Ephedra (ma huang) can be a confusing topic. Some know it only as the plant used to treat asthma and other conditions. But, dietary supplements containing ephedra were banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to its stimulant properties and potentially deadly side effects, including heart attack and stroke.

Ephedra Supplements

The ephedra ban applies to dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids. These products are often marketed as weight loss supplements, energy supplements, and to enhance athletic performance. Ripped Fuel and Metabolife were once popular ephedra-containing dietary supplements.

Ephedra has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years, to treat conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Ephedrine alkaloids are an amphetamine-like substance which acts as a central nervous system stimulant, as well as a bronchial dilator and vasoconstrictor.

Ephedra Dangers

In 2004, the FDA banned the sale of supplements containing ephedra, stating that the products pose an unreasonable health risk. Dangers side effects of ephedra can include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Central nervous system (CNS) excitation
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Addiction
  • Death

Ephedra vs. Ephedrine

Much of the confusion surrounding ephedra arises from the difference between natural ephedra alkaloids, including ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, and their synthetic counterparts. Ephedra and ephedrine alkaloids derived from the ephedra plant are regulated as a dietary supplement, not a drug.

Synthetic ephedrine compounds, including pseudoephedrine, are regulated as a drug and are still found in medications. Over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants, sold to relieve the symptoms of cold, flu, allergy, and/or sinus problems, such as Sudafed, often contain pseudoephedrine. OTC asthma medications, such as Primatene tablets, contain ephedrine.

Although these synthetic drugs are still available, they can have similar side effects to natural ephedra products and are not for everyone. You should talk to your doctor before taking them.

If you have been injured by ephedra dietary supplements, or if you have lost a loved one to one of these dangerous products, you may be entitled to compensation. Please find an ephedra injury attorney in your area today.