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Ephedrine, Ma Huang, and Ephedra

FDA Warns of Danger

The Food and Drug Administration and the National Council Against Health Fraud have identified ephedrine as the worst over-the-counter and/or mail order product. It is contained in many diet pills and food supplements. The FDA has reported in excess of 300 cases of adverse reaction to ephedrine in 1994 and 1995 alone. Dozens of deaths have been linked to these substances.

The FDA has compiled 32 volumes of information on ephedrine. If you are interested in reviewing these, please direct a FOIA request to the FDA Docket's Management Branch in Rockville, Maryland. Check our "links" page for FDA's web site.

The FDA has warned that users of these dietary supplements may put themselves at risk for heart attacks, seizures and other severe problems. Generally, these products are not FDA approved.

Ma Huang

One source of ephedrine is a Chinese herb called ma huang, and it is totally unregulated in most places. Also known as ephedra, Mormon tea or Brigham tea, this Chinese herb has been used for over 2000 years. It is far from safe, however.

Problems Caused by Ephedrine

Ephedrine can cause high stroke, blood pressure, and heart problems. It is particularly dangerous to people who have high blood pressure. The FDA reports nausea, irregular heart beats, insomnia, nervousness and disorientation as adverse effects of ephedrine. Use is also associated with hyperactivity, diarrhea, dizziness, disorientation, numbness, anxiety, chest pains, breathing difficulty, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, hypertension, depression, headaches, and insomnia. Three instances of death were associated and several involved heart attacks, seizures and strokes.


Certain ephedrine products were even banned for a period of time in Texas, when it was identified as the cause of two deaths and several hospitalizations. Further bans have been urged by organizations such as The Association of Food and Drug Officials. Such action was prompted after presentations from the Florida and Texas public health and drug officials. In fact, according to AFDO, "the pervasiveness of the ephedrine problem nationally is demonstrated by the actions of 26 states who have considered, proposed or enacted controls on ephedrine that are stricter than federal regulations". AFDO further notes that 12 states have moved to include ephedrine as a prescription drug, making it a controlled substance. Florida, Ohio, and Missouri have taken a lead position in this regard.

Who Sells this Product

Among others, this product has been sold by Herbalife under the product name Thermojetics. Nature's Nutritionís Formula One, manufactured by Affiliated Consultants International Alliance/USA, was the most commonly cited product in an FDA report. Other products were mentioned in the FDA reports, as well.

This informational piece was prepared by Silverman & Fodera. If you would like more information on this topic, call us at (800) 220-LAW1, or use the "Do I Have A Case?" link on this web site.