Can you still find ephedrine pills at GNC in the United States, Canada and other countries? It depends on where you live.
Ephedrine HCL has been banned from any sort of dietary supplement promoted for weight loss, energy or fat burning.
The US FDA enacted this ban in 2004 and other countries around the world instituted similar prohibitions at the same time. This means you cannot buy ephedrine diet pills at GNC or other major supplement retailer stores.
However, you can buy ephedra extract pills legally in the United States. This refers to the plant from which ephedrine is derived. This plant extract is legal so long as the ephedrine alkaloids are moved.
Also, if you live in Canada or the USA you can purchase ephedrine tablets over-the-counter in the form of nasal decongestants or allergy medications. For residents of Canada, you can in fact buy ephedrine at GNC stores locally. However, in the USA it can only be sold in licensed pharmacies. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Ephedrine Pills at GNC
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, ephedrine and ephedra were two of the most popular fat loss supplements available around the world. These pills promoted huge energy surges, intense focus and motivation, massive spikes in metabolism and appetite suppression.
Bodybuilders and gym-goers extolled the benefits of a pre-workout ECA stack and multiple studies backed up the efficacy of this ingredient for weight reduction and increased energy expenditure.
Ephedrine was purported to work by stimulating the Central Nervous System, causing your body to break down more fat and convert it into energy and heat. However, this supplement also became associated with some severe side effects, including an increased risk of heart attacks.
The sale of diet pills with ephedrine was made illegal in 2004 by the US Food and Drug administration. The FDA banned dietary supplements from containing alkaloids isolated from the ephedra plant, including ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and norephedrine, among others.
However, this decision did not in fact ban ephedra from being used in diet pills sold at stores like GNC. In order to understand this decision, it is important to know the difference between ephedrine and ephedra extract.
Ephedrine vs. Ephedra Pills
Ephedrine and ephedra are two different things, although they are often confused for one another. What’s the distinction?
Ephedrine is a specific chemical compound with the formula C10H15NO. It occurs naturally in a small number of plant species but is found in the highest concentrations in the Ephedra Sinica plant.
The ephedrine alkaloid is a Central Nervous System stimulant that acts on alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors and increases cellular energy production. It imitates the body’s the fight or flight response, which is why you will see it called a sympathomimetic agent.
Adrenergic receptors are found in muscle tissue, the lungs, the heart, the brain, blood vessels, arterial walls and throughout other parts of the body.
When ephedrine binds to these receptors, it causes constriction of blood vessels supplying the heart, increasing blood pressure as well as accelerating heart rate. It dilates airways, increasing oxygen intake.
As a result, ephedrine causes your cells to utilize more oxygen, which is often used as a proxy for measuring metabolic rate. Your body converts stored fat into fuel through a process known as lipid oxidation. That fuel gets turned into more energy to perform cellular functions as well as heat generation.
In other words, ephedrine causes you to use up more energy which can contribute to weight loss. This alkaloid also reduces appetite and increases motivation to work out, which can make it easier to adopt a health diet and an adequate exercise regimen.
Ephedra refers to a genus of plants in the Ephedraceae family from the Ephedrales order. There are 67 different species of plants that are recognized as belonging in this family.
Different versions of this plant contain different alkaloid profiles. Ephedrine is the primary active alkaloid in the plant and is identified as the compound that produces most of its medicinal effects.
The stems of the Ephedra Sinica plant (Ma Huang) from China contain approximately 1% ephedrine alkaloids by weight. However, other plants like Ephedra Californica and Ephedra nevadensis have little to no alkaloid content.
Why is this information important? If you are shopping for ephedra extract dietary supplements online, it is important to know which species of this plant is being used. Not all species will contain ephedrine alkaloids and different species will promote different effects.
There are many different supplements sold online and in local stores that claim to be real ephedra extract pills. However, none of these products contain real ephedrine alkaloids, because this ingredient is now banned.
If you come across a diet pill or fat burner sold at GNC and see Ephedra listed on the ingredients label, you can be sure that this product does not include any of the alkaloids that are purported to have a positive effect on weight loss.
