Ephedrine vs. caffeine.

To: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list <HERB.TREARNPC.EGE.EDU.TR>
Subject: Re: Shooting ourselves in the footŠ
From: hrbmoore.Rt66.com (Michael Moore)
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 23:22:17 -0600

>I'm mad with you Chris! The idea that Ma Huang should be restricted as an OTC now is utterly ridiculous! It's also infuriating that this situation should arise because of the abuse of this herb, most notably in weight loss gimmicks and as a recreational stimulant. The first time I heard of Ecstacy was when a high school student, a total stranger, asked me for information via email. He told me he & his friends were using ephredine to "catch a buzz." I'd never heard of "Ecstacy" before and I couldn't believe what he was telling me! Apparently, a large number of college students are taking it to pull "all-nighters." When I was in college the "magic pill" of choice was No-Doze, a caffeine based tablet billed as safe, effective, etc. There are other caffeine tabs on the market, and we all know the adverse effects of caffeine. I don't see those being banned or restricted!

There are two serious flaws in your argument, by my view:

  1. To my knowledge, there is no known LD50 for caffeine, nor has it ever directly caused death in humans.
  2. Caffeine is thouroughly intrenched in our cultures, consumed so frequently as to border on the trivial...so frequently that it can be laborious to AVOID it if one has an adverse effect from it or is trying to deal with breast cysts. Ma Huang, on the other hand, is an "exotic", from far away, recently emerged into prominance, without the centuries of social familiarity. Further, much of the marketing is aimed at the "grey" area of product marketing, attempting to imply that it resembles illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or MMDA, thereby, for the first time, wedding herbs and illegal drugs in the popular view. We don't need this.

Also, it is important to remember that long term use of ephedrine is FAR more damaging than long term use of caffeine or caffeine plants, and, whereas caffeine will sustain its effects for 3-4 hours, ephedrine lasts TWICE as long, therefore the ingrained habit of "every 4 hours" can result in gradually layered blood levels of ephedrine. Caffeine produces VERY little tolerance in its CNS effects and other physiologic effects. Ephedrine becomes fairly quickly tolerated (CNS), and very slowly tolerated (cardiovascular and pulmonary), therefore, by increasing the consumption to get the same CNS kick it is possible to build up some pretty gnarly vascular problems.

Hang around a serious truck stop for awhile and you start noticing the effects of continually used ephedrine...dilated pupils, flop sweat, florid faces, rapid breathing, etc. Several times in my travels (I look like a truckdriver or greybeard biker) I have asked a number of drivers if they used the stuff...about a quarter of those I asked used it regularly, a similar number HATE the stuff.

On a personal level, the whole thing is so CHEEZY I wanna barf. My coop sells them, the oldline health food stores sell them, the 7-ll sells them, even some durgstores sell them (sometimes next to melatonin...I guess to help come down).
I have nicely lectured folks about the problem ("you see, what this product is is a poorly formulated..."), and harangued about the problem ("This stuff stinks, I'm bigger than you, and...")...nothing has helped.

(I won't even START about yohimbe products in "health" food stores...aaarrgh)

Michael Moore (hrbmoore.rt66.com)