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What is ephedra?
Ephedra—also known as ma huang and by its scientific name, Ephedra sinica—is an herbal product that comes from an evergreen plant. The Chinese used these plants 5,000 years ago, possibly for the treatment of asthma and hay fever. But they used plant preparations unlike the modern ephedra supplements that are now banned.
Ephedra stimulates the brain, causing nervousness and making the heart beat faster. It temporarily expands the tubes that carry air to the lungs (bronchial tubes), which makes breathing easier in people who have asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Serious problems are associated with ephedra. There have been some reports of heart attacks and deaths after its use. Do not take ephedra or anything that contains ephedra.
What is ephedra used for?
Ephedra was used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat asthma.
More recently, people used ephedra as an energy booster and to help with weight loss.
Is ephedra safe?
No. The FDA has banned the sale of ephedra.
Side effects of ephedra include:
- Potential dependence.
At high doses, ephedra has been reported to cause:
- High blood pressure.
- Chest pain.
- Heart attack.
- Irregular and racing heartbeat, possibly leading to death.
Other Works Consulted
Murray MT, Pizzorno JE Jr (2006). Ephedra species. In JE Pizzorno Jr, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 3rd ed., pp. 925–929. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine|
|Last Revised||June 29, 2011|
|By:||Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: June 29, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine|
Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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