Legality of Ma Huang in the USA: What Is Legal and What Is Not
The case of ephedrine is very interesting and it’s not a surprise if so many people commented it and made such a buzz out of each new development regarding the legal status of this substance. Many newspapers published series of articles commenting the ban of ephedrine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The reasons of such interest are mainly the following:
- First of all, many people were already using ephedrine sold over-the-counter, you can easily imagine how interested they were about the potential risks for their health!
- How come that ephedrine, coming from a natural plant called Ephedra or Ma Huang, had been used without problem since more than 5,000 years and was suddenly presented as dangerous?
- All serious medical surveys confirmed that ephedrine was presenting real benefits and no health danger when used at the prescribed doses, so what was the scientific basis used by the FDA to justify this ban in the USA?
- The FDA position changed apparently many times, and many people suspected intense lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry trying to protect their financial interests. In 1997 the FDA proposed a first rule of a maximum authorized dosage of ephedrine, then in 2000 the FDA stepped back, then later in 2004 the highly publicized death of baseball players urged the FDA to ban again, but in 2005 this ban has been overturned by a judgment in Utah! And finally in May 2007 the US Supreme Court rejected a petition challenging the ban of ephedrine, and since that date the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedrine is illegal in the USA. But it is still legal to buy ephedrine as bronchodilator for asthma, given maximal quantities of 3.6 grams per sale and 7.5 grams per month, with the obligation of checking name and address of the buyer. Last but not least, Ma Huang as a pure herb can still be sold legally in the USA, but not as dietary supplement.
- The fact that a natural plant contained such an efficient fat loss product was preventing the pharmaceutical companies to patent it, and it was a serious loss in their potential market share in the huge and growing weight control market – it would have been a challenge for them to find, produce and sell any other chemical product presenting the same efficiency.
- Some people were suspecting that the easy chemical reduction of ephedrine to methamphetamine was the main reason why the FDA wanted to monitor in a precise way the quantities being sold in the USA and also to keep track of the identity of the buyers.
- The ban by the FDA was also ambiguous because ephedrine could not be sold anymore as weight loss diet supplement, but it was authorized as bronchodilator. This kind of “grey zone” made it very confusing for many people.
As a conclusion, no doubt that Hollywood could have written a good movie scenario out of this FDA ban! Many stakes were at work in that story and probably all truth has not been revealed yet.
Legality aside, the important questions are:
- Is ephedrine efficient for weight loss? Yes, with no doubt, many medical surveys have proved it.
- Is ephedrine safe? Again yes, an assessment of 19 medical studies is available at the CRN website (Council for Responsible Nutrition), stated that all studies concluded that ephedrine was presenting no risk at the prescribed dosage.
To those people asking where to buy ephedrine, we would remind again the legal requirements: buyer’s identity has to be verified and the maximum sales are 3.6 grams per day and 7.5 grams per month.
Our recommendation to people willing to use ephedrine as bronchodilator would be to consult their doctor first in order to check potential contraindications.
Another advice would be to avoid buying fake products online, because products information online is unclear and might lead to selection errors, we strongly recommend to get help from serious web sites presenting reviews of online shops which sell ephedrine legally.