Ephedra is an herb used in many supplements. This drug is illegal in the U.S. for use in supplements but does turn up in other products. It is commonly promoted for its effects on “enhancing manhood”. The list of effects on the body is about as long as my arm and includes almost every system in the body. I do want to note, that this substance has been used for years in pharmaceutical preparations as an effective bronchodilator, but physicians are opting for newer, as effective drugs with less side effects. Ephedra is very strictly controlled in the United States because it can be used to make Methamphetamine.
Ephedra is an herb. Usually, the branches and tops are used to make medicine, but the root or whole plant can also be used. Ephedra is banned in the U.S. due to safety concerns.
Mormon tea and ephedra are often confused. Mormon tea or American ephedra comes from Ephedra nevadensis, and ephedra or ma huang comes primarily from Ephedra sinica. Mormon tea lacks the chemicals (notably ephedrine) that give ephedra its effects and potentially serious side effects.
Ephedra is used for weight loss and obesity and to enhance athletic performance. It is also used for allergies and hay fever; nasal congestion; and respiratory tract conditions such as bronchospasm, asthma, and bronchitis. It is also used for colds, flu, swine flu, fever, chills, headache, inability to sweat, joint and bone pain, and as a “water pill” to increase urine flow in people who retain fluids.
There has been a lot of debate about the safety of ephedra and legal wrangling over its status. In June 1997, the FDA proposed restrictions on the ephedrine content of dietary supplements, new warning labels for products that contain the active ingredients in ephedra, and a ban on combination products containing ephedra and other natural stimulants, such as guarana and cola nut, both of which contain significant amounts of caffeine. These proposals were dropped after the link between ephedra use and serious adverse effects was challenged by the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the dietary supplement industry. According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, FDA must prove a supplement is unsafe before it can be withdrawn from the market. The FDA reviewed numerous adverse event reports involving ephedra-containing products, with 140 of the reports receiving in-depth clinical review by FDA and outside experts. Findings from experts outside the FDA support the FDA's initial finding that ephedra is likely the cause of many of the events noted in the reports.
On December 30, 2003, the FDA announced the ban of ephedra products in the U.S., effective April 2004. In April 2005, the dietary supplement industry successfully challenged the FDA ban on ephedra. A year after the ban on ephedra began, a federal judge in Utah struck down the FDA's action saying that FDA didn't prove that low doses of ephedra are harmful. In August 2006, an appeals court reversed the Utah judge's decision and upheld the FDA's ban of ephedra-containing dietary supplements.
Ephedra use is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, International Olympic Committee, and National Football League.
Ephedra is sometimes marketed as a recreational drug "herbal ecstasy." The FDA has announced that ephedra products marketed as recreational drugs are unapproved and that misbranded drugs can be taken by the authorities.