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Smart Basics May 1996 IntelliScope

FDA Issues Consumer Warning For "Herbal Exstacy"

FDA Issues Consumer Warning For "Herbal Exstacy" The Food and Drug Administration recently issued an alert about Herbal Ecstacy (sic), an ephedrine-containing product marketed as a "safe alternative" to illegal street drugs. The FDA cautioned consumers to avoid using Herbal Ecstasy and other dietary supplements containing the stimulant ephedrine, warning that they can cause heart attacks and seizures. The FDA decided to take action after linking the stimulant to 15 deaths and hundreds of reports of adverse reactions.

Marketed as a nutritional supplement, Herbal Ecstasy and similar products have emerged over the last two years in night-clubs and all-night "raves". Many of the products in the FDA warning (sold under a variety of names such as Herbal Ecstasy, Chi Power Herbal Energizer, and Cloud 9, among others) are marketed to a young audience with promises of inducing a state of euphoria, heightened sexual awareness and enhanced athletic performance.

"These are recreational street drugs masquerading as dietary supplements," FDA Commissioner David Kessler said. "This new class of street drugs has emerged, and we needed to focus attention on them. These are drugs, and should be regulated as such."

The common element of the formulas mentioned in the alert is ephedrine, a stimulant drug derived from the herb ephedra. The FDA warning has no affect on ephedra, a natural herb that has been safely used for over 5,000 years in the form of herbal teas (such as Thermogen Tea) and which are sold expressly for weight loss. Ephedra herb teas have not been linked to any complaints or health problems.

hile ephedra herb has a long record of safe use, ephedrine is another story. Ephedrine is commonly found in prescription and over the counter formulas intended for the treatment of asthma. Ephedrine acts on the heart, lungs and central nervous system, expanding the bronchial tubes, increasing the pulse and blood pressure, and blocking certain neurotransmitters. When misused ephedrine can lead to heart attacks, seizures and other health threats.

One of the most disturbing aspects in this case is that most of the ephedrine-formulas mentioned in the FDA alert fail to carry warning labels of any kind. At Smart Basics we've never believed that putting ephedrine into formulas, let alone putting ephedra herb into capsules, was acceptable, safe or ethical. Over the years Smart Basics has been approached by many of the companies putting out these formulas in the hopes that we would carry them. In each case we put the issue to a very simple test that we apply to every product we carry - would we use these products ourselves? In every case the answer was a resounding no, and as a cardinal rule, if we won't use a formula, rest assured we could never offer it to our customers.

The formulas were, in our humble opinion, not designed to enhance health, but to produce a massive "buzz" by "slamming" one's central nervous system into over-drive. Putting ephedrine into capsules further compounds the problem, when one considers that we live in a culture that seems to feel that if a little bit makes one feel good, a whole lot will make you feel better. In this case, a whole lot may only make one feel dead.

The FDA warning is the direct result of the actions of marketing companies that put dollars before science and profits before ethics in order to justify selling dangerous "alternative street drugs" to an uneducated and gullible market. Of course, with a name like Global World Media Corp., the distributor of Herbal Ecstacy, one isn't likely to be confused with a legitimate alternative health company.

While we don't often agree with the FDA's actions, in this case we feel the alert was warranted. Now our greatest fear is that some of these companies will simply take their profits, drop ephedrine, and move on to the next marketing scheme, having handed the FDA the justification it needs to seek support for greater legislation over a wide array of safe and effective herbs and botanicals.

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