Ephedrine and ephedra have a slightly different effect.
Most of the weight loss studies have used ephedrine tablets (ephedrine Hcl) combined with caffeine, and less commonly combined with theophylline, aspirin, aminophylline and green tea extract (EGCG plus caffeine).
I prefer ephedrine tablets just because that is what has been studied the most.
Tablets of ephedrine plus theophylline were the best selling asthma drug back in the 1960’s. So it’s got a lot of history behind its use.
Ephedrine tablets are also cheaper than ephedra products.
In 1994, you could buy ephedrine tablets for about 2 cents each. The price has gone up about 10-fold to roughly 20 cents a tablet because of all the state regulations, but they are still cheaper than most ephedra-based products. Most ephedra products that I have seen cost about $1 per day or more, although I have not looked recently since they have come back on the market.
Ephedra, the herb, contains ephedrine plus five other alkaloids related to ephedrine. Some of the ephedra products tested have high levels of some of these other alkaloids, which, in large amounts, can cause problems. I assume they do this because people may feel more stimulating effects and believe that they are working better than other products.
One study found that ephedra contains an unidentified ingredient that seemed to make it slightly more potent at increasing thermogenesis. This suggests that ephedra might be more potent than ephedrine.
However, another study found that ephedra was slightly more toxic than ephedrine. This is not surprising since ephedra is slight more potent. However, I imagine that ephedra is probably similar in safety to ephedrine plus caffeine.
The reason I prefer ephedrine tablets to ephedra-based products is because you can duplicate exactly what the studies did, whereas every company tries to make their ephedra products unique by add a bunch of other things to try and make them more potent.
I’ve done research on ephedra and other ingredient for several companies and they thing they always want to know is, “How can we make it more potent?”
I don’t agree with this approach.
Trying to make a formula more potent reduces its window of safety.
For example, a classic in herbal medicine states that licorice root makes ephedrine more toxic.
Another way of say this is that it makes it more potent, therefore it takes a lower dose to have toxic effects.
For example, the estimated lethal dose of ephedrine is about 2000 mg, which is 100 times the recommended dose. However, when you combine ephedrine with aminophylline, which is similar to theophylline and caffeine, it reduces the estimated lethal dose to about 50 times the recommended dose.
So the more things you add to ephedrine—caffeine, theophylline, licorice root, citrus aurantium, etc—the more potent it becomes, but the lower the estimated lethal dose.
By the way, to put this into perspective, the estimte lethal dose of aspirin is 50 times the recommended dose, and for acetamenophin (Tylenol) is 25 times the recommended dose.
So ephedrine plus caffeine is, dose for dose, as safe as aspirin and twice as safe as Tylenol (acetamenophen).
I disagree with combining ephedra with many of the ingredients found in most ephedra products.
I think you should just stick with what has been studied.