Ephedra

Generic Name: ephedra (Not applicable.)
Brand Name: Generics only. No brands available.

This product should not be used with other stimulant products (eg, caffeine), other cough and cold products, or as a dietary supplement for the purpose of weight loss or bodybuilding. Doing so may increase your risk of unlikely but potentially fatal side effects, including stroke, heart attack, seizures, or severe mental disorders (see the Possible Side Effects section). In addition, dietary supplements containing ephedra should not exceed 8 mg as a single ephedra dose, 24 mg of ephedra per day (24 hours), or be given for longer than 7 days, as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Exceeding the recommended dose of ephedra increases your risk of the side effects noted above. For detailed information, consult your pharmacist. Check all product labels carefully to see if they contain ephedrine or ephedra/Ma-Huang, which are all very similar; do not combine these products. Read the product labeling carefully. Some products contain other ingredients that may cause serious side effects.


Ephedra is used for:

Respiratory conditions, including asthma, nasal swelling, and nasal congestion. It is also claimed to be a heart and nervous system stimulant. It may have other uses. Check with your pharmacist for more details regarding the particular brand you use.

Ephedra is an herbal product. It works by stimulating the nervous system, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure.

Do NOT use ephedra if:

  • you are allergic to any ingredient in ephedra
  • you are taking furazolidone or a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor (eg, phenelzine)
  • you have pheochromocytoma (a tumor of the adrenal gland)
  • you are pregnant

Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.

Slideshow: Can Prescription Drugs Lead to Weight Gain?

Before using ephedra:

Some medical conditions may interact with ephedra. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:

  • if you are planning to become pregnant or are breast-feeding
  • if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
  • if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances
  • if you have a history of stroke, diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure, or seizures
  • if you have a history of a heart, circulatory, or thyroid condition

Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with ephedra. Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following:

  • MAO inhibitors (eg, phenelzine) because serious side effects such as very high blood pressure may occur
  • Blood pressure medicines (eg, diuretics, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors) because the effectiveness may be decreased by ephedra

This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if ephedra may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.

How to use ephedra:

Use ephedra as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.

  • Dosing depends on the use and the source of the product.
  • Use as directed on the package, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.
  • Do not increase the dose, take it more frequently or use for a longer period of time than directed.
  • If you miss taking a dose of ephedra for 1 or more days, there is no cause for concern. If your doctor recommended that you take it, try to remember your dose every day.

Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use ephedra.

Important safety information:

  • This product may cause dizziness. Do not drive, operate machinery, or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how you react to ephedra. Using this product alone, with certain other medicines, or with alcohol may lessen your ability to drive or to perform other potentially dangerous tasks.
  • Before you have any medical or dental treatments, emergency care, or surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are using ephedra.
  • Check with your doctor before you begin taking any new medicine, either prescription or over-the-counter, including medicine containing potassium or sodium citrate, sodium acetate, sodium bicarbonate, or sodium lactate.
  • Do not exceed the recommended dose of this product or take it for longer than recommended. Exceeding the recommended dose or taking for longer than recommended may be habit-forming. When used in high doses, this product may cause serious side effects, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and seizures. Do not use this product for more than 7 days at a time. Use of this product for longer than 7 days may also lead to a worsening of your condition. If used for longer than 7 days, do not suddenly stop using this product. Check with your doctor to see if a gradual reduction in dose is recommended.
  • This product has not been approved by the FDA as safe and effective for any medical condition. The long-term safety of herbal products is not known. Before using any alternative medicine, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Liquid preparations of this product may contain sugar or alcohol. If you have diabetes, a liver condition, or a history of alcohol dependence, check with your doctor or pharmacist about the use of this product.
  • Ephedra is not recommended for use in the ELDERLY. They may be more sensitive to the stimulant effects of ephedra and may experience difficulty sleeping.
  • This product is not recommended for use in CHILDREN.
  • PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: Do not use ephedra if you are pregnant. Do not breast-feed while taking this product.

When used for long periods of time or at high doses, ephedra may not work as well and may require higher doses to obtain the same effect as when originally taken. This is known as TOLERANCE. Talk with your doctor if ephedra stops working well. Do not take more than prescribed.

Possible side effects of ephedra:

All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome:

Headache; irritability; stomach upset.

Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur:

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); changes in skin appearance; changes in vision; chest pain; difficulty with urination; dizziness; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; loss of consciousness; mood changes; nausea; nervousness; numbness in an arm or leg; seizures; severe stomach pain; shortness of breath; slurred speech or confusion; sudden leg pain; sudden severe headache; trouble sleeping; vomiting.

This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, contact your health care provider. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. To report side effects to the appropriate agency, please read the Guide to Reporting Problems to FDA.

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

Contact 1-800-222-1222 (the American Association of Poison Control Centers), your local poison control center, or emergency room immediately. Symptoms may include enlarged pupils; fever; loss of consciousness; muscle spasms; nausea; rapid or irregular heartbeat; restlessness; seizures; sweating; tremor; vomiting.

Proper storage of ephedra:

Store at room temperature away from heat, moisture, and light unless otherwise directed on the package label. Do not store in the bathroom. Most herbal products are not in childproof containers. Keep ephedra out of the reach of children and away from pets.

General information:

  • If you have any questions about ephedra, please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • Ephedra is to be used only by the patient for whom it is prescribed. Do not share it with other people.
  • If your symptoms do not improve or if they become worse, check with your doctor.
  • Check with your pharmacist about how to dispose of unused medicine.

This information is a summary only. It does not contain all information about ephedra. If you have questions about the medicine you are taking or would like more information, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.

Issue Date: September 3, 2014
Database Edition 14.3.1.003
Copyright © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

Disclaimer: This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this medicine or any other medicine. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for you. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this medicine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this medicine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You must talk with your healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this medicine.

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