Is Ephedrine REALLY Legal in Canada to Buy OTC? [Be Careful]
What is the legal status of ephedrine in Canada and can you still buy this drug without a prescription?
Ephedrine is the major active alkaloid found in the Ephedra plant. It is used medicinally to treat asthma, bronchitis, sinus congestion and allergy symptoms.
In Canada, ephedrine HCL tablets can be purchased over-the-counter in many pharmacies and from natural health product retailers. It can also be sold online, subject to certain limitations.
This drug cannot be promoted for weight loss, athletic performance or energy enhancement. It is only authorized for use as a nasal decongestant and in breathing remedies. Furthermore, dietary supplements cannot contain ephedra in Canada.
Continue reading to learn more about the legal status of ephedrine HCL and ephedra as well as what you should expect if purchasing this product in local stores or online. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Ephedrine in Canada
Before purchasing ephedrine pills in Canada, it is important to understand the legalities that apply to the sale of this drug.
Changes have been made to the law in recent years. Consumers should be aware of current regulations and restrictions on the sale of this compound.
It is also important to know the difference between ephedrine and ephedra. There is significant misinformation on bodybuilding websites and internet forums about the legal status of these compounds in Canada and how that compared to their status in the United States.
When looking for up-to-date regulations regarding use of ephedrine in Canada, it is recommended that individuals turn to government websites and information provided by Health Canada.
Ephedrine is a controlled substance in Canada but can be legally purchased without a prescription in certain forms. Conversely, ephedra is a banned substance and cannot be legally purchased in any forms within the country.
This makes Canada unique from the United States. In the USA, ephedra extract is legal in dietary supplements, but only if the ephedrine alkaloids are removed.
Many of the laws governing the sale of this drug were put in place due to the high risk of side effects linked to use. Ephedrine was previously a popular ingredient in dietary supplements but became associated with serious adverse effects including higher blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and strokes.
Regulations were also implemented to prevent the use of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in the manufacturing of the illegal drug methamphetamine. These ephedra alkaloids are precursors for the drug and have come under increased scrutiny in Canada, the United States, the UK, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.
Canada has a more relaxed regulatory scheme compared to the USA when it comes to how and where ephedrine HCL can be sold. Many Canadians are surprised to learn that bodybuilding stores like GNC, Vitamart, Popeyes, Fitshop and more carry this product without requiring a prescription to buy.
Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine Laws
Canada, like other countries around the world, has instituted laws to prevent the sale of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine for illicit use. Authorities reported increased incidence of importation of precursors utilized for the manufacture of methamphetamine.
As of 2006, Canada had enacted three federal laws in an effort to control the retail and commercial wholesale supply of these compounds within its borders.
In 2001, Health Canada implemented restricted dosage limitations on the sale of ephedrine products and reiterated that it was only authorized as a component of nasal decongestants.
A maximum dose of 8mg per tablet was established. Products were also not allowed to recommend a dosage of more than 32 mg to be taken in a 24-hour period.
In 2002, Health Canada requested the recall of natural health products containing the ephedra herb. They also asked retailers to voluntarily stop selling the product.
The recall included all products that met the following conditions:
- Products with a dose of greater than 8 mg ephedrine per tablet
- Products with a label recommending greater than 8 mg per dose or 32 mg per day
- Products labelled for long-term use exceeding seven consecutive days
- Products that combine ephedrine/ephedra with stimulants (like caffeine) and other ingredients that may enhance the physiological effects of the drug
- Products labelled with claims (implied or otherwise) for weight loss, metabolism-boosting, increased exercise stamina, appetite suppression, bodybuilding benefits, increased energy or wakefulness, euphoria or products that promote stimulant effects
In 2003, Canada announced regulations that would restrict the importation and exportation of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, as well as how those compounds could be distributed domestically.
In 2004, retail distributors had to register with the federal government to sell the drug in Canada. At the same time, similar laws were enacted in the USA and the UK.
In 2008, Health Canada released a statement “reminding consumers not to use products containing Ephedra or ephedrine, either alone or in combination with caffeine and other stimulants, for purposes of weight loss, bodybuilding or increased energy.”
