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Ephedra is a medicinal preparation from the plant Ephedra sinica. It has been the source of much controversy over the years, especially within the dieting and weight loss industry.

Although the ingredient itself comes directly from a natural source, the Ephedra plant, it is considered to be a  highly dangerous substance and is also known to be used as a form of ‘herbal ecstasy’, which is illegal to manufacture or sell in most parts of the world.

There have been many reports and studies that have shown Ephedra to cause a wide range of adverse side effects in the user, it has also been linked to a number of deaths. In 2004, the FDA banned the sale of all supplements containing Ephedra.

What is Ephedra?

Ephedra is an extract from the Ephedra sinica plant which contains a number of alkaloid and non-alkaloid compounds. The most common are ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.

What does Ephedra do?

Ephedra is known to cause several biological changes in the user. The drug acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system (CNS) which, in turn, can increase heart rate, blood pressure, restrict blood vessels, expand bronchial tubes, increase metabolism, and raise body temperature.

How Does Ephedra Work?

Ephedra stimulates the central nervous system and increases your metabolic rate. This biological alteration is generally seen as the active effect of Ephedra. By increasing your metabolic rate, you can burn fat at a higher rate than normal. This is essentially why Ephedra has been marketed as a fat burning drug in the dieting and medicinal world.

What Are The Side Effects of Ephedra?

Ephedra has now been linked to some serious side effects and has also been the cause of death in a number of cases across the United States, which ultimately lead to the substance being banned.

The most common side effects of Ephedra are:

  • Severe skin reactions
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Profuse
  • Perspiration
  • Dehydration
  • Itchy scalp and skin
  • Vomiting and hyperthermia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Death

If you are pregnant and/or breast-feeding: Do not consume this product if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

If you’re a child under the age of 18: Do not consume this product if you are under 18.

Can I Purchase Ephedra With A Prescription?

No. This is now a banned substance.

Can I Take Ephedra With Other Medications?

This is NOT recommended without consulting a qualified medical practitioner.

Can I Take Ephedra With Other Supplements?

This is NOT recommended without consulting a qualified medical practitioner.

Is It Safe To Take Ephedra For Weight Loss? 

Ephedra has been linked to several deaths and has been banned by the FDA. This substance is not safe to consume for weight loss, or any other known condition. [1] 

Does Ephedra Actually Work For Weight Loss?

While taking Ephedra will actually result in weight loss, the substance can potentially cause a wide range of serious health problems. It can also lead to death. A study documented that over the course of 6 months, the average user lost up to 2 pounds of weight per month. After this time period it is not known if the substance will continue to act as weight loss drug.

Have There Been Any Deaths Linked To Ephedra? 

Yes. Research carried out over an extensive time period documented over 16000 reports of adverse side effects.

The drug has now been linked to over 155 deaths in the United States alone. [2]


Ephedra had been traditionally used in Chinese Medicine, however, it became a popular and prominent ingredient within hundreds of weight loss supplements throughout the United States in the early to late 90’s.

Early research indicated that it could indeed be used as an effective medicine for weight loss with some studies showing patients losing up to 2 pounds a month for up to 6 months. After this time period, it is unclear if weight loss can still continue as the drug was deemed to be unsafe.

In 2004, Ephedra was banned in all supplements across the United States due to over 16,000 reports of adverse side effects and over 155 deaths were directly linked to the substance. Although the substance does deliver results in terms of weight loss, the potential health hazards overshadow this fact greatly.

Ephedra can increase your heart rate to dangerous levels, stimulate uncontrolled brain activity, increase your blood pressure and restrict your blood vessels. This can lead to a wide range of adverse side effects in the user.

The stimulant effect of Ephedra has been attributed to a specific group of alkaloids found within the extract itself.

There are many efficient and safe methods you can adopt in order to lose weight, supplementing Ephedra is not one of them.

There is a wide range of supplements you can take that will help you lose weight, and have been deemed safe for consumption with little to no side effects. You should always combine supplements with a healthy diet and regular exercise for safe, long lasting results.

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Fact Checked

This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.