Do Ephedra Extract Supplements Work?
Consumers will not find diet pills with ephedrine at GNC any longer, especially in the US. What you may find, depending on where you live, is ephedra extract supplements without any ephedrine alkaloids.
Using ephedra without ephedrine is like drinking coffee without caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee might have some physiological effects, but it does not produce the characteristic stimulant response you get from drinking caffeinated beverages.
Similarly, if you buy an ephedra extract product at a supplement store, you should not expect it to give you the same results as taking a pure Ephedrine pill. However, most of these supplements will replace the removed alkaloids with other diet aids that work in similar ways.
For example, Lipodrene, Hellfire Eph 150, Black Mamba Hyperrush, Methyldrene 25, ECA Xtreme and ECA Elite are some of the popular ephedra weight loss pills that you can buy online today.
These products typically contain other thermogenic ingredient and natural stimulants such as green tea extract, caffeine and more. Some of the common herbal alternatives used to replace ephedrine include:
- Yohimbe/Yohimbine extract
- Yerba Mate
- Bitter Orange
- Acacia Rigidula
- Phenylethylamine HCL
- Cayenne extract (Capsaicin)
- Black Tea Leaves
- Piperine (Black Pepper Extract)
Another supplement that is often called the closest legal thing to ephedrine is synephrine, an alkaloid from the Bitter Orange fruit (Citrus aurantium). Does this supplement work?
Bitter Orange vs. Ephedra
Bitter Orange has become one of the most prevalent alternatives to ephedrine pills at GNC. It contains p-synephrine, a sympathomimetic alkaloid that is similar in chemical structure to ephedrine. This fruit extract also contains tyramine, and octopamine.
Bitter orange is a stimulant that can increase heart rate, dilate airways and influence the constriction of blood vessels. It has been studied to enhance thermogenesis or heat production, contributing to increased metabolism which may equate to faster weight loss.
The primary chemical constituent synephrine also stimulates adrenergic receptors, although it is less potent than ephedrine. It can increase expenditure of energy while at the same time suppressing the appetite.
Synephrine is commonly found in over-the-counter formulas in ephedra extract weight loss supplements, and some evidence supports its efficacy and safety at under 32 mg a day. 
According to clinical data from one study, 23 individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25 were separated into three groups. One group received 975 mg citrus aurantium (6% synephrine alkaloid), 528 mg caffeine, and 900 mg St. John’s Wort.
The second group received a maltodextrin placebo while the third group was a control and did not receive any placebo. The experiment lasted six weeks, with participants engaging in exercise three days per week.
The first group who took synephrine, caffeine and St. John’s Wort lost approximately 3 lb. in a six-week period. This was just over 2 lb. more in weight loss compared to those in the control group who were not using a placebo. 
Furthermore, the study showed that participants using the supplement stack had no alteration in cardiovascular activity as well as no severe or adverse reactions.
Synephrine is widely viewed to be safer than ephedrine. However, bitter orange can cause negative side effects if used at high doses, especially when combined with caffeine and other stimulants.
Pure Ephedrine HCL Pills for Sale
Many bodybuilders seek out real ephedrine HCL pills to use instead of taking ephedra extract supplements or alternatives sold at GNC. This is a synthetic form of the drug made in a lab as opposed to extracted from the Ephedra plant.
In the USA and many other countries, you can still buy ephedrine over-the-counter as a nasal decongestant. Ephedrine is still found in products like Bronkaid, Primatene, Vasopro and EPHED including asthma mists and inhalers, some cold and flu medications and cough syrup remedies.
While it cannot be labelled for weight loss, it can be sold as a bronchodilator to relieve asthma and allergy symptoms.
In fact, if you live in Canada you will find these 8mg ephedrine HCL pills sold at many GNC stores, Popeyes, Nutrition House and other supplement retailers. Brands like Kaizen, Synergenex, 4EverFit, iHealth and Pierce Performance are popular.
