What is the Difference Between Ephedra and Ephedrine?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2020
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Many people are confused about the difference between ephedra and ephedrine. Ephedra is a diet aid that has been banned for use in the United States by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Ephedrine is present in ephedra either naturally or as ephedrine alkaloids. On its own, ephedrine hcl is sold over the counter in products used to treat asthma and congestion.

Ephedra is a weight loss supplement. It is made directly from the Ephedra plant species. In most instances, the herbs are dried and made into the supplements. Some forms of ephedra are capsules, but it was originally made into a tea by boiling sections of the herb.

Ephedrine is an alkaloid of ephedra plants. This means it is the active ingredient of the dieting supplement. It is also known as pseudophedrine. These alkaloids are chemically constructed to create decongestant and respiratory treatments. Ephedra and ephedrine have different standards to follow with the FDA. For example, federal ephedra guidelines state that the whole herb must be used.

Since ephedra and ephedrine are similar, their side effects are also similar. Rapid heart rate, dizziness, nausea, and headaches are common. For weight loss, ephedra has thermogenic properties, which means it has fat burning capabilities. Ephedrine, on the other hand, is present in over the counter medicines in small amounts. Side effects are often less intense because there are such minimal doses in the medicines.


Misuse of ephedra led directly to the ban placed by the FDA. These weight loss supplements were found to have dangerous health risks associated with the plant’s stimulant properties. Side effects of ephedra are much more pronounced and frequent than the recommended dose. The FDA believed that even a change in the warning label could not negate the side effects and the serious risks.

While ephedrine is the result of the extraction process, ephedra and ephedrine have different purposes, end goals, and regulations that must be maintained, and dosing for each one is different as well. Ephedra is the purest form of the herb and therefore does not require large amounts to be effective. Ephedrine is weaker because it is an extract and is also mixed with other ingredients. The type of additional ingredients that are used to create ephedrine medications are dependent on the condition for which it will treat. For example, an asthma treatment will have ingredients that differ from an allergy treatment, even though the main ingredient is the ephedrine.


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Post 5

Bull crap. Eery diet pill used to have ephedrine in them. Now I really don't know why anyone would buy any diet pill. They are all junk, just a bunch of crap from China which is part of the trade deal, sorta like the plastic crap that comes from there: worthless. I'm surprised the diet industry would go along with such from the government. Why do you see all the half price tags in every diet section? It no longer works. Duh!

Post 4

Considering only 150 people died supposedly from ephedra, many of them having other factors, I believe it was taken off the market because it worked. The diet industry is too big. They don't want any of these products to actually work, you'd never buy anymore.

I personally used Metabolife and lost a bunch of weight with no issues. You also can still buy it online under its herbal name.

Post 3

@literally45-- But that's still better than people having free access to ephedra. Ephedrine is just ephedrine but ephedra has lots of other compounds in it with potential side effects. Ephedra is stronger and more dangerous.

I'm not saying that people should use ephedrine for weight loss. Ephedrine shouldn't be used for anything other than what it's meant for. Because it still has side effects and can be detrimental for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and other serious health conditions. But if someone is keen on using an ephedrine product, they are relatively safer on ephedrine than they are on ephedra. Obviously, doctors don't recommend either for weight loss.

Post 2

I don't think that there is much difference between ephedra and ephedrine. Ephedrine is meant to be used for respiratory conditions and ephedra is banned in weight loss supplements. But people do buy ephedrine from pharmacies to use as a weight loss supplement.

It's not available in the pharmacy aisle, it's kept behind the counter in a cabinet. But it doesn't require a prescription and people can still abuse it.

Post 1

I'm glad that ephedra diet pills were banned in the US. But I've heard that some people are still able to attain it online. It's a common supplement among athletes who are trying to lose weight/fat quickly. I don't know why people want to put their health at risk this way.

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