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    Top 5 Problem Dietary Supplements

    When natural doesn't always mean safe, and reading labels doesn't necessarily protect consumers.

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    Ephedra dried

    Ma Huang

    Also known as ephedra, ma huang is a natural source of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and norephedrine. The Chinese botanical is a stimulant that is sold in this country as an appetite suppressant/weight loss aid and athletic performance enhancer. It is also sometimes marketed as a recreational drug "herbal ecstasy."

    The FDA banned dietary supplements containing ephedra in 2004, but the ban does not apply to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) remedies. Since the agency is not authorized to evaluate the safety, effectiveness, or purity of dietary supplements, there are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for them, including ma huang. Consumers must rely on manufacturers and distributors to make sure that the products are safe.  

    Ma huang has been linked to serious, even fatal health complications including: irregular heartbeats, heart attack, stroke, and sudden death. Other reported side effects are increased blood pressure, agitation, hostility, personality changes, suicidal thoughts, pain or difficulty passing urine, and rapid or troubled breathing.

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