Ephedra/Ma Huang - Fact File

Fact File

What It Is:Ephedra is a plant that contains the active ingredient ephedrine, a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.

What It Does:Like phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine acts on the appetite control center of the brain, the hypothalamus, suppressing the desire to eat. Like all CNS stimulants, ephedrine stimulates the heart and causes blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure and heart rate.

Interactions: Ephedra may decrease the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. When combined with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, such as phenelazine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (parnate), or the antimicrobial drug furazolidone (Furazolidone), ephedra can cause a dramatic rise in blood pressure, increasing the risk of stroke. It also enhances the effects of other stimulant drugs, including CAFFEINE, phenylpropanolamine and pseudoephedrine hydrocholoride (Sudafed).

Worst You Can Expect: Among the most common side effects are nervousness, headaches, insomnia and heart palpitations. To date, ephedra has been directly associated with eighteen deaths and more than 800 non-fatal "adverse events."

Best You Can Expect:A temporary suppression of appetite, a racing heart, and clear nasal passages and lungs. (Ephedrine is also a decongestant and bronchodilator.)

Bottom Line:Don't fall for the "all-natural" sales pitch. Ephedra's active ingredient is still a drug, and shouldn't be used as a weight loss aid or energy booster.

If you do use a product with ephedra, never exceed a dosage of 25 milligrams a day, and never use it for more than a week at a time.

Ephedra should never be used by women who are pregnant or nursing, and should also be avoided by those have heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma or a hyperactive thyroid

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