The safety of ephedra free supplements is generally based on a product's ingredient list. Some supplement manufacturers replaced ephedra with other stimulating ingredients that may increase heart rate, blood pressure, and cause nausea. Common ephedra substitutes include synephrine, guarana, and caffeine. Even products claiming to be all-natural or herbal can cause harmful side effects with overuse, or in users with a sensitivity to caffeine or caffeine-like substances.
Ephedra, also called ma huang, is an ingredient commonly used in weight loss formulas to boost metabolism. Caffeine and white willow bark, a natural aspirin alternative, were typically added to fat-burners, creating an ephedra-caffeine-aspirin (ECA) stack. This specific formula is thought to be responsible for weight loss. When ephedra was banned in the United States due to highly publicized deaths associated with supplements containing it, companies were forced to create ephedra free supplements. Synephrine was the ingredient many nutraceutical companies used to replace ephedra.
Synephrine also goes by the names citrus aurantium and bitter orange. Marketed as a cousin of ephedra, synephrine has shown similar side effects without the intensity of ma huang. Therefore, in order to recreate the ECA stack, manufacturers may choose to replace ephedra with synephrine.
Synephrine is not the only ingredient commonly used in place of ma huang. Yerba mate, guarana, and caffeine are stimulants used in a variety of ephedra free products. These ingredients increase heart rate in much the same way as ma huang, but tend to have fewer negative side effects.
Stimulants are just one of the risky ingredients included in ephedra free products. Recalls of Hydroxycut™ supplements in the United States were caused by reports of liver failure in some dieters. Liver failure can have a variety of causes, but some experts believe garcinia cambogia, containing hydroxycitric acid, was to blame for liver failure in Hydroxycut™ ephedra free supplements.
A new trend in weight loss formulas involves adding herbal, mood-altering ingredients. Mood-altering herbs can have a negative effect on patients with mental illness, bipolar disorder, or depression, however. Phenylalanine is one such ingredient. Such negative side effects can include mood swings and altered behavior.
Patients with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or thyroid disorders are typically warned not to take ephedra free weight loss pills. Warnings are also usually included for patients with mental disorders and kidney disease. Weight loss supplement companies often market ephedra free products as being a healthy alternative to ma huang, but that is not always the case.