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B. Before You Take That Pill, Read The Label

Narrator: This is Science Today. Ephedrine is an amphetamine-like compound long used for asthma and allergies. But toxicologist Christine Haller of the University of California, San Francisco says there's a big market nowadays for an herbal form of the stimulant called ma huang, which is used in weight loss and energy boosting products.

Haller: Because the product is labeled as an herbal or natural remedy, that doesn't mean it's necessarily good for you and that it's without side effects because many products actually have active ingredients that either simulate a drug or contain an active drug in them and certainly some of them are not going to hurt you at all. But they may prevent you from seeking medical attention for something that really needs a doctor's intervention.

Narrator: Haller says it's especially dangerous for athletes since ephedrine is a known stimulant to the nervous system and heart.

Haller: Although we don't have any hard data to support it, in theory it doesn't make good sense to be using products that stimulate the heart and blood pressure during a time when exercise is doing that as well.

Narrator: For Science Today. I'm Larissa Branin.