Ephedra: Should it be Banned?

Ephedra: Should it be Banned?
By: Wendy Ray

A controversial herbal supplement is under fire again, this time by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. The Illinois Senator is calling for a statewide ban of ephedra. Senator Durbin has been working to remove ephedra from shelves for a while now, but the recent death of an Illinois teenager after taking a product called "yellow jackets" has the Belleville democrat taking new aim at the potentially dangerous supplement.

Ephedra, the herbal supplement also known as ma-huang, claims to help you burn fat and boost energy, but Durbin says those claims aren't enough to risk your health. "We're going to err on the side of protecting so we don't have more high school players, baseball players, women who think they're going to lose weight. We're going to err on them and unfortunately the government hasn't done anything about that," he says.

Durbin says products containing ephedra are part of a slick marketing campaign, tempting teens to buy. He adds the unregulated sale of supplements at gas stations and convenience stores make ephedra easier for teens to buy than cigarettes.

But not everyone agrees with Durbin. Bill Oploh lives in southern Illinois. He says it's not the Senator's call to make. "Ephedra, we know it's bad for you, so I know not to take it. I don't think I need the government involved in every facet of my life," Oploh says.

Others feel the blame shouldn't necessarily fall on the supplements' makers. Carbondale resident Toby Thomas says, "If you do decide to take supplements make sure you read it and you're taking it right so it won't harm your body." While Carbondale resident Sarah Wortel says, "If you're going to take it I say you need your doctor's consent. Know the limit because people can die from it."

Bills banning the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra or ephedrine alkaloids have been passed by the Illinois House Judiciary Committee. They'll be considered by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week.