They stated that use of such products “in combination with caffeine and other stimulants may have serious, possibly fatal, adverse effects.”
Individuals looking for more information can refer to Canadian government websites such as the Government of Canada Guidance Documents in regard to natural health products.
The Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate is the new name given to the former Natural Health Products Directorate and is an excellent resource for information regarding guidelines and legalities for natural health products. 
Products Sold in Canadian Pharmacies
Some products containing ephedrine HCL can still be found in Canadian pharmacies such as Shopper’s Drug Mart, Rexall, Walmart and at some grocery store chains. Several brands that contain this ingredient include Kaizen, Synergenex, iHealth and 4Ever Fit.
Health Canada has only authorized the presence of ephedrine in nasal decongestants intended for short-term relief of symptoms. 
In order for a product to be legally sold in Canada it must meet the following conditions:
- May not contain more than 8 mg per dose.
- May not recommended that more than 32 mg of ephedrine be used on a daily basis.
- May not be recommended for use for longer than seven days at a time.
- May not be combined with caffeine or other herbal stimulants or thermogenic ingredients.
- May not be promoted for fat loss, appetite control, bodybuilding, enhanced stamina, or metabolic function.
In addition, it illegal to supply or sell products that contain ephedra or ephedrine with the intent to use as precursors in the manufacturing of street drugs such as methamphetamine.
Only manufacturers or wholesalers that are licensed to produce, distribute and sell these products may do so legally.
Individuals who live in the United States and are interested in buying ephedrine HCl pills in Canada and exporting them internationally should be aware of increased confiscation of such products at the border.
Importing too much or otherwise failing to comply with regulations can result in running afoul of rules under customs and border control, and may also involve fines as well as possible jail time, depending on quantity.
Anyone wishing to transport ephedrine over Canadian borders or sell the product should possess a Class A precursor license and/or permits to import or export Class A precursors.
The controversy over the shipments of ephedrine across borders was the focus of a specific case of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police known as Project Barbed Wire. 
There is a difference to how ephedrine is regulated as a medicinal drug compared to its sale in dietary supplements. While legal as an over-the-counter medication, ephedra and ephedrine are illegal to use in weight loss supplements and diet pills.
In Canada, supplements are considered Natural Health products (NHP). According to Canadian regulations, a natural health product must undergo market studies and research reviews before they are approved for sale. This process involves presentation of supporting evidence of quality, safety, and efficacy.
This information is submitted to the Natural Health Products Directorate (now the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate) for assessment via a product license application. This process is applicable also to homeopathic remedies.
Natural health products that are sold in Canada must be issued a natural product number (NPN) before they can be legally distributed within the country. This NPN must be printed on the supplement label.
Homeopathic medicines must contain a homeopathic medicine number known as the DIN-HM as verification that Health Canada has approved and authorized the sale of the product.
Further information regarding regulation of natural health products in Canada can be found on the Government of Canada website under “About Natural Health Product Regulation in Canada”.
Licensing requirements are applicable to any company or individual that manufactures, labels, or packages, as well as imports natural health products in Canada for commercial sale. These licensing requirements are not applicable to retailers of natural health products.
Health Canada does not issue NPNs for products that contain ephedra extract. This means that no supplement can be sold within the country that contains this herb as an ingredient.
In 2008, Health Canada issued a general public announcement cautioning Canadians not to buy or use ephedra or ephedrine-containing products by itself or combined with other stimulants such as caffeine for use in bodybuilding, weight loss, or energy pills.
Health Canada emphasized that such products are not authorized for sale within the country. This applies to both products sold in local retail stores like GNC as well as supplements purchased over the internet.
Can I Buy Ephedrine in Canada and Ship It to the US?
US residents were formerly able to purchase this drug online from Canadian suppliers and ship it internationally to their home in the United States. However, this practice is no longer allowed.
Ephedrine HCl is legal to import to the USA in small quantities for personal use. Despite this fact, shipments of the drug over international borders are routinely stopped unless accompanied by the appropriate paperwork and being transported by someone with the appropriate import/export license.
Ephedrine is classified as a controlled substance in most countries around the world. While US residents do not need a prescription to purchase small amounts of the drug, it has become increasingly regulated.
