Many people are confused about the difference between ephedra and ephedrine. Ephedra is a diet aid that has been banned for use in the United States by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Ephedrine is present in ephedra either naturally or as ephedrine alkaloids. On its own, ephedrine hcl is sold over the counter in products used to treat asthma and congestion.
Ephedra is a weight loss supplement. It is made directly from the Ephedra plant species. In most instances, the herbs are dried and made into the supplements. Some forms of ephedra are capsules, but it was originally made into a tea by boiling sections of the herb.
Ephedrine is an alkaloid of ephedra plants. This means it is the active ingredient of the dieting supplement. It is also known as pseudophedrine. These alkaloids are chemically constructed to create decongestant and respiratory treatments. Ephedra and ephedrine have different standards to follow with the FDA. For example, federal ephedra guidelines state that the whole herb must be used.
Since ephedra and ephedrine are similar, their side effects are also similar. Rapid heart rate, dizziness, nausea, and headaches are common. For weight loss, ephedra has thermogenic properties, which means it has fat burning capabilities. Ephedrine, on the other hand, is present in over the counter medicines in small amounts. Side effects are often less intense because there are such minimal doses in the medicines.
Misuse of ephedra led directly to the ban placed by the FDA. These weight loss supplements were found to have dangerous health risks associated with the plant’s stimulant properties. Side effects of ephedra are much more pronounced and frequent than the recommended dose. The FDA believed that even a change in the warning label could not negate the side effects and the serious risks.
While ephedrine is the result of the extraction process, ephedra and ephedrine have different purposes, end goals, and regulations that must be maintained, and dosing for each one is different as well. Ephedra is the purest form of the herb and therefore does not require large amounts to be effective. Ephedrine is weaker because it is an extract and is also mixed with other ingredients. The type of additional ingredients that are used to create ephedrine medications are dependent on the condition for which it will treat. For example, an asthma treatment will have ingredients that differ from an allergy treatment, even though the main ingredient is the ephedrine.