Ephedrine is a stimulant derived from the Ephedra sinica plant. Once popular as a weight loss aid and energy supplement, ephedrine sales are now restricted due to a high incidence of side effects and health problems associated with its use. When combined with caffeine, ephedrine causes appetite suppression and increased metabolism, both of which may be helpful for temporary weight loss. Understanding the risks and benefits of using ephedrine and caffeine for weight loss can help prevent adverse effects by allowing consumers to make informed choices.
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Both caffeine and ephedrine are stimulants. Occasionally, the two substances may be combined in weight loss products and energy supplements for their synergistic stimulant effects. Ephedrine is still used in some asthma medications, though its use in dietary supplements has been largely restricted due to the risk of serious health problems and its role in methamphetamine manufacture.
Ephedrine is similar in structure and effects to amphetamines. It acts on adrenergic receptors to produce its effects, which include increased heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. Like other stimulants, ephedrine can cause appetite suppression in some people, making it potentially useful for weight loss. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, short-term use of ephedrine may result in statistically significant weight loss in some people. When taken with caffeine, ephedrine may be even more effective due to the combined stimulant effects of both drugs.
Despite its natural origins, ephedrine can be hazardous to your health, especially when taken with other stimulants like caffeine. Drug Information Online lists anxiety, insomnia, tremors, nausea and sweating as common side effects of ephedrine. More serious reactions like hallucinations, tachycardia, heart attack, stroke and life-threatening allergic reactions have also been reported. The combined effects of ephedrine and caffeine are likely more dangerous than ephedrine alone due to increased cardiovascular strain and central nervous system stimulation caused by both substances.
The only way to avoid all risk associated with ephedrine is to abstain from using it. Ephedrine is contraindicated in people with a history of heart disease, glaucoma and diabetes, so ask a doctor before using ephedrine if you suffer from these or other chronic health conditions. Starting with a low dose and following directions for use carefully may help reduce the risk of serious adverse effects when using ephedrine for weight loss.
Combining ephedrine with other stimulants increases the risk for health problems. If you experience chest pain, severe headache, fainting or blurred vision while taking ephedrine and caffeine, seek immediate medical help. These may be signs of a life-threatening condition like heart attack, stroke or seizure.