Is Ephedrine Safe?

by Fitness Expert Christine Lydon

Ephedrine can be synthesized artificially in a laboratory (most commonly available in the form of ephedrine-HCl) or found naturally in certain plants like the Chinese herb Ma Huang. While Ma Huang is only about 6% ephedrine by dry weight, herbal extracts may contain far greater concentrations.

First used to treat asthma nearly 2000 years ago, ephedrine is classified as a sympathomimetic agent because it mimics the effects of the sympathetic nervous system. Ephedrine works primarily through the release of excitatory chemicals called catecholamines. These catecholamines, which include adrenaline, act on cellular receptors found in numerous body tissues and are responsible for stimulating lipolysis (fat burning), increasing heart rate, dilating bronchioles, decreasing appetite, and increasing alertness. Ephedrine can also cause tremors, nervousness, irritability, cardiac arrhythmias and dangerous rises in blood pressure in susceptible individuals.It should not be used by individuals suffering from hypertension or anxiety disorders, pregnant or lactating women, or those under 16 years of age.

Ephedrine-related deaths have spurred several states to outlaw over-the-counter sale of ephedrine-HCl. However, Ma Huang extracts can still be found in numerous fat-burning and energizing compounds. It is worth noting that most reported fatalities implicating ephedrine-HCl involved doses exceeding 250 mg. For optimal fat-burning and ergogenic (performance enhancing) effects, most sources recommend a maximum dose of 25 mg twice a day for two days followed by at least one day off. Continuous use of ephedrine leads to the development of tolerance where the amount required to induce the same beneficial effects in a given individual increases with uninterrupted use. As a result, the necessary dose may climb to levels which will produce toxic effects. While ephedrine clearly has the capacity to be a useful adjunct to both performance enhancing and fat burning regimens, it has potentially dangerous side-effects and if you suffer from any serious medical conditions you should consult your physician before supplementing with any product containing it.

One last reminder: where fat loss is concerned, it is certainly tempting to try short cuts in an attempt to avoid hard work and deprivation. However, the fact remains that the most effective means for attaining and maintaining low body fat are to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Without proper attention to exercise and nutrition, all the fat burning agents in the universe don't have the power to endow you with a lean, muscular body.