Ephreda Ban

The herbal substance is used world-wide for weight loss and energy. But it's also potentially deadly.

For some time, it was sold everywhere here in Wilmington. And, in some places, it still is.

Once called a "wonder drug" by dieters, weight lifters, and athletes -- Ephedra will be flying off the shelves and into the waste basket -- soon to be banned in the U-S.

Tommy Thompson -- "this action tells consumers, the time to stop using these supplement is now."

Ephedra works by speeding up the body's metabolism. But the F-D-A says it can be dangerous. It's been linked to heart problems, strokes, seizures, psychiatric problems, even death.

The local smoothie stores like Phuza Juice once added Ephedra to drinks, but stopped after the supplement led to the death of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher earlier this year.

Local stores and gyms, like G-N-C and the Wilmington Athletic Club also pulled it from their shelves.

AWilmington Athletic Club spokesperson said " there are plenty of places, namely gas stations like this one, where we and everyone else are still able to buy the dietary supplement over the counter -- like this form of it: the popular fat burner called "stacker 2."

The website, vita-digest-dot-com, also had plenty for sale. But no "easy-to-see" warnings of the possible side-affects.

Makers of Ephedra-based supplements say the drug is safe. Several already have begun filing lawsuits, trying to block the government ban, which will take affect this spring.

Reported by Aaron Saykin-- asaykin@wect.com