Ephedrine, a substance refined from the plant ephedra, is an herbal product that gained popularity both as a weight-loss supplement and athletic enhancer, as well as in the treatment of colds, asthma and other respiratory disorders. Products containing ephedrine can cause many side effects and may not be safe for human consumption. Consult your doctor about any product containing or presumed to contain ephedrine.
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There are many different side effects associated with taking supplements or products that contain ephedrine, the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine explains. Consuming ephedrine can cause anxiety, dry mouth, stomach irritation, kidney stones or headache. Ephedrine can also result in nausea, restlessness and sleep problems, and it can trigger psychosis in some patients. Products containing ephedrine should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women, due to the potential for ephedrine to cross the placenta or get into breast milk.
The most serious risk associated with taking ephedrine is its link to cardiovascular problems. Ephedrine can increase the heart rate and disrupt the rhythm of the heart, according to MayoClinic.com. Ephedrine can lead to heart inflammation or heart attack and can cause the heart muscle to get damaged. Other cardiovascular problems that may be exacerbated by ephedrine are coronary dissection, dilated cardiomyopathy and left ventricular systolic dysfunction. Ephedrine can be extremely dangerous for anyone with a history of heart disease.
In 2004, dietary supplements containing ephedra were banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration following studies that showed an unreasonable risk of serious side effects, including fatal cardiovascular problems. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, this ban does not extend to traditional Chinese remedies or teas that contain ephedrine if they are regulated like conventional foods. Chemically synthesized ephedrine may still be used to treat asthma and other conditions that cause nasal congestion or wheezing, according to Drugs.com.
The poor regulation of dietary supplements is a cause of concern for any that are purported to contain ephedrine, as they are likely to be from a less-than-reputable source. A compound, such as ephedrine, being listed on a label does not necessarily mean that the compound is actually present in the supplement. Often, the chemical composition of dietary supplements does not match the ingredients on the label. Consuming supplements that claim to have ephedrine could result in your inadvertent consumption of contaminants that put your health at risk.