Ephedra refers to the extract of the plant of the same name. Also known as ephedrine or Ma Huang, the substance has received some bad feedback since the US Food and Drug Administration banned its use in diet pills. But ephedra has uses other than as an ingredient in diet pills.
Here we take a look at the various health benefits of ephedra, the world’s oldest medicine.
Aids in weight loss. Despite the ban it placed on ephedra, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) still recognizes the fact that ephedra aids in short-term weight loss. Ephedra helps speed up your body’s metabolism and burn fat in the process. Compared to other weight-loss products in the market, ephedra retains muscle mass and improves the body’s ability to dispose of toxins. It is because of these characteristics that ephedra was called the miracle fat burner.
Aids in the management of asthma. Ephedrine, or its synthetic equivalent, Pseudoephedrine, is a vasodilator. This means that the substance can relax or expand blood vessels. The dilation of blood vessels allows blood to flow more easily. Improved blood flow can help alleviate the symptoms of respiratory and circulatory conditions, including asthma. In fact, the U.S. FDA has approved many anti-asthmatic drugs containing ephedra.
In Chinese medicine, on the other hand, ephedra is used to treat conditions such as colds and the flu. It’s been known to be effective in expelling external pathogens and regulating the proper functioning of the lungs.
Important Note: On April 12, 2004, the US FDA published its final rule on ephedra, a naturally occurring substance used in many dietary supplements. In that final rule, the US FDA stated that it is placing a ban on all dietary products containing ephedra because the risks outweigh the benefits of this compound.
Boosts energy production. Ephedra has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. Like those before them, users of ephedra report that their energy and stamina have considerably increased after taking ephedra. The rationale behind this is that ephedra helps burn fat, which helps the body to produce more energy.
Enhances athletic performance. Ephedra helps in the body’s energy production. It is no wonder then that many athletes, especially those in college, use it to enhance their athletic performance. It should be noted however, that there are no major studies that connect ephedra to enhanced performance in sports.
Important Note: Ephedrine is considered an illegal substance by the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. National Football League (NFL), and the U.S. National Basketball Association. In the NFL’s case, the substance was banned after the death of Korey Stringer in 2001. Ephedra was found in Stringer’s locker and it is suspected that it had something to do with his death.
In sum, ephedra is proven effective in weight loss, energy production, and as an anti-asthmatic agent. Yet, the use of this substance should be practiced with caution given the risks associated with it.