It is legal to use ephedrine and ephedra under certain circumstances. This compound is approved as an ingredient in nasal decongestant medications, some cough and cold remedies, and asthma bronchodilators.
There are restrictions on how the drug can be sold, where it can be sold as well as dosage requirements. In some states in the USA, it can only be sold in 12.5 mg tablets and must be combined with 200 mg of guaifenesin. Other states require it to be sold in soft-gel or liquid drop formulations.
Pharmacies and pharmacists must have a license to sell the product in the USA and purchasers are required to show ID and to sign for their purchase.
Those interested in purchasing ephedrine in Canada to ship to the USA should be aware that it is defined as a controlled drug precursor. Any Canadian website claiming to sell ephedrine must have a license to sell and export the product to United States.
Border control agencies will identify and confiscatepackages containing what they define as controlled drug precursors.
In many cases, if packages are confiscated at Canadian borders, you will not get your money back from the retailer. Legal ramifications and fines are also possible. For this reason, legitimate Canadian websites selling this compound no longer process shipments to the United States.
Canadian supplement stores risk having their bank accounts frozen because they have been caught importing or exporting products across borders.
Ephedra Alkaloids Overview
If you do decide to use ephedra or ephedrine, it is important to first consult with a physician to learn about potential health risks and side effects. It is also important to understand how this herb works and how to use it responsibly.
Ephedra is a plant that grows in a number of countries. It prefers dry, arid regions such as China, India, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Southwestern US, and parts of North Africa and South America.
It has long been used as a medicinal herb that can relieve symptoms of bronchitis, asthma, and other breathing issues. Dozens of species of the plant have been identified.
Different parts of the plant such as the roots, stems, leaves, and fruit contain a variety of medicinal components. The plant is a source of several alkaloids which exhibit physiological effects when consumed by humans. These include:
Two of the best-studied alkaloids are ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. It is these alkaloids that are found in cough and cold remedies, nasal decongestants and asthma bronchodilators.
Not all species of the plant contain these alkaloids. Some species contain ephedrine and no pseudoephedrine, while others contain little to no alkaloids at all.
Review of How it Works
It is the ephedrine alkaloid that is most sought-after by those who want to lose weight faster or increase their energy and mental alertness. Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine and acts as non-selective alpha and beta-adrenergic receptor agonist.
An agonist is something that activates a receptor on a neuron. Ephedrine can turn on or activate alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors, which are the same receptor sites that are stimulated by the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline.
This produces greater awareness, arousal, concentration, faster reflexes and improved readiness to respond to threats. Users who take ephedrine energy pills say that it feels like a short-term surge of adrenaline through the body.
Another way that ephedrine works is by increasing the release of the norepinephrine (noradrenaline) neurotransmitter. Together, these actions can increase energy production, oxygen intake and circulatory efficacy within the body.
Alpha receptors that are influenced by norepinephrine and ephedrine can trigger arteries throughout the body to constrict. This constriction increases resistance to blood flow, which results in a compensatory increase in blood pressure.
When beta-one receptors found in the heart muscle are stimulated, heart rate is increased.
Beta-one receptors also accentuate the force of the heartbeat, or contractility of the heart contractions.
Such activity not only increases circulation but also oxygen flow through the body. Muscle cells take up more nutrients and oxygen required to fuel muscle contractions and movement.
Ephedrine also promotes the breakdown of fatty acids, which in turn are used to generate body heat. It is considered to be a thermogenic drug because it increases heat production in the body.
This drug has been shown in research studies to increase metabolism and calorie expenditure. It also has an appetite suppressant effect which causes many users to consume less food after taking. These effects in combination have been shown to promote statistically significant but modest increases in weight loss over time,
Supplements for Weight Loss
Even though government authorities recommend against the use of ephedrine and ephedra for fat loss, many bodybuilders, athletes and dieters continue to look for sources of these supplements online.
These products are popular among those who used the now-banned ephedra diet pills of the past and who felt that they could manage side effects through responsible use.
