The Ephedra Sivica is a shrub-like plant more commonly known as Ephedra or Ma huang
among the Chinese who have used it as an herbal extract for more than 5,000years.
It is native to the Chinese and Mongolian regions and contains sympathomimetic chemicals
referred to as Ephedra alkaloids that have been traditionally used for various ailments
like bronchial constriction, water retention, common colds and fevers.
The active ingredient had been isolated in 1887 but it was until 1924 when the herb
gained popularity among US doctors in treating respiratory problems as a bronchial
dilator and decongestant.
In recent times, these same alkaloids have been found to posses fat-burning properties
when blended with caffeine or botanical caffeine sources like Guarana that have synergistic
effects in reducing weight.
How Does Ephedra (ma-huang) Work For Weight Loss?
Ephedra’s claim to health benefits is anchored on its alkaloid content ephedrine
and pseudoephedrine which comprise 30% to 90% of its total chemical composition depending
on plant species variation. These alkaloids stimulate the central nervous system,
elevate blood pressure, increase heart rate and dilate bronchial air passages.
While stimulating the nervous system, Ephedrine increases the metabolic rate of adipose
tissues and the amount of food that gets converted to heat (thermogenesis), disabling
the body to convert food to fat and thus control weight gain in people with low metabolism.
Its action on the nervous system also extends to suppressing the appetite.
Recent lab studies indicated that weight loss of up to 2 lbs per month can be achieved
with Ephedra-based supplements. For such minimal weigh loss benefits, its safety
concerns outweigh them.
Is Ephedra (ma-huang) Safe?
Ephedra-based supplements comprised only about 1 % of all dieting supplements in
the US health markets in 2001 but accounted for 64% of all reported adverse side
effects for natural and herbal supplements during the same year. For a while, it
became a popular weight loss supplement among dieters, until the FDA banned it in
December 2003 following the death of Major League baseball pitcher for the Orioles
Steve Bechler after using Ephedra to lose weight.
Despite the banning, Ephedra can be obtained online. While it has long history of
acceptable weight loss efficacy, prospective users are advised to consult with their
doctors before taking one as Ephedra is not recommended to pregnant and lactating
women and those with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and thyroid disease.
Safe dosage is often pegged at no more than 150mg per day or it can lead to amphetamine-like
side effects like: