I used effedra for a few months before they banned it and dropped from 135 to 105lbs. The 'recommended' dose gave me chest pains, and I would average over 100bpm. I could see how it would cause heart problems with prolonged use. I found I could take 1/4 of the recommended dose and do all I wanted to do, like lift weights for 2 hours. I loved that stuff.
One of the problems with ephedra is something we found in our lab.
Ephedra is still available in Chinese herbal medicine in the UK, it is often called, 'little yellow pills'.
One day the endocrinology consultant was seeing a woman (who came in with her husband) about the issues she was having with high blood pressure. He asked her if she was taking anything, ANYTHING, including supplements, and she would always deny it.
At one of her following appointments, she came in without her husband, and said 'Well, when I said I wasn't taking anything, it wasn't true, but I didn't want my husband to know I have been seeing a Chinese herbalist for weight loss'.
Yes, it was 'little yellow pills' which were listed as basically being ephedra.
However, we did some HPLC on these tablets and found that they were highly contaminated with a banned amphetamine called fenfluramine, or fen-fen. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenfluramine
Fenfluramine caused irreversible heart valve disorders.
This woman was lucky in that she didn't suffer any permanent damage.
Our head of department wrote this article:
Risks associated with herbal slimming remedies
Original article by: C Corns, K Metcalfe
Reference: Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, Dec 2002, vol. 122, no. 4, p. 213-219
Source: Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health
Date published: 20/02/2003 00:00
The market for non-conventional, natural herbal medicines is growing. This marketing opportunity has been seized upon by some unscrupulous practitioners to sell potentially unsafe 'herbal' products. Several people attended a Chinese herbalist for weight loss advice and were sold 'herbal' preparations that contained fenfluramine, a drug which was withdrawn from sale in the West in 1997 after its use was linked to primary pulmonary hypertension and valvular heart disease. Adulteration of Chinese medicines with Western drugs is becoming an increasing problem, and deaths have been reported from Japan and other Far Eastern countries linked to Chinese slimming aids containing N-nitroso-fenfluramine. There is a need for increased public awareness of such risks associated with the use of unlicensed medicines; a system of registration for medical herbalists is also required to protect both the reputable practitioners and the general public.
We also did a few other investigations looking for other contaminants in Chinese herbal remedies, it was quite common.
I wouldn't be surprised if some of the ephedra that killed people had been contaminated.
Another issue with A LOT of sports and weight loss supplements is that they are just a huge pile crap, so some of the first batches of the supplement are purposefully contaminated with actual pharmaceuticals, anything from diuretics to steroids.
If you are a drug tested athlete, and you really don't want to take any performance enhancing drugs, you steer clear of all supplements as it would be quite easy to accidentally take something and fail a drug test.