The forgotten legend of ECA Stack

ECA Stack ­- what happened to the legendary ephedra?        

ECA Stack is an umbrella name for products consisting of three strictly defined components, i.e.

Ephedrine (E – ephedrine)

Caffeine (C – caffeine)

Aspirin (A – aspirine)

occurring in different proportions, but always in the same combination!

The above systematisation is done in order to clarify any doubts about what the article is talking about and what it describes and what it does not describe.

Specifically, we are referring to the countless number of incandescents pretending to contain ephedra, insinuating that they contain ephedra, but in fact do not. We are talking about all products with names such as “EphedraMax, Ephedrinox, ECAStock” and other fanciful monsters of Polish word creation. They are not the subject of the following article, as we have no idea what may be in them.

Where does ephedra come from on our Polish tables?

Before we grab for a revision of the PRL pharmacopoeia, let’s go all the way back to the very roots of this equally miraculous and demonised agent – ephedra. The earliest records known to us document a history of its use as far back as the 1st – 2nd millennium BC. It was then known in Chinese medicine as ‘má huáng’. More precisely, it is the name of the plant from which the Chinese medicine men of the time obtained a medicinal extract, the vast majority of which consisted of what we would call ephedrine today.

Má huáng leaf extract has been used in the symptomatic treatment of all kinds of complaints related to the respiratory system, from dyspnoea to expectoration problems and sinus congestion.

This peculiar miracle of nature has survived in folk medicine and herbalism for four millennia, and throughout this time it has enjoyed an unblemished reputation. Centuries have passed, dynasties have fallen, famine, war and plague have passed; there would have been no indication that ephedra’s position and perception could be affected in any way, but then

US declares war on obesity.

It is well known that when the US goes to war, anything that stands in their way will suffer, leaving aside, of course, the original purpose of the expedition. Prohibition in the 1920s, or the introduction of democracy in the Middle East over 20 years ago, seem to be the best proofs of this claim.

This time the ephedra hit.

It was originally intended as a remedy for the galloping obesity epidemic, where, according to various estimates, up to 50% of the population struggled with obesity (we are talking about the 1980s and 1990s!).

Ephedra turned out to be a preparation that ‘actually’ worked, its advertising in the media, pharmacies and even prescription by doctors themselves was viewed very positively and no one realised the real reasons for the drug’s popularity. Weight loss was undoubtedly one of the more attractive effects of taking ephedra, but what made the American public love ephedra so much turned out to be…

The crazy 1980s of North America

The economic boom, the emergence and growth on a hitherto unknown scale of stock exchanges and the large-scale war on cocaine – although humorous, it is still a fairly good description of the 1980s in a country across the great ocean.

With such a galloping economy, the latter in particular has been an incredibly severe blow to virtually everyone, from schoolchildren and housewives to stockbrokers on Wall Street.

Thirsty for endless stimulation of the senses, abilities, development, society required a constant supply of resources to maintain an adequate pace of life.

The universe abhors a vacuum, so the place of demonised cocaine gradually began to be taken by amphetamine and ephedrine, which were almost equated with each other throughout the battle fought.

But how did this happen?

As previously mentioned, once ephedrine was introduced on the market, its fan base was not limited to the obese and those with breathing difficulties. Indeed, it was joined by athletes, stockbrokers and partying teenagers.

Effects for which ephedra has been widely praised by users include.

-increased energy levels

-Lower wellbeing

-Hunger/craving limitation

-Faster focus

-Reduction of sinusitis

-Loss of weight

The problem with ephedrine, unfortunately, is that resistance to its effects (tolerance) develops incredibly quickly; definitely disproportionately fast to all other agents in this class. In a gross simplification and generalisation, it can be said that:

An effective dose of 15 mg of ephedrine,     effective on the first day, resulting in a high level of                                       stimulation and significant appetite suppression,                                              will be imperceptible after a week of use                                                              ; in fact, taking it will be “necessary” to                                                          avoid the natural “rebound” phenomenon accompanying any                           “marathon” of stimulant intake.

The average ephedrine adept of the time, unable to afford the effects of the so-called ‘down’, i.e. bad mood, low energy levels or lack of motivation; consistently increased his dosage intake.

Sola dosis facit venenum

Ephedrine is unique in comparison to other stimulants in that, unlike most, there is a dose (around 60mg on average) which is the extreme dose of tolerance, i.e. the maximum effective dose for which tolerance cannot be “beaten” with a higher dose.

The results of doses higher than 60 mg are therefore



-Several gastrointestinal symptoms



In the case of recreational use of ephedra, whether for sport or habitual daily use as a guarantee of wellbeing, it was tolerance that proved to be an insurmountable ‘wall’ after time.

Of course, tolerance is not permanent, and it can be combated in the short term with a stronger drug, such as the equally popular Adderal or Desoxyn (amphetamine and methamphetamine, respectively), or by maintaining temporary abstinence, as the tolerance developed in the absence of the abused substance gradually disappears.

The destructive side of stimulants

The physical deprivation caused by ephedrine does not appear to be as lethal as the social, moral and psychological repercussions resulting from its use; more specifically, from its use without restraint, without reason, without awareness of the danger.

For those without experience of dealing with stimulant addicts; in particular, not being in a relationship with such people, the destructive impact of addiction is difficult to describe.

After all, a momentary lowering of mood or irritability seems to be relatively acceptable. And this is indeed the case in the majority of cases; after all, family or relationship breakdowns do not occur because of incidental quarrels or a lack of understanding for the tiredness of a partner or roommate.

The situation is quite different when these are not incidental events, but a regularly recurring scenario. Then the situation becomes predictable and the lack of benefit from marathons of momentary euphoria from one of the co-parent or partner, followed by a period of languor, grief and aggression; is unbearable in the long run. Only then are we able to see and appreciate the hell of stimulants in their full glory.

Bring out the Guns of Navarona!

The US government, which upholds morality and the rule of law, could no longer stand by and watch the degeneration of society, so it brought out the heaviest cannon at its disposal; known to the general public as Prohibition.

Nothing was unjustified, contrary to the common European rhetoric of ‘banned because it’s banned’, the US government added ephedrine to the list of banned substances as a doping agent in 1997 and, adding to the existing scientific literature on its harmfulness in sport, looked into the issue of its recreational use. Two documented cases of consent caused by excessive use of ephedrine and more than a dozen police records were enough evidence to land ephedrine on the FDA’s list of controlled substances in 2004.

A picture of a battlefield

It is hard to deny the validity of the prohibition described above. Indeed, there has been a noticeable decrease in accidental deaths in sport at the amateur level, or in cases of ephedrine-related addiction. Overall, the impact of ephedra on society has drastically decreased after 2004 to a marginal level.

It is a mystery as to whether the range of problems that caused such a diverse group of people to turn to ephedrine disappeared with its ‘ban’, or whether they found an outlet in other substances that proliferated like mushrooms as a result of the ephedrine ban. Substances such as:




And a number of other similar ones available (more or less legally) on the market.

We are not inclined to pass judgment on the validity of banning the various substances described on this website, however, given the number and severity of incidents involving so-called ‘research chemicals’, which include most of the currently popular ‘new’ combustibles, we are prepared to hazard a guess that…

“Better was the devil we knew than the one we did not yet know”.