Donate |

Legal ephedra?

Last updated: March 2010

The Food and Drug Administration banned the weight-loss supplement ephedra as of April 2004, but you might not know that if you hang out on the Internet. Ephedra Outlet touts "Ripped Ma Huang Ephedra Diet Pills”; BuyEphedraOnline.com ("Your #1 Source for Ephedra Products") offers Trimethylene with "10 mg ephedra." Several sites sell Ephedra 5, "the only clinically proven, legal Ephedra supplement in the United States."

What gives? Turns out the FDA banned alkaloids of ephedrine, found mainly in the stem of the ephedra sinica species. It's the chemical presumably responsible for weight loss but also for boosting heart rate and blood pressure. Adverse effects included heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and even death.

Current pitches wriggle out of the rule by claiming to sell extracts from species of ephedra (viridis and others) that contain little or no ephedrine. Those "legal" ephedras aren't likely to pose dangers—or do much else, says Bill J. Gurley, Ph.D., a professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

An FDA spokeswoman confirmed that the products are legal as long as they don't contain alkaloids of ephedrine. But any sites selling ephedra with ephedrine (we found a few claiming to do that) are doing so illegally, even if the products are left over from before the ban.

What you can do. Avoid weight-loss pills and supplements to improve athletic or sexual prowess. Those products commonly harbor hazardous ingredients. Even products that have shed ephedra often include other stimulants such as bitter orange, which has similar side effects.

   

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

SAVE AT THE SUPERMARKET
When to scrimp and when to splurge at the store Sometimes it pays to spend more on everyday products, but not always.
THERMOSTAT REVIEWS
5 ways a programmable thermostat can save moneyVideo The latest models we've tested have impressive energy-saving features.
Drugs
BEST BUY DRUGS
Special report: The dangers of painkillersVideo Every year, Percocet, Vicodin, and other opioids kill 17,000 Americans.
NEW CAR REVIEWS
Find a deal: Best new cars for under $25,000Video You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good, reliable, safe vehicle.
ELECTRONICS NEWS
Hot stuff: Just how safe are lithium-ion batteries? Smart phones and other devices can overheat under certain circumstances.
POD COFFEEMAKER REVIEWS
4 must-have features on your next pod coffeemaker Video Some single-serve machines are more versatile than others.

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more