Is ephedrine safe to use for weight loss and bodybuilding? Ephedrine HCL is a synthetic drug that is commonly taken for fat loss, enhanced energy and athletic performance.
Initially derived from the Ephedra Sinica plant, this compound has been shown to exhibit stimulatory effects and to boost metabolism. However, it has been removed from the market due to questions about its safety.
While this ingredient has been banned in dietary supplements, it is still legal as component of over-the-counter asthma remedies and allergy treatments.
Many bodybuilders, athletes and dieters continue to use ephedrine and ephedra to boost weight loss results despite the concerns of health risks. How dangerous is this product and what kinds of side effects are possible?
This article will cover the potential negative effects and dangers of taking ephedrine HCL pills for weight loss. We will also cover how to use ephedra supplement safely to minimize the likelihood of negative effects. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Is Ephedrine Safe?
Ephedrine and ephedra alkaloids have been researched in a number of clinical studies and have been demonstrated effective for fat loss. These studies also show that this product has the potential for adverse effects but can be used safely at a low dose.
Under direct medical supervision by healthcare professionals, ephedrine may be safe and beneficial. However, when used for purposes other than for which it was intended, it can be dangerous.
The potential for health dangers depends on dosage, frequency of use, and health status of the person taking the drug. Adverse effects can also be influenced by the use of other stimulants like caffeine as well as diet and exercise.
Ephedrine is one of several alkaloids that originates in the ephedra plant. Usage of this plant has been tracked for thousands of years in ancient and folklore medicines, including but not limited to traditional Chinese medicine and traditional and Ayurvedic medicine.
Historically, ephedrine was not used as a weight-loss drug, but was recommended to improve asthma, breathing issues, nasal congestion, fatigue, low libido, aches and pains and more.
Ephedrine is a stimulant and a bronchodilator that can trigger blood vessel constriction, increased circulation and greater oxygen intake. It promotes dilation or widening of the airways or bronchial passages found in the lungs.
In addition to its medicinal uses, this compound is also taken to enhance mental alertness, increase thermogenic activity, boost motivation and to support weight reduction. It is often taken at dangerously high dosages, combined with other stimulants or used for excessively long periods of time.
Because of ephedrine safety issues, misuse and abuse, the component has been banned in dietary supplements for the past two decades.
Minor Ephedrine Side Effects
A number of side effects have been associated with ephedrine usage. Some negative effects are minor and temporary in nature, while others can be more severe and dangerous.
Among the mild and short-term side effects include:
- Anxiousness or nervousness
- Jitters, restlessness or muscle tremors
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Epigastric distress
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry mouth or dehydration
- Mood changes or irrational thinking
- Increased urination
- Dizziness, delirium, euphoria
Users can experience side effects even at low doses. Severity of side effects can depend on the milligram strength, the frequency of use, and health status of whoever is taking the drug.
Using Ephedrine by itself can cause harmful reactions, but these can be exacerbated when it is combined with other stimulants including caffeine, Bitter Orange, or yohimbine.
Dangers & Safety Risks
In addition to the minor side effects associated with ephedrine, a number of serious and potentially life-threatening adverse reactions have been linked to its use.
Cases of heart attacks, strokes, seizures and death have been reported following ingestion of the compound.
This is one of the reasons why the US Food and Drug Administration banned use of ephedrine alkaloids in dietary supplements in 2004. They claimed that this product posed an unreasonable risk of negative effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems of the body.
More serious side effects for ephedrine usage can also include but are not limited to:
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Faster than normal heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Blurred vision
- Acute Hepatitis 
While heart attacks or myocardial infarction are rare reactions, they have been reported in several cases. In addition, the following cardiovascular issues have been reported:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Reactive hypertension
- Extrasystole and pericardial pain
- Ventricular Fibrillation
Long-term use is also associated with a risk of physical addiction, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. This is only likely when taking excessively high doses for multiple months at a time.
It has been estimated that one in every 1,000 users experiences a serious adverse event when using ephedrine. Upon reviewing feedback and comments left by those who have tried this product, many mention one or more temporary side effects, but only a small number experience dangerous effects.
Drug Interactions and Contraindications
An alarming number of drug interactions may also occur. According to Drugs.com, ephedrine has 50 major interactions and over 270 moderate interactions. A major drug interaction is one where the increased risk of use outweighs the benefits.
Before using this drug, check with your doctor if you are currently taking any prescription medications or using over-the-counter remedies.
Not all of these interactions are harmful. For example, combining this substance with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can decrease the half-life of ephedrine, which may actually reduce the rate of side effects.
This substance can also enhance the effects of caffeine. Users are often recommended to avoid beverages with caffeine, including coffee or sodas when using it.
Use of this drug is contraindicated in patients with closed angle glaucoma, pheochromocytoma, asymmetric septal hypertrophy (idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis), depression or anxiety, tachyarrhythmias. ventricular fibrillation or psychoneurosis.
This product should be avoided in patients being treated with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) due to the risk of increased cardiac and pressor effects. To be safe, allow 14 days after discontinuing use of MAOIs before taking ephedrine.
It is recommended that any woman who is pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breast-feeding avoid use of ephedra alkaloids. Ephedrine can pass through the placental wall and may be excreted in breastmilk. The potential side effects for fetal or infant development have not been determined.
Risk of Fatalities
Can use of ephedrine HCL cause an increased risk of death? There have been a number of fatalities linked to use of this stimulant, but oftentimes there are other contributing factors involved.
In 2004, the FDA banned ephedra based on its potentially life-threatening cardiovascular side effects including the increased risk of heart attacks.
A report released by the US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality determined that a number of the case reports submitted for analysis lacked sufficient documentation to definitively link ephedrine with death.
However, a number of alarming events regarding ephedrine safety and usage were identified, such as:
- Three deaths
- Two myocardial infarctions
- Two cerebrovascular accidents
- One seizure
Additional negative side effects were also reported and mentioned in this study, with most of the individuals experiencing such side effects being 30 years of age or younger. 
Anyone who is considering use of ephedrine or ephedra for weight loss should carefully consider the potential for serious negative side effects. This product is not safe for everyone. Consult with a doctor before using.
Where Does Ephedrine Come From?
Ephedrine is one of the alkaloids found in some species of the ephedra plant. It can also be synthetically manufactured in a lab. Ephedrine HCL and Sulfate are two forms of the drug that are synthetic or man-made.
Not all species of the ephedra plant contain the same levels of ephedrine as a primary alkaloid. For example, the Chinese species more commonly known as Ma Huang or E. sinica is considered among the more potent species.
The American species of Ephedra viridis and E. nevadensis contain very little to no alkaloids. In addition, certain parts of this plant contain more of the ephedrine alkaloid than others.
The species of ephedra, the time of year it is harvested, where it is grown and how the extract is processed can all affect the ephedrine content. The lower the content of this alkaloid, the fewer the potential benefits as well as side effects.
In ancient medical practices, the plant was commonly used in tea form with significantly lower dosages of active ephedrine alkaloids per serving.
The leaves, fruit, stems and the root of the ephedra plant were also dried and ground into a powdered form which is then sprinkled on food. In some cases, the powder has also been used in poultices to treat topical as well as superficial skin wounds.
Mechanism of Action
Ephedrine behaves as an alpha and beta-adrenergic agonist, which means that it activates or stimulates these classes of receptors in the body. It also promotes the release of norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating alertness, metabolism
This compound binds to alpha receptors within vascular tissues, triggering smooth muscle contractions as well as vasoconstriction.
An alpha agonist has the potential to constrict arteries and veins, which can increase systemic vascular resistance. When this resistance is applied to venous vessels, increases in blood pressure may result.
Ephedrine also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, causing the heart rate to increase, increasing respiration and improving oxygenation of the blood.
A number of side effects can be triggered by such mechanisms of action, primarily because the heart has to work harder. If this excess strain on the heart persists over a long period of time, it can lead to dangerous long-term side effects.
Use of ephedrine in medicinal scenarios may still include treatments for sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma, bronchitis, and nasal congestion. It has been used in bronchodilator medications such as those recommended for the treatment of bronchial spasms of wheezing caused by asthma.
This drug is only recommended for short-term use. Individuals taking this compound bronchodilators or nasal decongestants may experience a rebound reaction after even two days of use, which increases congestion. 
As a pharmaceutical medication, this drug can be purchased in the United States, Canada or the UK without a prescription. In other countries like Australia or New Zealand, it is regulated by government agencies as a prescription-only drug.
Will Ephedrine Help You Lose Weight?
In addition to the approved medical uses, this drug is also taken as a weight loss aid because it can increase the body’s metabolic rate. It has been shown to suppress appetite signals, increase energy levels and promote short-term body fat reduction.
Ephedrine is believed to increase thermogenesis or heat production in the body. This causes your body to use up more calories and fat to generate heat, but the effects are only temporary.
While this product can support short-term weight loss, changes in lifestyle, nutrition, and dietary habits are necessary to maintain long-term results.
Reviews of some studies show that ephedrine can promote modest body fat reduction of approximately 0.9 kg more per month than individuals who took a placebo. 
Persons taking this ingredient for weight loss may lose roughly two pounds more per month than a person taking a placebo. However, no studies have examined the effects of this substance on long-term weight management. Some studies have looked at results for up to 4-6 months, but none have lasted longer than that.
A number of studies have assessed the effect of combinations of caffeine and ephedrine.
In one small study, the EC stack did increase systolic blood pressure as well as concentrations of lactate and increased fasting glucose, free fatty acid, and insulin levels. Using ephedrine by itself did show a capability of increasing the heart rate. 
A small study was performed on young, male military recruits and determined this product could have a positive short-term effect on performance as well as energy.
Legal Status Around the World
Due to the high risk of negative effects and dangerous reactions, this ingredient has been regulated strictly around the world.
In the United States, the FDA has banned the use of ephedrine alkaloids in dietary supplements. This alkaloid is also banned by sporting organizations such as the NFL, the NCAA, the IOC, WADA and other professional athletic groups.
In some cases, legalities may differ depending on how the product is marketed and used. For example, there are different regulations pertaining to its use as a dietary weight-loss supplement, a homeopathic medicine, or as a component in pharmaceutical drugs.
Under US law, ephedrine HCL is still legal as an over-the-counter drug for the treatment of asthma, cold and flu symptoms, sinus congestion, allergies and more. There are a number of restrictions on how these products can be sold and how much ephedrine they are allowed to contain.
Interestingly, in the US you can still buy ephedra extract supplements so long as they do not contain any real ephedrine alkaloids. These supplements are made using different species of the plant that do not naturally contain alkaloids.
In Canada, ephedra cannot be used as an ingredient in any dietary supplements marketed for energy, weight loss or appetite suppression. However, ephedrine HCL can be sold as an over-the-counter nasal decongestant with a maximum of 8 mg per dose, and a maximum serving size of 32 mg per day. 
In Australia, ephedrine falls under the controlled precursors guidelines of the Federal Register of Legislation [paragraph 30 1.3(1)(a)] . It requires a prescription to buy or import into the country.
Before buying ephedrine or ephedra products, research the legal status of this drug where you live. Information found on bodybuilding supplement websites or discussion forums is often incorrect or out of date.
How to Take Ephedrine Safely for Weight Loss
Many dieters, bodybuilders and athletes continue to use ephedrine HCL and ephedrine sulfate for weight loss, despite the potential for harmful reactions.
While this supplement is not safe for everyone, research suggests that it can be used safely by the majority of users so long as it is taken at low doses.
If you do decide to take ephedrine to help you lose weight, it is important to consult with a doctor to learn about how to use this product safely. Check with a doctor to make sure it is not contraindicated for you.
Ephedrine HCL is typically taken at a dosage of 8-32 mg per day. It is suggested to start with a low dose to gauge your tolerance and sensitivity to the product. Some users start with a half dose of 4mg for the first two days to allow their body to adjust.
Do not consume this product late in the day and avoid mixing it with other stimulants such as caffeine. If you experience nausea or indigestion, consume it with a meal to minimize adverse reactions.
Symptoms of an overdose of ephedrine include lightheadedness, chills, fever, vomiting, nervousness, paranoia, chest pain, breathing difficulties and severe high blood pressure. If you think you have taken an overdose, seek medical attention immediately.
Consumers in the US will not find weight-loss or energy-boosting products that contain ephedrine. Instead, bodybuilders will often purchase products like Bronkaid or Primatene tablets – two asthma medications that are used off-label for fat loss.
These products can contain additional ingredients that may cause side effects of their own. It is recommended to avoid products with additional ingredients.
It is recommended that anyone considering use of ephedrine take the time to research the compound, and the likelihood of benefits weighed against the potential for side effects.
Improper use of any drug can contribute to negative side effects as well as serious adverse reactions.
When looking for information regarding ephedra and ephedrine safety risks, consumers have a number of sources to access including:
- National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
- US Food and Drug Administration
Note that ephedra supplements sold today in the United States do not contain any ephedrine alkaloids, although a number of other ingredients have been substituted to provide similar effects.
Different people respond differently to the effects of this drug. Just because someone is able to use ephedrine HCL safely without harmful adverse reactions, does not mean that it will not be dangerous for you to take.
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- Adam M Persky, N Seth Berry, Gary M Pollack, Kim LR Brouwer. Modelling the cardiovascular effects of ephedrine. Br J Clin Pharacol. 2004 May; 57(5): 552–562. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2003.02062.x
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- FDA.gov. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment. Number 76. Ephedra and Ephedrine for Weight Loss and Athletic Performance Enhancement: Clinical Efficacy and Side Effects.