You may have come across the terms Ephedrine and Ephedra and wondered what the difference between these two compounds is. Ephedra is a shrub-like evergreen plant that is of ancient Chinese origin. Ephedrine HCL also comes from this herb but in a different format. Although both refer to the same herb, it is essential to realize the difference between ephedra and ephedrine and the different legal implications for usage. Ephedra and ephedrine are used as dietary weight loss supplements and need to be taken under the guidance of a physician.
Difference between Ephedra and Ephedrine
Ephedra is the name given to the whole Ephedra sinica herb itself. That means if you were to buy ephedra, you would be purchasing the whole plant or a ground up extract from the plant. Ephedra grows in dry climates throughout Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. The plant resembles green wheat grass, but it is actually a herb and it produces pollen. It is commonly used to make tea, such as Mormon Tea.
Ephedrine is the active ingredient present in ephedra that provides the purported fat burning benefits. It is a sympathomimetic amine that stimulates the brain’s adrenaline receptors to cause various medical benefits. It is used as a treatment to boost energy levels, reduce the appetite and raise the metabolic rate. It has also been shown to allow users to burn fat while retaining lean muscle mass.
The Ephedra plant as whole consists of 0.5-2 percent alkaloids that are made of norephedrine, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, methylephedrine and norpseudoephedrine. When you go to a local store and ask for Ephedra, you are actually getting Ephedrine. Although the plant and its compounds such as Ephedrine HCL have been banned in some countries due to several side effects, one can still use them under the guidance of a doctor. Ephedrine is still obtainable in pharmacies as a 8 mg nasal decongestant. It can be purchased legally in Canada and shipped to the US, which is how most users obtain their Ephedrine.
In the 1990s, ephedra was a common ingredient weight-loss and energy supplements that were also used to improve athletic performance. Today, Ephedrine is sold for treating asthma and other respiratory disorders. Both have similar effects on the central nervous system and act as stimulants. Anecdotal studies suggest that ephedrine helps concentrating and studying. It is common to see many athletes making use of Ephedrine. They are known to relax muscle that opens up bronchial tubes. But these drugs can also lead to some side effects such as appetite loss, dizziness, nausea, muscle aches, insomnia etc.
Pseudoephedrine is used as decongestant and as well as stimulant. Ephedrine Hydrochloride and Pseudoephedrine can be easily found in over-the-counter preparations and are used in isolation or in combination. Studis on the use of ephedrine or other dietary supplements containing ephedra along with caffeine have shown significant increase in weight loss within a relatively short time. Ephedrine supplements alone was somewhat more effective in promoting weight loss. Still, one must consult a physician before taking ephedra dietary supplements.
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- Shekelle PG, et al. Efficacy and safety of ephedra and ephedrine for weight loss and athletic performance: a meta-analysis. JAMA. (2003)