What are the regulations regarding ephedrine in India? Even though India and China have the reputation of supplying dozens of “discouraged” health and fitness products around the world, they too have regulations regarding illicit use of certain drugs.
Is ephedrine in India consider legal? What about its manufacture and sales to domestic as well as international markets?
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Ephedrine in India: Government Regulations
Unfortunately, finding relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information regarding manufacture, sales, and use of ephedrine in India may prove frustrating – and time-consuming.
While government information regarding controlled substances and natural herbs such as ephedra and its alkaloid ephedrine are not difficult to find in the UK government regulations, those of the United States, Canada, or Australia, finding legal information regarding ephedrine in India is often vague.
The Indian government overseas authority of 29 states as well as a handful of territories that were formerly under the purview of Great Britain. In addition, regulation and use of herbal products in India has a long-standing tradition dating back thousands of years in traditional or Ayurvedic medical practices.
What makes it difficult to find guidelines, not only throughout India, but online, is due to the practice of modern Ayurvedic practitioners who manufacture and dispense their own recipes containing a number of herbal ingredients, including those of the ephedra plant.
In many cases, proprietary Ayurvedic medical products, attached with patents, continue to be sold over pharmaceutical counters, with literally hundreds of thousands of practitioners dispensing and recommending a number of herbal remedies, including those that date back centuries in Ayurvedic medical practices.
Therefore, it is often viewed (officially or not) that traditional medicines – and that includes ephedra – falls under the purview of the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules of 1945 in regard to manufacture, distribution, sales, and imports.
In the late 1950s, the Indian government also recognized uses of drugs that are derived from traditional Indian medicine components and practices.
In India, such medicines and ingredients that have been derived from traditional practices are required to be recognized and mentioned in a number of books involving Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Urani herbal medications and formulas. 
In 2013, amendments attached to the original Drugs and Cosmetic Act of 1940 mention a number of new editions and sections including reference to products deemed adulterated, spurious, or misbranded. Unfortunately, the 61-page document is filled with legalese that is quite challenging to wade through. Upon cursory review, the document fails to mention use, manufacture of products, or sales of such products containing ephedrine in India.
Legalities of Ephedrine Manufacture in India
When controlled under pharmaceutical manufacturing rules, ephedrine is legal in India, although its sales in over-the-counter products is deemed illegal.
This implies that it’s legal to make but illegal to sell.
The sale of ephedrine today appears to be banned in India, and like many other countries, has been identified and monitored due to the popularity of using it as a precursor in the manufacture of methamphetamine. 
According to Youth Kiawaaz, opinion regarding the use of ephedrine requires closer look by authorities in regard to legalities. This article mentions that in addition to ephedrine being used as a precursor in the manufacture of methamphetamine, it’s also an ingredient in ecstasy and Ice, and is prevalently manufactured in underground (a.k.a. private) labs throughout India that market themselves internationally as legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturers. 
Ephedrine Mechanism of Action
Ephedrine is a stimulant that primarily affects the central nervous system, and more specifically the sympathetic nervous system of the body. This system controls body functions and activities over which we have no control: primarily cardiovascular function, respiratory rate, metabolism, and digestive processes.
While use of ephedrine derived from the ephedra plant species is relatively common throughout Asia, growing awareness in regard to its nonmedical purposes has become more prevalent, hence the amendments and updates to a number of country drug and cosmetic acts and legislation.
When used for medical purposes, ephedrine can be beneficial and is still found in a number of modern medicines including asthma medications and bronchodilators, in cough and cold remedies, and in some allergy medications.
Its traditional usage in China and India dates back thousands of years. However, its use for nonmedical purposes by athletes, bodybuilders, and dieters today has caused growing concern among health authorities not only in India, but in countries around the world.
In many countries, milligram content of ephedrine in products is carefully regulated. So too are sales.
Increased regulations in India have also limited and tried to restrict sales in pharmacies throughout the country, to limited degrees of success.
Side Effects Associated with Ephedrine
Among the Indian populace, and internationally, use and side effects of ephedrine can be quite alarming. In the previously mentioned article regarding usage of ephedrine in India side effects include:
- Skin issues
- Gastrointestinal issues
Medical professionals and government organizations around the world have recognized the potential for negative side effects and adverse health effects associated with ephedrine usage. Milligram strength, combinations with other stimulants, and frequency as well as length of use can also influence side effects.
More common and less frightening side effects associated with ephedrine use includes:
- Upset stomach/nausea
- Increased sense of jitteriness
- Decreased appetite
Due to long-standing and ancient use of ephedra (with the ephedrine alkaloid) in India and China, regulations regarding manufacture of ephedrine in India are found in a gray area. Traditional usage of herbal products and the prevalence of those products in formularies makes it difficult to monitor usage of ephedrine alkaloids.
Though ephedrine in India may be banned on a superficial level, the ephedra plant, containing alkaloids such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, are often deemed “off-limits” to government regulations due to its centuries of use as a natural product and components of Ayurvedic or traditional Chinese medical practices.
Finding specific information regarding legalities of ephedrine in India is frustrating, but taking the time to do basic research can prove invaluable, especially for individuals interested in purchasing ephedrine from India, as well as in regard to quality, manufacturing, and labeling standards.
- Saikat Sen, Raja Chakraborty. Revival, modernization and integration of Indian traditional herbal medicine in clinical practice: Importance, challenges and future. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017 Apr; 7(2):234-244. Published online 2016 June 28. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.05.006
- Indian Express News Service. Banned drug Ephedrine worth Rs 2,000 cr seized from chemical firm, manager among 4 arrested.
- Nikita Rajwade. 3 Drugs That Are Legal in India [And Should Be Brought Under Stricter Laws]. Youth Ki Awaaz. March 13, 2012