Under US law, these pills cannot be sold at stores like GNC and they can only be distributed by licensed pharmacies. There are also restrictions on who can buy this product and how much you can buy at one time.
Sales are carefully tracked, and all purchasers have to show ID and sign a logbook confirming their identity and address. Different states have different regulations and restrictions as well.
The biggest problem with buying these cough remedies to use for weight loss is the presence of other ingredients. In many states, Ephedrine HCL must be sold in a maximum dose of 12.5 mg combined with 200 mg of guaifenesin. Other states require it to be sold in a liquid or softgel form with more additives.
Guaifenesin is a muscle-relaxant ingredient that acts as an expectorant to loosen phlegm and make coughing more productive. This ingredient may be beneficial if you are experiencing mucus blockages of your airways, but it can counteract the effectiveness of ephedrine for fat loss.
Bodybuilders and dieters still continue to buy these products and use them off-label to make ECA stacks. However, this is not ideal and may increase the risk of unwanted sie effects.
Best Alternatives to Ephedra at GNC
Many supplement retailers have decided not to carry ephedra extract supplements, even though they are legal. While some people report being able to buy these products at GNC, others say that they are not carried by most stores.
Furthermore, for purchasers in countries like Canada, the UK, Australia or New Zealand, all forms of ephedra have been banned in dietary supplements and not just the forms that contain ephedrine alkaloids.
If you visit a GNC store in one of these locations, you may be recommended to try another thermogenic fat burner instead.
One of the most popular brands is Hydroxycut Hard-Core Elite manufactured, by MuscleTech. The original Hydroxycut product used to contain ephedra, however they reformulated the supplement following the 2004 ban.
This supplement contains multiple ingredients that may prove beneficial to those looking for increased energy, fat burn, and weight loss. Ingredients include:
- 270 mg caffeine
- 200 mg green coffee extract
- 100 mg cocoa extract (Theobroma cacao seed)
- 56.3 mg Yohimbine extract
- 250 mg Coleus forskohlii extract
According to the manufacturer, this supplement “features a supercharged thermogenic driver (caffeine anhydrous) in combination with other sensory-enhancing ingredients.”
Warnings on the label recommend individuals start at the lowest dose (one capsule daily) to determine sensitivity and tolerance. Dosages should be gradually increased to two capsules two times a day, approximately 30 – 60 minutes before meals. Do not exceed four capsules in a 24-hour period
It is recommended to use the product for 60 days in combination with adequate training and diet.
Other fat loss products listed on the GNC website include Shred Jym which is a synephrine-based supplement. Ingredients include:
- 200 mg caffeine anhydrous
- 50 mg capsimax (cayenne pepper fruit extract)
- 20 mg synephrine (Bitter Orange/citrus aurantium)
- 500 mg l-tyrosine
- 500 mg green tea leaf extract
While you may not find real ephedrine pills at GNC, Walmart, Walgreens, Amazon, CVS, Rite-Aid or Costco, you can find a number of supplements promoted as alternatives that contain synephrine and other legal thermogenic.
Dangers of Diet Pills at GNC
While the days of finding GNC diet pills with ephedrine are gone, alternative products have appeared that work in the same way. Some of these products should be used with caution due to the number of stimulants found in them.
Stimulants can increase metabolism, but they also put strain on your cardiovascular system. The stronger a supplement is at boosting metabolic rate, the more likely it is to cause adverse reactions.
The FDA is growing increasingly concerned about products containing combinations of caffeine and Bitter Orange when included at high milligram strengths. Among the most common side effects and complaints include:
- Racing heart
- Heart palpitations
- Upset stomach/nausea
- Difficulty sleeping
These products should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. They are not generally recommended for individuals under 18 years of age. Interactions with other prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter supplements are possible.
Bitter Orange can negatively interact with anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, as well as heart medications. Side effects can include increasing the risk of ischemic strokes. 
Whether you are using ephedra extract, ephedrine HCL or alternative diet pills sold at GNC, be aware of the risk of negative effects and consult with a doctor before using.