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Articles > Bodybuilding Supplements > The Truth About Ephedra
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Ephedra or Ma Huang was derived from a popular herb used by the Chinese for medicinal purposes, and was widely accepted in the Asian culture for over four hundred centuries. It was prescribed for a wide variety of allergies and illnesses including asthma, arthritis, bronchitis, joint discomfort and inflammation. Ephedra primarily was consumed in most of Asia and parts of Europe. Its used alone or in combination with other herbs made ephedra a powerful ingredient in relieving chronic pain and other symptoms.

Although ephedra was used more for medicinal purposes abroad, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) found its utility to be far less predictable and classified the herb as a dietary supplement until such times appropriate studies could deem its effects safe and predictable. The supplement would increase both heart rate and metabolism to spurn both weight loss as well as a much needed energy booster for athletes. Doctors and providers of alternative medicine touted its ability to subsist in the medicinal realm with little or no known side effects as a positive weight loss alternative. Dieter's purchased it en masse to lose the pounds they so desperately needed too.

The power behind ephedra was it's being a derivative of both ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. These two ingredients produced positive alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors called beta-1 and beta-2. Beta 2 receptors increased the oxygen intake into the blood stream allowing increased air into the lungs while beta-1 produced a rapid heartbeat and created higher blood pressure. The brain then transfers neurotransmitters throughout the body and also norepinephrine to speed up the receptors in the brain. Thus an overdose of ephedra had the potential to be deadly. Dieters who had a history of high blood pressure or urological disorders would be asked to steer clear of this supplement. Some side effects the dieters may experience are increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding would be asked to not take this supplement as well.

In 2003, Baltimore Orioles pitcher, Steve Belcher, died during spring training after taking ephedra to help aid in weight loss and performance enhancement. The pressure for sports personalities to keep up peek performance levels by using an all-natural herbal supplement like ephedra versus a steroid ultimately became vital to his career in the major leagues. An athlete's career could potentially become dependent on ephedra as a means to keep up with the younger talent coming into the leagues and their skills marketable.

In 2004, the FDA banned all products containing ephedra due to the mysterious deaths that surrounded "normal consumption" of this supplement. Because of the FDA ruling, ephedra is not being used in any US based product at this time.

 

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