members of Industry, which Industry has urged FDA to adopt and has also become law in several states, specifically states that Ephedra should not be used by anyone under the age of 18.
7. If Ephedra is natural then why do I hear that it is unsafe?
Ephedra is safe when taken as directed. Like anything, whether it is natural or not (peanuts are natural but for some people, unsafe to eat), some people should not use Ephedra. To use it properly, one must read and follow the directions.
8. My doctor told me that I need to lose 100 pounds. Is Ephedra an option for me?
While Ephedra could be an option, it will depend on a number of factors, including your overall health, your medical history and what other drugs or other products you are taking. You should consult with your health care professional.
9. Will taking more than the recommended serving size increase my ability to lose weight?
No. The label adopted by responsible members of Industry, which Industry has urged FDA to adopt and has also become law in several states, specifically states that "exceeding recommended serving will not improve results and may cause serious adverse health effects." One should always read the label and follow directions.
10. I am currently taking a prescription drug to cure a stomach ulcer. Can I continue to take Ephedra?
The label adopted by responsible members of Industry states that you should consult with a health care professional before taking an Ephedra product if you are on prescription medication.
11. Why does Public Citizen think that Ephedra should be banned?
Public Citizen is basing its proposed ban on the same unscientific information that was used by FDA to support the proposed limits on the sale of Ephedra products, a proposal that FDA has now substantially withdrawn. Public Citizen, like FDA in 1997, has ignored the considerable body of clinical data that shows that Ephedra is safe and effective when taken as directed. EEC agrees with one aspect of the Public Citizen proposal, synthetic products should not be sold as natural products.
12. How is Ephedra linked to herbal ecstasy?
Legitimate Ephedra products are not. There are unscrupulous businesses that market products containing Ephedra to minors as illicit drugs. Responsible members of Industry have for years urged FDA to use its enforcement powers to take these illegal products off the market. In fact, Industry has submitted a Citizen Petition to FDA urging appropriate regulation of Ephedra products. One of the statements in the petition is a specific ban on claims that Ephedra "may be useful to achieve an altered state of consciousness, euphoria, or as a "legal" alternative for an illicit drug."
Anyway you look at it. Ephedra is getting more and more difficult to get. With the big boys like Xenadrine RFA-1, Hydroxycut canning it. It is only a matter of time for the rest to follow. It looks like ephedra may end up like the dinosaur totally extinct. For now if you need it we got it.