Ephedrine is a synthetic chemical that is used in diet supplements. The combination of caffeine and ephedrine for weight loss is the most effective, as ephedrine by itself does not seem to have the same metabolism-boosting effect. Though there has been a modest but significant short-term weight loss associated with its use, there have also been reports of harmful side effects. There have been no studies that assess its long term efficacy.
Ephedra, or ma-huang, is a natural Chinese herb that is the source of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, both alkaloids. Both ephedra and ephedrine are found in weight loss supplements, and the latter is also found in synthetic form in decongestants and cold medicines. The use of ephedrine for weight loss is made possible by its ability to stimulate thermogenesis, or heat generation, in the body. This is achieved by the effect it has of stimulating the heart rate and so increasing metabolism. It may also act on the part of the hypothalamus, which tells the brain when the body feels satiated, thus playing a part in controlling appetite.
In studies comparing the effect of caffeine, ephedrine, and caffeine plus ephedrine taken together, the combination of ephedrine and caffeine was found to be more effective than when the two products were taken alone. There were side effects such as insomnia, dizziness and shaking but these generally subsided after a few weeks. It was concluded, however, that while weight loss does occur, it is only in the short term if proper diet and exercise were abandoned after the taking of the supplement stopped. Taking the supplement over the long term is not an option, as there are proven adverse side effects to doing so.
There is also a temptation to take ephedrine in higher doses so as to increase the weight loss effect. The effects of ephedrine are similar to amphetamines, and when taken in high doses, it can be fatal. There are warnings on over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine that anyone suffering from high blood pressure, glaucoma or heart problems should avoid taking them. Combining caffeine with ephedrine for weight loss can increase the dangers, as both are stimulants.
The best way to lose weight is to follow a healthy diet plan and exercise regularly. The use of caffeine and ephedrine for weight loss may be beneficial as a temporary fat burning boost, but until further research has been carried out, the safety of taking these stimulants is still being debated.