Bad Side Effects of Ephedrine

Ephedrine is a naturally-occurring alkaloid derived from a particular species of plant called Ephedra sinica. This supplement was marketed under the brand name Ephedra and was indicated to help patients lose weight. In February 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of ephedrine-containing products in the United States due to bad side effects and life-threatening medical complications experienced by patients who used this product.

Ephedrae herba. Credit: Heike Rau/iStock/Getty Images

Nausea or Vomiting

Upset stomach, such as nausea or vomiting, can occur in patients who take ephedrine. These side effects can be uncomfortable and can also occur in conjunction with decreased appetite or bowel changes, such as constipation or diarrhea, explains Medline Plus, an informational medical website established by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. These stomach-related side effects may be more severe if ephedrine is taken on an empty stomach.

Restlessness or Sleeping Difficulties

Ephedrine stimulates the central nervous system and can lead to side effects involving behavior and sleep patterns, explains Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Patients taking ephedrine can become unusually anxious, restless or nervous, which can make it difficult for these patients to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

Headache or Dizziness

Headache or dizziness can arise as a result of taking ephedrine, warns, an informational peer-reviewed drug website for consumers. Episodes of dizziness can lead to difficulty standing or walking and can contribute to the appearance of additional side effects, such as confusion or weakness. Headache side effects associated with ephedrine can be mild to severe and may reoccur after taking subsequent doses of this supplement.

Chest Pain or Heart Rate Abnormalities

After taking a dose of ephedrine, patients can experience sudden and severe chest pain or tightness as a bad side effect of treatment, warns Medline Plus. This supplement can cause damage to the heart muscle, which can lead to heart rate irregularities, heart muscle inflammation, high blood pressure, heart attack or cardiac arrest. These potentially life-threatening side effects of ephedrine can also occur in conjunction with severe breathing difficulties or fluid retention within the lungs. Immediate medical intervention is necessary if any of these side effects arise after treatment with ephedrine.

Seizure or Stroke

Using ephedrine can increase a patient's risk of experiencing a seizure or stroke, explain Medline Plus health officials. As a central nervous system stimulant, ephedrine can overexcite the muscle cells, leading to involuntary muscle tremors, convulsions or seizure. This supplement can also interfere with the flow of blood to the brain, which can cause stroke symptoms to develop in certain patients. These bad side effects of ephedrine require immediate emergency medical attention to prevent the development of life-threatening medical complications.

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