An herbal supplement containing Ma Huang-Guarana for weight loss: a randomized, double-blind trial

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Mar;25(3):316-24. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801539.


Objective: To examine in overweight humans the short-term safety and efficacy for weight loss of an herbal supplement containing Ma Huang, Guarana and other ingredients.

Design: An 8 week randomized, double-blind placebo controlled study of a herbal dietary supplement (72 mg/day ephedrine alkaloids and 240 mg/day caffeine).

Subjects: Overweight men and women (body mass index, > or =29 and < or =35 kg/m2).

Measurements: The primary outcome variable was body weight change. Secondary variables included anthropometric, metabolic and cardiovascular changes.

Results: Sixty-seven subjects were randomized to either placebo (n=32) or active Ma Huang/Guarana (n=35). Twenty-four subjects in each group completed the study. Active treatment produced significantly (P<0.006) greater loss of weight (X+/-s.d.,-4.0+/-3.4 kg) and fat (-2.1+/-3.0% fat) over the 8-week treatment period than did placebo (-0.8+/-2.4 kg and 0.2+/-2.3% fat). Active treatment also produced greater reductions in hip circumference and serum triglyceride levels. Eight of the 35 actively treated subjects (23%) and none of the 32 placebo-treated control subjects withdrew from the protocol because of potential treatment-related effects. Dry mouth, insomnia and headache were the adverse symptoms reported most frequently by the herbal vs placebo group at the final evaluation visit.

Conclusions: This herbal mixture of Ma Huang and Guarana effectively promoted short-term weight and fat loss. Safety with long-term use requires further investigation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Blood Pressure
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Theobromine / administration & dosage*
  • Theophylline / administration & dosage*
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Weight Loss*


  • Drug Combinations
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Triglycerides
  • guarana powder
  • Caffeine
  • Theophylline
  • Theobromine