Ephedra medicinal uses were first discovered by the Chinese thousands of years ago when they became aware of its antipyretic, diuretic and astringent properties. Ephedra, extracted from the stems of the Ephedra bush, is a chemical also found different species of Ephedra plants native to India and the United States.
In 1924, United States researchers found that Ephedra was effective as an oral medicine for treating asthma, nasal congestion and respiratory disorders. The sympathomimetic pseudoephedrine is also found in Ephedra. Recently, this chemical has become a controversial dietary boost that is supposed to induce weight loss, mood elevation and enhance athletic performance. Ephedra seems to alleviate motion sickness also, but its stimulant properties can also promote nervousness and brachycardia.
Clinical studies have shown that Ephedra extracts ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are reasonably effective as decongestants, bronchodilators and vasoconstrictors. Other Ephedra medicinal uses that have been established through double-blind studies is the ability for it to suppress coughing and even induce sexual arousal in women. Tests using Ephedra on animals have suggested that its stimulating and appetite-suppressing effects may be caused by the caffeine and catecholpolyphenols in Ephedra green tea.
While Ephedra medicinal uses are beneficial in healing certain illnesses, there are a variety of side effects which are mainly caused by the stimulating properties in Ephedra extracts. These include:
- Rapid Heart Beat
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Kidney Stones
The Federal Drug Administration of the United States has stated that claims of Ephedra causing sudden rises in blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes have been submitted to them, but these reports remain unsubstantiated. In addition, incidences of temporary psychosis and even death have supposedly been linked to Ephedra, but like the other reports, this has not been verified either. However, a review of Ephedra reports state that the occurrence of these adverse effects which people have suffered from by ingesting Ephedra dietary supplements was around 30% correlated with this herb.
Although there really has been no solid proof that Ephedra medicinal uses actually contribute to heart attacks or strokes, it seems to be safe to say that abusing Ephedra can definitely be detrimental to one’s health and could possibly cause death.
Ephedra may also be addicting, since it affects certain brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Withdrawal symptoms have been noted in those who became addicted then stopped taking Ephedra. Any who have become addicted to the substance should seek help at professional treatment centers if necessary.
There is also the possibility of individuals being susceptible to Ephedra’s effects in varying degrees, something which would be unknown to that individual before taking Ephedra. Therefore, it is suggested that a person exercise caution when using Ephedra as a dietary supplement. In addition, if Ephedra and certain monoamine oxidase inhibitors (antidepressants) are used together, a toxic condition in the body could be created result in heart or nervous system damage.
While Ephedra has been acknowledged as beneficial in treating asthma, blocked nose and sinus infections, doctors discourage the prolonged use of the chemical because of tolerance and reduced effectiveness. Further, taking Ephedra daily for longer than a week is not suggested because of possible overdose-like symptoms occurring.