Ephedra-Free Doesn't Make It Safe - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Ephedra-Free Doesn't Make It Safe

Web Producer: Jason Bailey

Ephedra may be off the shelf, but worries over the safety of herbal weight loss supplements are not.

The compound is often being replaced by an untested mix of herbs that contain potent stimulants, including one that's a chemical cousin of Ephedra, bitter orange, known to raise blood pressure.

David Kroll, Ph.D, and Natural Products Researcher, says the results may be similar to those side-effects of Ephedra, even though they do not contain ephedrine.

"And so we suspect in the medical community that there may be some very similar ephedrine-like toxic responses to these ephedrine-free dietary supplements," says Kroll.

Kroll notes that little is known about the safety of herbs like bitter orange as part of a dietary supplement.

The American Herbal Products Association says the herb is getting a bad rap, and points to at least one study that suggests it's only when bitter orange is mixed with other ingredients like caffeine that it gives blood pressure a boost.

"Consumers definitely have to do their homework a lot more on dietary supplements because the way that the United States legislation is set up, you're more protected taking a prescription drug than you are taking a dietary supplement," says Kroll.

While the jury is still out, both sides of the bitter orange battle do agree that checking with a doctor before taking any herbal remedy is good medicine.

As an herbal remedy, bitter orange is used to treat a variety of stomach ailments.

As a drug, the active ingredient in bitter orange, synephrine is used in nasal sprays to unclog stuffy noses, because it helps constrict blood vessels.

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