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Ma Huang Ephedra as a Dietary Supplement The Good the Bad the Deadly Lose weight fast thermogenic fat burner rapid weight loss these are just a few of the guarantees that manufacturers are using to promote the now widely used and highly controversial dietary supplements containing ma haung ephedra Sounds great a simple way to stimulate weight loss and increase energy can this really work or are these companies suggesting the impossible Ma Huang or ephedra sinica is an ancient Chinese herb indigenous to temperate climates in northwestern India Pakistan Mongolia and China usually on sandy seashores The plant dates back to 5000 years ago as a medicinal agent for asthma and hay fever quite possibly making it the worlds oldest medicine Gurley Gardner White et al 1998 In 1923 scientists discovered that the plant has two active ingredients ephedrine EPH and pseudoephedrine PSE the central nervous system stimulants Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic alkaloid agonists that causes cardiac stimulation and vasoconstriction which may produce short term increases in blood pressure and heart rate insomnia vertigo madrass and nervousness Pseudoephedrine also an agonist enhances bronchodialation relieving symptoms of nasal congestion Tyler Brady Roberts 1988 Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the most abundant alkaloids found in Ephedra sinica however methylephedrine MEPH norpseudoephedrine NPSE and norephedrine NEPH are also present The plant with its botanical source of ephedrine alkaloids is what are commonly found in products marketed as natural stimulants or thermogenic diet aids Gurley Gardner Hubbard 2000 So what exactly does ephedra do to the body The active natural ingredient ephedrine acts as a sympathetic nerve stimulant similar to adrenaline but not as potent as amphetamine It has an energizing effect hence its usefulness in dieting Ephedrine opens bronchial passages increases blood pressure metabolic rate perspiration and urine production and stimulates the heart It reduces the secretion of both saliva and stomach acids and also acts on unstriped muscle fibers relieving swellings of mucous
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