Banned Ephedra Still Sold in Florida Stores

By: Hermelinda Vargas
By: Hermelinda Vargas

Deaths associated with ephedra forced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the dietary supplement in April, but apparently some stores are still selling it illegally.

A recent enforcement sweep by Florida's Department of Agriculture Consumer Services reveals some of those stores are in the Panhandle.

State inspectors recently busted three Marianna convenience stores for selling ephedra-based products. The inspectors with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also busted ten other Panhandle stores: three in Crestview and one each in Wewahitchka, Vernon, Chipley, Bonifay, Youngstown, Tallahassee and Panama City. That's seven percent of all 182 stores busted in Florida.

Ironically, an ephedra-linked death in Panama City in the late 1990's first began Florida's efforts against the supplement. The 20-year-old spring breaker's death in a hotel room was linked to an ephedra-based product.

More recently, an ephedra-based product was also blamed for the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler.

"Ephedra is normally, when it's used as a weight loss drug, it's sold in combination with caffeine, and when ephedra is mixed with caffeine, it has the side effects of increased heart rate and increased blood pressure and when the heart rate and blood pressure is increased, it can lead to heart attack or stroke or just stress on the circulatory system that can lead to an eventual heart attack or stroke," says Megan Bartee, a local registered dietician.

State inspectors ordered all stores found selling ephedra-based products to pull it off its shelves. Ephedra is a naturally occurring substance used for weight loss and to heighten athletic performance.

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What is Ephedra?

  • Known as Ma Huang, Ephedra is a member of the family of herbs known as the Ephedracae.

  • Ephedra has been used in China for more than 4,000 years to treat symptoms of asthma and upper respiratory infections.

  • American ephedra, native to the dry southwest, was used as tea by the early settlers, and was known as "Mormon tea" and "Squaw tea."

  • Compounds derived from this herb are commonly found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.

  • Ephedra contains two alkaloids, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
    • Ephedrine, the main constituent, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. It also relieves swellings of the mucous membrane.

    • Pseudoephedrine is a nasal decongestant and has less stimulating effect on the heart and blood pressure.

  • Because of its stimulating effect on the nervous system, ephedra can be found in some popular weight loss and energy products.

  • For dieters it suppresses the appetite and stimulates the thyroid gland which stimulates metabolism.

  • Concerns over the potency of this herb and its isolated alkaloids have prompted increased regulatory scrutiny and industry label warnings.

Source: http://www.ephedra.demon.nl (The Ephedra Site)


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