December 8, 2003
Joan Eve Quinn (914) 378-2436 or
Alberto G. Rojas (914) 378-2434
Ephedra, a dangerous heart stimulant similar in effect to speed, is still widely available in stores and on the Internet, according to “Ephedra: Heart Dangers in Disguise,” published in the January 2004 issue of Consumer Reports (CR).
With the following citation, the news media can freely use the information in this fact sheet: Reprinted with permission from Consumer Reports, January 2004, ConsumerReports.org.
— Ephedra products are banned in Illinois, New York and California. Since 1993 the Food and Drug Administration has received 16,961 reports of adverse events among people taking ephedra supplements, including heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and more than 100 deaths.
— CR’s mystery shoppers visited about 90 stores in seven states and on the Internet to see where they could buy supplements containing ephedra. Most of the products they found contain caffeine as well as ephedra, the natural source of the chemical ephedrine. Combinations of ephedrine and caffeine are banned in over-the-counter medicines because of potential health risks.
— CR’s Internet search turned up multiple sites peddling herbal ecstasy and other street-drug alternatives made with ephedra and caffeine. These “legal highs” include 7th Heaven, blue e ecstacy, Trip2Night, T2N, and Red Dawn. These are advertised with claims such as crack-like quantities, energy rushes, ecstasy alternative, and LSD alternative and antidepressant. Some sites we looked at said buyers need to be age 18 or older, but none even requested a date of birth.
— Ephedra is often listed on product labels under other names, including epitonin, ma huang, sida cordifolia, and sinica. Caffeine can also appear on ephedra supplement labels under other names, such as guarana, kola nut, maté, paullinia cupana, and tea extracts.
— Ephedra also turns up in products that consumers might not think to check for its presence, including energy boosters such as Midnight Stallion, Black Ice Raging Energizer, Purple Passion, Yellow Swarm Extreme Energizer, and Nitro2Go Explosive Ginseng Energy Formula.
— Some supplement manufacturers have added ephedra-free options, including bitter orange and green tea extract, to their existing product lines. However, both of these ingredients are stimulants; they are often combined with each other and with caffeine, yielding combinations that may pose dangers. Further, there is scant evidence that these “new ephedras” will help people lose weight.
— Bitter orange could cause the kinds of problems that ephedra does. Also known as green orange or neroli oil, bitter orange is found in Twinlab’s Diet Fuel Ephedra-Free, Stacker 2 Ephedra-Free, and Mind-FX’s Maxx Impulse Terminal Velocity Energy Formula.
— Green tea is often combined with other caffeine ingredients in weight-loss and energy supplements. Too much green tea, especially combined with other stimulants, can cause jitters, headaches, insomnia, and gastrointestinal upset.
“Ephedra: Heart Dangers in Disguise” is available free at ConsumerReports.org.