The long, fibrous filaments on an ear of corn are cornsilk. As an herbal preparation, it is dried into powder and placed in capsules.
Cornsilk does not affect fat loss but is a natural diuretic to help rid the body of excess water. The Chinese use it to reduce swelling (edema) caused by kidney disease. In one study of twelve kidney patients taking 2 ounces of cornsilk twice a day, edema completely disappeared in nine of the subjects.
Cornsilk is a harmless herb.
Cranberry supplements are made from the familiar red berries of an evergreen native to North America. The juice of the berries is dried into a powder or concentrated as an extract, and put into capsules or tablets.
This powder is a filler in some natural weight-loss supplements, probably because cranberry is somewhat diuretic and able to prevent water retention. The diuretic component of cranberry is a natural chemical called arbutin. Arbutin is also an antibiotic and the active ingredient that fights urinary tract infections.
Cranberry is considered very safe.
Dandelion the stubborn weed that pops up in your lawn every spring is actually a healthful herb packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and various minerals, particularly potassium.
Its ground roots and leaves are used in herbal medicine for a variety of ailments, including water retention. Studies have confirmed its power as a diuretic a safe one, too, since the herb's high potassium content replaces any potassium lost in the urine. Also, dandelion is thought to be an herbal lipotropic, although no evidence exists to support this claim.
Dandelion is considered very safe.
Ephedra is a plant that contains ephedrine alkaloids, stimulant compounds that act on the appetite control center of the brain to suppress appetite. Ephedrine also stimulates the heart and central nervous system much as amphetamines do. Dietary supplements containing ephedrine are sold as weight-loss agents, energy boosters, and bodybuilding aids. Cold remedies also contain ephedrine. Ephedra goes by other names as well: ma huang, Mormon tea, Brigham tea, and popotillo.
The caffeine/ephedrine/aspirin stack may be risky, however, since ephedrine has so many troublesome side effects. Caffeine may aggravate certain health problems, such as ulcers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and anemia, to name just a few. Aspirin can upset your stomach.
Ephedrine often produces adverse reactions, including sleeplessness, anxiety, and nervousness. It can make the heart race and blood pressure soar. Because of these effects, people with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or diabetes should stay away from it.
When abused, ephedra and ephedrine can be lethal. In 1993, neurologists from the University of New Mexico reported that ephedrine had caused strokes in three people who had exceeded the recommended dosages.
In June 1997, in an attempt to curb the health problems associated with ephedra and supplements containing it, the FDA proposed safety measures that would result in marketing and label changes. The proposal would forbid the marketing of dietary supplements containing 8 mg or more of ephedrine alkaloids per serving. Also, a total daily intake of 24 mg or more would not be allowed. Labels would instruct consumers to not take the product for more than seven days. A warning would appear on labels, too: "Taking more than the recommended serving may result in heart attack, stroke, seizure, or death."
Also proposed was a ban on formulating products containing ephe-drine plus other stimulant products such as herbal sources of caffeine. Such combinations increase the stimulant effects of ephedrine and the chance of serious side effects. (Manufacturers of over-the-counter cold and flu medications that contain ephedrine and the less potent pseudoephedrine would not be affected by these regulations.)
Since 1994, the FDA has received and investigated more than 800 complaints of health problems associated with the use of ephedrine-containing products. Among the most serious: heart attacks, stroke, and death. Most occurred in young-to-middle-aged, otherwise healthy adults using the products for weight control and increased energy. Clearly, the risks of supplementing with ephedra products outweigh any benefits.