Ephedra Side Effects & Warnings

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On Dec. 30, 2003, FDA issued a consumer alert on the safety of dietary supplements containing ephedra. The alert advised consumers to immediately stop buying and using ephedra products. Ephedra, also called Ma huang, is a naturally occurring substance derived from plants. Its principal active ingredient is ephedrine, which when chemically synthesized is regulated as a drug. In recent years ephedra products have been extensively promoted to aid weight loss, enhance sports performance, and increase energy. 

Also on Dec. 30, FDA notified manufacturers that it intends to publish a final rule stating that dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids present an unreasonable risk of illness or injury. The rule would have the effect of banning the sale of these products as soon as it becomes effective, 60 days after publication.

It has been linked to the deaths of at least 100 people.

Contraindications include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, and can lead to stroke. If any of these symptoms develop, stop using Ephedra immediately and consult your physician.

Insomnia, dry mouth, nervousness, general weakness, poor digestion, irritability, headache, and dizziness.

Do not take Ephedra if you are pregnant, nursing or have heart disease, anxiety disorder (panic attacks), high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

If you are taking any medication, consult your physician before using this herb.

Do not take Ephedra if you are taking monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drugs, commonly prescribed for depression.

Do not administer to children under the age of 18 or to adults over the age of 65.

Because Ephedra can cause a number of side effects and in rare cases, death, consult a practitioner before using it

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that Ephedra be avoided in patients with high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, and benign prostatic hypertrophy. Caution is also recommended against use for pregnant, nursing patients or those with anorexia, insomnia, depression, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, gastric ulcers, bulimia, glaucoma, children, or use longer than one week. Discontinue use if nervousness, tremor, sleeplessness, anorexia, or nausea occurs.

 The combination therapy of Ephedra herb and Loxoprofen caused gastric mucosal lesions and loss of body weight. It is considered that this combination therapy should be avoided because of its adverse effects.

Anecdotal, uncontrolled observations suggest that herbal stimulants containing ephedrine (ephedra or ma huang) and caffeine (cocoa, coffee, tea, mate, guarana, cola or kola) can exacerbate seizures in people with epilepsy, especially when taken in combination.


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