Ephedra Vs. Ephedrine

If the question as to what is the difference between ephedra and ephedrine is bothering you, then go through this article, which compares ephedra vs. ephedrine, and presents some facts about both. Scroll down to know about the uses of the extract or pills made from ephedra.
Ephedra extract or ephedra diet pills are popular amongst those who want to lose weight fast. Various species of ephedra shrubs are found in the deserted areas of central Asia. The plants are also found in other parts of the world. The genus ephedra consists of gymnosperm shrubs, and these shrubs bear naked (unenclosed) seeds. Ephedra sinica is the species used to produce ephedra pills or extract. Here is an overview of ephedra vs ephedrine.

Difference between Ephedra and Ephedrine

As mentioned above, ephedra sinica is the plant that is used to produce ephedra extract or to manufacture the diet pills. This plant exhibits several medicinal properties. The dried greens of the ephedra plant are used in several ways to reap the health benefits of the plant. This plant is a part of traditional Chinese medicine and has been used by the Chinese since thousands of years. The plant is known as 'ma huang' in China. The tea brewed from an Ephedra is recognized by several names like 'squaw tea' and 'mormon tea'.

Ephedrine is the chemical or an alkaloid obtained from various plants belonging to the genus ephedra. Products that carry the name ephedra contain the component ephedrine, which structurally resembles amphetamine and methamphetamine. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the important elements of the plant ephedra, which exhibit several useful properties.

Uses of Ephedra

Traditionally, ephedra extract was used to treat common cold, bronchitis, asthma, allergic rhinitis and hay fever. It was noticed that ephedra acts as a stimulant. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine trigger dilation of the bronchi and bronchioles in the lungs. This helps lower resistance in the respiratory tract, which in turn results in increased supply of air to the lungs. But ephedra also triggers constriction of blood vessels and leads to a rise in blood pressure levels and increased heart rate. In the U.S., the FDA has banned the sale of ephedra-containing supplements; pertaining to the harmful effects and deaths caused by ephedra. Dietary supplements containing ephedra extract are sold illegally in the U.S. The products which used to contain ephedra, now contain bitter orange, and are labeled as legal ephedra products or ephedrine free products.

Pseudoephedrine is present in over-the-counter decongestants. The drug ephedrine is a synthetic derivative of ephedra, which contains certain natural and synthetic ingredients. Ephedrine derivatives work great for low blood pressure. But they are mainly used to treat asthma. Ephedrine helps enhance the performance of a sportsman, and hence the use of ephedrine is prohibited in competitive sports.

Ephedra Pills for Weight Loss

Ephedra pills gained popularity as they were advertised as 'diet pills that work without exercise'. Since components of ephedra carry thermogenic properties, consumption of the pills for achieving the desired weight loss proved to be beneficial. When you ingest ephedra, ephedrine produces a lot of heat inside the body, which enhances the process of burning of calories. The increased metabolic rate promotes weight loss. Thus, ephedra diet pills help burn a few calories even while at rest. Ephedra or ephedrine promotes weight loss, especially fat loss; and hence is consumed by bodybuilders before competitions.

Ephedra Side Effects

It has been brought to the notice of the FDA that ephedra consumption can lead to several short term and long term side effects like dizziness, headache, tremor, pulmonary edema, dry mouth, dangerously low blood sugar levels, profuse sweating, flushing, anorexia, nausea, hypertension, irregular heart beats, difficulty in urination due to vasoconstriction of renal arteries, insomnia, delusion, confusion, and many more. Excessive consumption of ephedra can even lead to death. Combination of ephedra with certain antidepressants increases the risk of side effects.

People should understand that there doesn't exist any magic pill which helps reduce weight without exercise and diet. Although the FDA has banned the sale of ephedra extract or diet pills, using ephedrine in applications other than dietary supplements is still allowed. Certain rules and restrictions are to be followed strictly while purchasing ephedrine containing products. The rules may vary from state to state. Now that you have read this article on ephedra and ephedrine, I hope, henceforth, you will read the labels carefully and avoid consumption of ephedra. You should always consult your physician and discuss the possible side effects of diet pills. Otherwise, they can eventually lead to deteriorated health.
By Leena Palande
Published: 6/6/2011
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