If you’re shopping for ephedra weight loss supplements online, you have probably noticed that all of the diet pills available today list “ephedra extract” on their ingredient label. These products all claim to give you the same benefits as the original ephedra supplements that have now been banned like Xenadrine, Hydroxycut, or Metabolife, but what exactly is ephedra extract? And how is this type of ephedra still legal when real ephedra products are now illegal in the USA and so much of the world? Ephedra extract is not at all the same as what we think of as real ephedra and it cannot produce anywhere near the same results. Make sure you know the difference before you spend your money on a diet supplement that does not work!
Ephedra was once the best-selling weight reduction herb in all of the USA, with over 9 million Americans having taken the supplement. But with little regulation on the industry and poor consumer education, many dieters and bodybuilders were taking unsafe amounts of this supplement. Some of these products provided as much as 75 mg of the active ingredient in a single dosage! As public concern grew over the number of adverse side effects reported when taking ephedra, it became clear that these diet pills posed potential for serious risks. Academic studies have now illustrated that ephedra can be used safely in doses of 25 mg or less, but by this time the reputation of the plant was so negative that the government had to act. That is why ephedra was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004.
The FDA’s ruling created a loophole for companies that wanted to continue to sell ephedra diet pills: just remove the ephedrine and these products will be legal again. That is how ephedra extract was created. It is essentially ephedrine-free ephedra and this is the type of stimulant found in “re-engineered” products like the new Lipodrene or ECA Xtreme. Not exactly sure what the difference between ephedra and ephedrine is? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one and unfortunately this confusion is what the supplement industry relies on to continue selling ephedra extract fat burners.
For thousands of years, ephedra sinica was used for its medicinal properties without anyone fully investigating why this herb was so potent. It was not until a century ago that a Japanese scientist discovered that a single alkaloid found in this plant gave it almost all of its fat burning characteristics. That compound was given the name ephedrine. We now know that ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine with the chemical structure (R*,S*)-2-(methylamino)-1-phenylpropan-1-ol. When ingested orally, this compound activates beta receptors that control your metabolism. Taking ephedrine alkaloids will raise your core temperature, increase concentration and athletic ability, suppress your appetite, improve blood circulation and airflow to your lungs, and cause your body to burn substantially more calories and fat. When you take ephedra extract without ephedrine, you miss out on all of these positive benefits that lead to weight loss.
There are several different types of herbal ephedra extracts available on the market today. Some of these extracts give you a form of real ephedra like Chinese ma huang or ephedra distachya just with all of the ephedrine alkaloids removed. The most apt comparison for these types of extracts is to decaffinated coffee – i.e. coffee grounds that have had the caffeine alkaloid removed. Another type of extract used comes from the leaves of different species of the ephedra plant. These extracts are legal because ephedra leaves are known to contain very minimal amounts of alkaloids since most of the ephedrine resides in the stems and branches of the herb. A third type of ephedra extract for sale is derived from plants like ephedra viridis or ephedra nevadensis – both of which are kwnon to contain no ephedrine in them at all.
Whichever type of ephedra extract a specific diet pill uses does not really make that much of a difference. The result is still the same: with no ephedrine, the natural metabolism increasing properties of this plant are rendered ineffective. Many of the ephedra extract diet pills available today like Hellfire EPH or Green Stinger or Yellow Bullet ephedra can still help you lose some weight because they are packed with so many other stimulant ingredients like yohimbine, synephrine, and theobromine. But none of these offer the same power as the original ephedrine. Only products that actually come with ephedrine alkaloids have been scientifically proven and user-tested to significant increase weight loss. You should also look out for any supplement that promises to give you “ephedra alkaloids” as this is another marketing technique used by the supplement industry to make it seem like their tablets contain real ephedra sinica.
However, it is a little known fact that in the United States ephedrine continues to be legal in either hydrochloride or sulfate form. Ephedrine HCL – the more powerful of the two – can be purchased over the counter or online and shipped to you in the United States. Weight loss studies of synthetic ephedrine HCL have actually proven that the synthetic version may give you results even quicker than herbal ephedra, but both are very similar in terms of their effects on the body. Pure ephedrine is your best bet if you need to drop some excess pounds and don’t want to spend your money on an expensive ephedra extract product.
- Toubro S, et al. The acute and chronic effects of ephedrine/caffeine mixtures on energy expenditure and glucose metabolism in humans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1993)