In the United States, ephedra extract supplements are still legal to buy. However, they cannot contain any ephedrine alkaloids and instead will typically contain synephrine or other ingredients that mimic the effects.
Some online sources advertise selling “real ephedra” weight loss pills and energy boosting agents. Avoid purchasing ephedra supplements that claim to contain real ephedrine alkaloids.
These sources are often located in other countries where there are less strict quality control provisions and you may be purchasing fake goods. The dangers of purchasing such products include:
- Lack of quality
- False labels
- Counterfeited ingredients
- Substitute ingredients
- Poor manufacturing standards
Safety should always be a major consideration before purchasing from underground or black-market sources.
While ephedra cannot be sold as an ingredient in weight loss supplements in Canada, the raw herb may be sold legally by herbal medicine practitioners. Chinese apothecaries in some major Canadian cities sell different forms of ephedra.
Combinations of Stimulants
Several stimulants are commonly added to ephedra products to enhance its fat-burning effects. Some of the common additives includes:
- Bitter Orange (Synephrine)
- Kola Nut Extract
Bitter Orange, otherwise known as Citrus aurantium, contains p-synephrine, a stimulant very similar to ephedrine in regard to its mechanism of action. This herb is sometimes used as an alternative in weight loss pills.
Studies show that combining caffeine with ephedrine can increase the potential weight loss results but may also increase the risk of side effects. If you do use this drug as a nasal decongestant, it is recommended to avoid other sources of caffeine in your diet.
Health Canada warns against the combination of other stimulant ingredients with ephedra due to the heightened risk of side effects.
Use of ephedrine at low doses for the temporary relief of nasal congestion is generally well tolerated. The Canadian government continues to allow this legitimate use of the drug in recognition of its medicinal properties.
However, its use has been banned in diet pills due to a potential for serious adverse reactions. According to a statement from Health Canada, “Adverse effects associated with ephedrine can include dizziness, headache, decreased appetite, anxiety, restlessness or nervousness, gastrointestinal distress, irregular or fast heartbeat, insomnia, flushing, sweating, hypertension, stroke, seizures, psychosis and death.”
According to Health Canada, there is a high potential for misuse and overuse of this product for weight loss or energy enhancement. Many side effects have been associated with this stimulant including:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular issues
- Changes in mood
- Worsening of glaucoma symptoms
In research studies, case reports and clinical trials, there are multiple reports of negative effects linked to the use of ephedrine and ephedra extract. Adverse effects are more frequent when combined with other stimulants, as in an ECA stack.
There is also growing concern in Canada about the use of high doses of caffeine to facilitate thermogenesis, increase metabolism, and body fat reduction.
A 2017 article reviewed 50 fatalities that were caffeine-related. Accidental overdose of caffeine and other stimulants was noted in approximately 16% of the 51 reported poisoning deaths. 
Ephedrine affects numerous systems in the body including the brain, central nervous system, cardiovascular system and metabolic function. Use of this drug in patients with pre-existing health conditions can exacerbate symptoms.
Health Canada states that this drug is not recommended for anyone with “heart problems, hypertension, thyroid disease, diabetes, enlarged prostate, anxiety and restlessness, glaucoma (serious eye disorder) and pheochromocytoma (serious gland disorder).”
Use of ephedrine in high doses, for extended periods of time, in conjunction with other medications or stimulants, or in individuals with a compromised health status can result in more serious side effects including:
- Myocardial infarction
- Heart palpitations
Even though Ephedrine HCL 8mg pills are legal to buy in Canada for the relief of nasal congestion, their use is strongly discouraged by authorities. If you buy this drug at a licensed pharmacy, pharmacists will often recommend use of other products like Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) instead which poses a lower risk of adverse effects.
- CBC News. Cross-border ephedrine shipments spark police probe. March 5, 2013
- Government of Canada. Guidance Documents – Legislation and guidelines – Natural health products
- Forces.gc.ca. Performance enhancers. Facts and Bottom Like. Ephedra/Ephedrine
- Jones AW. Review of Caffeine-Related Fatalities along with Postmortem Blood Concentrations in 51 Poisoning Deaths. J Anal Toxicol. 2017 Apr 1;41(3):167-172. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkx011.