SPECIAL REPORT on EPHEDRINE:
The scientific facts behind ephedrine and our top picks for safe, healthy alternatives to help to reach your desired weight-loss goals.
Ephedrine is classed as a "beta-adrenergic agonist," which means it works on adrenergic receptors on the surface of fat cells, which ultimately causes a breakdown of fat within fat cells. In a nutshell, you're likely to lose greater amounts of fat when you take it than when you don't. Research clearly shows it aids weight loss and also increases energy expenditure. Thus, because of all this good news, ephedra is one of the most widely sold weight-control products on the market today.
The problem with that is ephedrine works — that is, it works almost as well as what might be classified as a "drug." (In fact, ephedrine, the active component in the herb ephedra and/or ma huang, is classified as a drug! So, on one side, you have the major, billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies waging a war against ephedra being sold as an over-the-counter supplement, instead of as a drug (so they can make money on it). And on the other, you have general public concerns over the safety.
Yes, we obviously have some issues, but is it really a matter of safety? I don't think so. When compared to many of the approved prescription drugs, ephedrine is one of the safest compounds available. In fact, many pharmaceutical companies use synthetic forms of ephedrine (look for pseudoephedrine, for example) in their over-the-counter cold and allergy products, which many of us use whenever we're sick.
In my opinion, the media stories about adverse reactions (including deaths allegedly associated directly with the use of ephedra or ephedrine) have been blown out of proportion. Few compounds share ephedrine's extraordinary safety record. The facts are that the deaths associated with ephedrine use clearly stated the individuals consumed levels way above those recommended (or even considered sane) by nutritional practitioners. Like anything else in life, there's no escaping the law of toxicology, which says too much of anything, even apple pie or water, can hurt you. Therefore, I can't stress enough that more is not better with anything, and that includes supplements!
Think of this way: when you take your car in to change the oil, you'd never say to the technician, "Hey, since I'd like my car to run a little better, instead of the normal 5 quarts, why not throw in 10?!" Nope. Even your car doesn't work this way... Let me say it again: more is not better!
Another part of the problem comes to light with the FDA's proposal to reduce the levels of ephedrine-based products sold on the market, which has been seriously objected by millions of people who use ephedrine regularly. So, what's the solution? Actually, I'm in agreement with the FDA's call for a mandatory daily usage limit on all ephedrine-containing products. But pulling it from the market altogether is, I believe, too hard-lined. I don't feel that a few individuals who choose not to follow proper usage instructions and over-abuse the daily limit should spoil the availability of this supplement for everyone.
As you can see, I am a supporter of the benefits of ephedrine. It simply doesn't deserve the bad rap the media gives it. But I do not advocate using it regularly either. Reason is with any stimulant, there is a downside. Overuse (or abuse) can lead to an over-stimulated adrenal system, which often leads to lethargy, reduced immune system functioning, or the dreaded "I wish this ephedra would wear off so I could get some sleep" feeling. If you have used ephedrine regularly for an extended period of time (more than three or four weeks at a time), then I know you follow me.
If you are sensitive to ephedrine and cannot tolerate its side effects, as literally millions of people can't, it may be best to avoid it altogether. Instead, consider trying some other supplements for energy and fat-loss support. The herbs ginseng and cordyceps and the amino acid tyrosine seem to support energy enhancement — both physical and mental. And supplements like Citrus aurantium, good old caffeine or the herb guarana, and an exciting new ingredient called Coleus forskohlii may help the body burn more calories (in a process called thermogenesis), leading to more fat burned. And best of all, you'll be able to get to sleep at night, and you won't feel that creepy, tingly sensation crawling over your head that comes with ephedra use.