Using ephedra

In last Friday’s e-Alert (“This Week in the HSI e-Alert” 2/21/03) I reexamined the ephedra issue in the wake of the death of Steve Bechler, the young pitcher who died of multiple organ failure from heatstroke while participating in the Orioles spring training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In an attempt to lose weight quickly, Bechler had been using a weight loss supplement containing ephedrine – a highly concentrated form of herbal ephedra.

I asked readers to share their experiences with ephedra, and received this note from an HSI member named Laura:

“I have been using ephedra for several years. I use it for two reasons:

“1) As a decongestant. When I feel a cold coming on, or after a round of ‘deep-cleaning’ housework, or workng in or around dust or chemicals, even household cleaners, I take a product called ‘Clear Lung’ with ephedra. I grew up & out of asthma (twice) and now live with a smoker and near water, which also has an effect on my lungs at the changing of seasons here in Michigan.

“2) When I must “burn the candle at both ends” due to some deadline, I use ephedra as a stimulant, to help maintain alertness and energy levels. I always drink plenty of water when using and because it speeds up my already fast metabolism, I eat when hungry and to maintain healthy ‘fuel’ while taking. I have taken the pure Chinese herb in tablet form, up to 2500mg. Because it does cause some palpitations, I now take it in combination with other herbs in this ‘Clear Lung’ formula.

“It is not something that I take for more than a 10-day period, and no more than one capsule per day. With this particular herb, I find that knowing one’s body and constitution is essential to successful use.”

I completely agree with Laura’s closing statement. But I would expand it. Anyone who uses herbs and other supplements should carefully read the instructions on information panels, and then use the products (or not use them) according to the specific conditions of their personal health. If everyone did this, I’m certain that the number of deaths related to all medicines (natural and otherwise) would be far lower.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute