Evaluation of the stimulant content of dietary supplements marketed as "ephedra-free"

J Herb Pharmacother. 2007;7(1):65-72.


Background: With the removal of stimulant herb ephedra from the market, dietary supplement manufacturers are coming out with many ephedra-free products. Some of these products appear to simply replace ephedra with stimulants by another name.

Objective: To determine the stimulant content of dietary supplements marketed as ephedra-free.

Design: Survey of the ingredients of dietary supplements that are stated as "ephedra-free" in the label or promotional material.

Results: Out of 36 products marketed as ephedra-free, 32 (89%) contained a methylxanthine such as caffeine or theobromine, 21 (58%) contained the stimulant synephrine, and 20 (56%) contained both a methylxanthine and synephrine.

Limitations: The results of this evaluation pertain only to products discovered through Internet and database searching.

Conclusions: Most dietary supplement makers have substituted stimulants by a different name for ephedra in their "ephedra-free" products. Patients need to be advised that ephedra-free products are not necessarily stimulant free and may present a significant risk.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / analysis
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / analysis*
  • Caffeine / analysis
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / analysis
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis*
  • Drug Labeling / standards
  • Drug and Narcotic Control
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / analysis*
  • Ephedrine / analysis
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Phytotherapy / standards*
  • Plant Preparations / chemistry


  • Alkaloids
  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Plant Preparations
  • Caffeine
  • Ephedrine