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Is Ephedra a Miracle Cure?

Americans are buzzing about the FDA's recent decision to reverse the ban on ephedra and ephedrine supplements in the United States. Known as the "world's oldest medicine," ephedra has been used for thousands of years for its variety of healing properties. While ephedra is not a cure-all, it is successfully used in treating hundreds of afflictions, including some that may surprise you.

When the average person hears the word "ephedra" they generally think of two things: "weight loss" and "banned." The millions of people who have safely used ephedra to burn fat and lose weight were devastated when the U.S. ephedra ban was imposed in early 2004. The FDA was claiming a high death rate attributed to use (or misuse) of ephedra and ephedrine (the main "active" ingredient in the ephedra plant). However, further research showed that only five of these deaths could be attributed to ephedra use, so the ban was lifted. To put the number of adverse events into perspective, consider that over 12 million people reportedly used ephedra during 1999.

Ephedra has thermogenic qualities, which means it can be used to speed up the body's metabolism. This natural increase in metabolism is what results in virtually effortless weight loss and has earned ephedra the nickname "miracle fat burner." Unlike other weight loss products on the market, ephedra helps the body retain lean muscle mass. The thermogenic qualities of ephedra also improve the body's ability to eliminate toxins (through urine and sweat), which can reduce unnecessary water retention.

What you may not know is that the ephedra plant has been used to treat a number of respiratory and circulatory conditions, including asthma, allergies (such as hay fever) and the common cold. Ephedrine, or the synthetic equivalent called pseudoephedrine, can be found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, including Sudafed. Ephedra is a vasodilator, which means it relaxes (or dilates) blood vessels, which allows blood to flow more easily, and allows nasal passages to open wider. In Chinese medicine, ephedra has been used for thousands of years to increase blood flow and improve circulation.

Athletes have used ephedra for centuries, since it helps build muscle and burn fat. Many people report increased energy and stamina while using ephedra, which increases overall athletic performance.

Ephedra is generally considered safe when adhering to the recommended doses. Since ephedra is a very powerful and effective supplement, you should check with your physician before using ephedra if you have any of the following conditions: anxiety, high blood pressure, glaucoma or heart disease. Do not take ephedra if you are pregnant or lactating. It's recommended to check with your physician before beginning any weight loss program.

Since the ban was lifted so recently, only one company currently offers ephedra supplements online, and they may be found at

Amy Grant is an avid fitness enthusiast who enjoys scuba diving, photography, and empowering people to achieve their goals.


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