To experience ephedra’s weight-reduction benefits, you must be clinically obese, that is, at least 20 percent heavier than your recommended weight. Ephedrine has shown no benefit in people who want to lose 5 to 10 pounds.
When used for weight control, ephedra typically causes side effects that may be unpleasant. Ephedra may raise blood pressure and cause jitters, irritability, and insomnia. People with high blood pressure, heart or kidney disease, or a history of stroke should not use it. In very large doses, ephedra may cause potentially fatal heart problems. Coffee and other herbs containing caffeine increase ephedra’s effects and side effects. Ephedra and coffee should be used for weight control only under medical supervision.
Experts generally agree that the keys to permanent weight loss are a low-fat, low-calorie diet and daily exercise. Nonetheless, ephedra is an ingredient in many herbal weight-loss formulas sold in health food stores and drugstores.
Japanese researchers gave some animals high-fat, high-cholesterol feed, while others received the same feed with maitake added (5 to 20 percent of feed). As expected, the control animals gained weight, but the maitake group did not. By the end of the study, the control animals weighed 25 percent more than the maitake animals. Tokyo researchers told 30 overweight adults to continue eating as they had, but gave them maitake tablets, the equivalent of 7 ounces of the mushroom a day. Two months later, all of them had lost weight, ranging from 12 to 26 pounds.
A diet high in plant foods helps control blood pressure. Israeli scientists gave 63 adult diabetics either a placebo or purslane (three 500 milligram capsules a day). After 3 months, those taking purslane showed lower blood pressure.