Ephedrine is an alkaloid derived from a shrub in the family Ephedraceae, commonly known as ephedra. It is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system, and is widely used as a nasal decongestant and a treatment for asthma. Ephedrine contributes to weight loss with its thermogenetic effects by heating up the body, which in turn results in burning fat. It speeds up the metabolic rate and calorie consumption by opening the receptor sites in the heart and lungs. Consequently, fatty acids are released from the stored fat cells and the transition from fat to energy is greatly increased. Another beneficial effect is directed to the muscles increasing stamina and endurance for body builders.
Ephedrine and its chemically related cousin, pseudoephedrine, however, are used for legitimate medical purposes, especially for treating colds and other breathing disorders. Ever felt like you were breathing rapidly or that you had just consumed too much caffeine after taking some over the counter cold preparation? Chances are, that was the ephedrine-like compound kicking in. At these low doses, that stimulated feeling is about the worst of it for most people. However, these drugs all come with warnings advising anyone with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or heart or who is taking certain types of antidepressants (MAO inhibitors), against using the medications. Ephedrine is also not recommended for use in children under 12, pregnant women, or the elderly.
Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic that acts directly and indirectly on the sympathetic nerves. Its bronchodilating effects are the result of relaxation of bronchial smooth muscle through direct stimulation of ß adrenergic receptors. It is nasal decongestant, and has been used therapeutically for nocturnal enuresis, diabetic neuropathic edema, dysmenorrhea, narcolepsy, and myasthenia gravis. Ephedrine in combination with caffeine has been shown to promote thermogenesis, fat loss, and muscle gain in several controlled trials. Ephedrine is metabolized to norephedrine (phenylpropanolamine) which is responsible for the central nervous system stimulating effects of the drug.
Ephedrine alkaloids are amphetamine-like compounds used in OTC and prescription drugs with potentially lethal stimulant effects on the central nervous system and heart. The FDA has received more than 800 reports of adverse effects associated with use of products containing ephedrine alkaloid since 1994. These serious adverse effects, include hypertension (elevated blood pressure), palpitations (rapid heart rate), neurophathy (nerve damage), myopathy (muscle injury), psychosis, stroke, memory loss, heart rate irregularities, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, and death. The agency has proposed to prohibit the marketing of dietary supplements containing 8 milligrams or more of ephedrine alkaloids per serving.
Ephedrine is a stimulant that works on the adrenergic receptors of the central nervous system. It has been shown to increase the level of dopamine, which is a precursor to both epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are vital neurotransmitters. Dopamine is also an important neurotransmitter around the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is important for body arousal. Unlike caffeine, which exerts many of its benefits in muscle tissue, ephedrine appears to work primarily on the central nervous system.
Ephedrine inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine, a hormone secreted by the medulla of the adrenal glands, that acts as a neurotransmitter. The sympathetic nervous system functions in response to short-term stress; hence norepinephrine, whose levels are boosted by ephedrine, increases the heart rate as well as blood pressure. Other actions of norepinephrine include increased glycogenolysis (the conversion of glycogen to glucose) in the liver, increased lipolysis (the conversion of fats to fatty acids) in adipose (fat) tissue, and relaxation of bronchial smooth muscle to open up the air passages to the lungs. All of these actions represent a mobilization of the body's resources in order to meet the stressful challenge; such a response is often termed the "flight or fight" syndrome.
Ephedrine is found in many popular weight control products, some of which the FDA believes may be hazardous. Most of the serious injuries associated with ephedrine involve high blood pressure that can cause bleeding in brain, a stroke or a heart attack. Ephedrine is an over the counter herbal stimulant stemmed from the Chinese plant ma huang. The Chinese discovered this stimulant over two thousand years ago for the purpose of treating asthma, cold and flu symptoms, chills, lack of perspiration, headache, and edema. Ephedrine is presently found in herbal stimulants, prescription cold and flu remedies, and asthmatic aid products. Because it is a stimulant, ephedrine motivates thermogenesis in the body. This effect results in speeding up the heart rate causing the metabolism to expedite.