Ephedra is a Chinese herb that is a natural source of ephedrine alkaloids and is a common ingredient in many weight loss and other dietary supplements. Three billion servings were sold in 1998, and it is estimated that from 4 to 15 million Americans take Ephedra products. A panel of experts, hired by Ephedra makers, claim that no serious health problems result if the product is taken as directed. Since Ephedra is considered a botanical ingredient and not a drug, it is regulated by the FDA under the Dietary Supplemental Health and Education Act of 1994.
Both the Food Advisory Working Group established in 1995 and the FDA in 1997 noted the adverse events linked to Ephedra use and proposed regulations on serving limitations and duration of use.