The Pros and Cons of Ephedra

      Ephedra is not a new innovation. The herb ephedra – also known as ma huang and often described as the miracle fat burner – contains natural alkaloids and has been used by the Chinese in herbal medicines for thousands of years. Over the years, it has been used to treat various ailments, but today it is best known an aid to helping with weight loss.

     Ephedra has been the center of controversy and debate recently, because of its many adverse side effects and at one time the FDA even banned the herb for a short time. Many doctors and dietitians don’t recommend taking ephedra but despite this, today more than 12 million Americans take ephedra primarily to lose weight.

     There is no doubt of the herb’s usefulness and effectiveness as an aid to losing weight quickly and effectively – more than one expert considers ephedra to be the best method for losing weight ever devised. And most people take it sensibly and in moderation, with few side effects or adverse reactions.

     When used in the correct amounts and in moderation, ephedra helps the body to burn fat for energy. Ephedra is so effective because it helps increase the breakdown of fatty tissue, suppress the appetite and maintain energy levels. It also produces more body heat, which in turn burns more calories – a process known as thermogenesis.

     Apart from weight loss, ephedra has several other benefits. Many athletes and sports players regularly take ephedra not only to lose weight, but to help boost energy and enhance performance. It can certainly boost energy levels and increase metabolism, which helps the body to process food more efficiently.

     Ephedra has other benefits which most people overlook, because of its amazing ability to help with weight loss. Consumption of ephedra can help to cure coughing and asthma by relaxing the air passage in the lungs. It can also relieve the effects of edema, a condition caused by excess fluid, by promoting increased urination.

     However, ephedra can have many side effects if it isn’t ingested sensibly and in the correct dosage. These can include such things as headache, dizziness, increased blood pressure, chest pain, stroke and seizures. Some experts have pointed out that many of these side effects result from other common substances – such as coffee - and are not unique to ephedra.

     One disadvantage of ephedra is that it is not suitable for everyone. It should not be taken by pregnant women or people suffering from such ailments as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. And people who are using various other prescription drugs on a regular basis should not take ephedra.

     Perhaps the most serious side effect of ephedra is its tendency to over stimulate the central nervous system, when ingested. This has the dual effect of increasing the heart rate and raising blood pressure – a potentially dangerous combination.

     Ephedra is also considered to be an amphetamine, and like most other amphetamines, it is addictive. Withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use may include heart palpitations, mood swings and cold sweats. Some people who stop taking ephedra tend to indulge in “binge eating” - which just has the result of putting all the lost weight back on again.

     The controversy surrounding the so-called miracle fat burner is likely to be around for a while. If you are thinking of taking ephedra, always consult with your physician and make sure you have all the facts before making a decision.