What's wrong with ephedra-based products?

In one sense, ephedra shares the same problems as the Atkins plan. They are both unnatural. They both try to trick your body into losing weight for a while. But ephedra has its own set of serious issues. It is a potentially fatal stimulant. The FDA has issued warnings about ephedra, and several people have died while on it.

Note that ephedra as a Chinese herb was never meant to be used for weight loss, because in order to work for weight loss at all, you must take large doses over long periods of time. It was originally, and still is, utilized mostly for lung/asthma-related problems -- as treatment for a specific health problem, using moderate doses over relatively short periods of time.

And say you do take ephedra, and do lose some weight with it, and you don't die from it. Then what? Are you going to stay on it forever? Of course not. As soon as you stop taking it, whatever effect it had on you will be gone, and you will be back to where you started. That's because ephedra used in this way works merely as a temporary stimulant, with no other positive effect on the body. So not only is ephedra dangerous, it's pointless.

UPDATE: In April 2004, the FDA banned ephedra as an ingredient in commercial products sold in the United States. While it's use in Chinese medicine is still considered valid (e.g., for asthma and other lung conditions), the abuse of this herb for weight loss led the FDA to ban it altogether. But the matter is not settled: In April 2005, a Federal court reversed the FDA ban, and the issue will bounce around for some time to come. (The ban on high-dose ephedra supplements may remain in effect.) The important thing to remember is this: while it may be possible to purchase ephedra products for weight loss either in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, we strongly advise all persons to avoid the use of this herb for this purpose.

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