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Ephedrine: Why is it Banned and What Are The Natural Alternatives?

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 15, 2022

Many athletes rely on supplements to enhance their performance. Some of these supplements are completely legal and safe, while others are not. One such supplement is ephedrine. Ephedrine is a stimulant that athletes often use to help them improve their athletic performance. However, ephedrine is also banned by many sporting organizations.

But why is it banned? And are there natural alternatives?

In this article, we'll discuss:

Keep reading to learn more about ephedrine and its alternatives.

What is Ephedrine?

Ephedrine is a stimulant derived from the plant Ephedra sinicathat that grows in Mongolia, Russia, and Tibet. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat asthma and other respiratory problems.

In modern times, ephedrine is often used as a weight loss aid as it can increase metabolism and suppress appetite.

In terms of athletic performance, ephedrine can improve reaction time, focus, and endurance. Ephedrine stimulates the central nervous system, leading to an increase in alertness and heart rate that can be beneficial to athletes.

Why is Ephedrine Banned?

In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of ephedrine-containing supplements.

The FDA's decision was based on numerous reports of adverse effects associated with ephedrine use, including:

  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • seizure
  • death

Other less fatal side effects of ephedrine can also include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

Ephedrine can also interact with other medications, which can further increase the risk of side effects.

As a result of the FDA's ban, ephedrine-containing supplements are no longer available in the United States.

Why is Ephedrine Banned in Sports?

In sports, many organizations, including the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, ban ephedrine. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also bans ephedrine use by athletes.

Aside from the negative health effects, ephedrine is banned in sports because it can give athletes an unfair advantage. Ephedrine can improve athletic performance to the point where it creates an uneven playing field that disadvantages athletes who don't use stimulants.

Ephedra vs Ephedrine

It's important to note that ephedrine and ephedra are not the same thing. Ephedra is the plant from which ephedrine is derived. While supplements containing ephedrine are banned, ephedra herbs and ephedra extract leaves and teas can still be legally purchased and consumed in the United States.

However, these products legally can't have ephedrine in them. They are also not regulated by the FDA and may not be safe. If you're considering taking an ephedra product, it's essential to speak with your healthcare provider first.

Natural Ephedrine Alternatives

There are several natural alternatives to ephedrine if you're looking for a safe and legal way to improve your athletic performance.


Caffeine is a stimulant that can improve reaction time, focus, and endurance. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and many energy drinks and pre-workout supplements.

While too much caffeine can lead to side effects like anxiety and insomnia, moderate amounts are generally safe for most people. The recommended daily limit for caffeine is 400 mg per day.

Green Tea Extract

Green tea extract is a source of caffeine. It also contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which can improve athletic performance.

Endurance athletes may find that Green Tea extract gives them increased endurance and reduced fatigue during exercise. This supplement may also improve reaction time and accuracy.

Green tea extract is generally safe, but it can cause side effects like nausea and headache in some people who are sensitive to caffeine. The recommended dose is 250-500 mg per day.

Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice is a source of nitrates, which can improve athletic performance. Nitrates are converted to nitric oxide in the body, which helps widen blood vessels and improve blood flow. This can help increase power and reduce oxygen uptake during exercise.

Beetroot juice is safe for most people, but it can cause side effects like nausea and low blood pressure in some people. It's not recommended to exceed 500 ml per day.


What is ephedrine used for?

Ephedrine is used medically to treat low blood pressure and relieve bronchial asthma symptoms. It is also used recreationally as a stimulant and weight loss aid. Ephedrine is also sometimes used as a doping agent in sports.

Ephedrine is legal in some countries, but it is banned in others. In the United States, ephedrine is no longer available as a dietary supplement, but it can be found in some over-the-counter medicines, like nasal decongestants.

Is ephedrine safe?

Ephedrine can cause side effects like anxiety, insomnia, and heart palpitations. It can also be addictive and potentially dangerous when used recreationally. When used as directed, ephedrine is generally safe. However, speaking with a healthcare provider before taking any medication or supplement is important.




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