Ephedra

By: Rachel Calderon
By: Rachel Calderon

When the FDA launched an investigation last August into the safety of Metabolife, the nation's leading ephedra seller, bodybuilder Tom Ostrander said he'd continue using ephedra products and that people jump to conclusions when something goes wrong.

"I think people need to look at their diets and lifestyles instead of blaming a product. I've used it for 7 years and I've never had a problem," Tom Ostrander.

Now another FDA investigation is underway to find if there's a link between the popular weightloss supplement and the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. But even with that possibility, Tom uses the product especially when he's preparing for competition.

"The autopsy results haven't come back from that guy yet, so how do you know this is linked to ephedra? Is it possible, yeah, it's highly possible, but ephedra is just like everything else. If you use it in moderation, it's fine and safe. If you abuse it, of course it'll be dangerous," said Tom.

While the FDA has launched several investigations into the use of ephedra as a weightloss drug, they're zeroing in on the risk it could pose for athletes, which has some doctors anxious for answers.

"Healthy athletes can experience heat exhaustion, but a baseball player that's not in a high humidity environment and not an over-exerted exercise, shouldn't have a problem. It raises a red flag and you have to at least investigate that," Dr. Jeff Kovan, MSU Sports Medicine.

Dr. Kovan oversees the drug and alcohol testing program for MSU athletics, and says since there are so many unanswered questions about its safety, it's best for athletes and the public to be cautious, so as the debate continues, no one can claim they weren't warned.

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What is Ephedra?

  • Known as Ma Huang, Ephedra is a member of the family of herbs known as the Ephedracae.

  • Ephedra has been used in China for more than 4,000 years to treat symptoms of asthma and upper respiratory infections.

  • American ephedra, native to the dry southwest, was used as tea by the early settlers, and was known as "Mormon tea" and "Squaw tea."

  • Compounds derived from this herb are commonly found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.

  • Ephedra contains two alkaloids, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
    • Ephedrine, the main constituent, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. It also relieves swellings of the mucous membrane.

    • Pseudoephedrine is a nasal decongestant and has less stimulating effect on the heart and blood pressure.

  • Because of its stimulating effect on the nervous system, ephedra can be found in some popular weight loss and energy products.

  • For dieters it suppresses the appetite and stimulates the thyroid gland which stimulates metabolism.

  • Concerns over the potency of this herb and its isolated alkaloids have prompted increased regulatory scrutiny and industry label warnings.

Source: http://www.ephedra.demon.nl (The Ephedra Site)


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