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Ephedra is a stimulant herb generally from the stem and branches of Ephedra sinica. Most ephedra types include the chemical ephedrine. The ephedrine in ephedra is responsible for its restorative results and likewise its major safety issues. It promotes the heart, lungs, and nervous system. [1]


Ephedra is a Chinese shrub which has actually been utilized in China for medical purposes for several thousand years. The pure alkaloid ephedrine was first isolated and characterized by Nagai in 1885. It was then forgotten till it was discovered by Chen and Schmidt in the early 1920s. Its actions on the adrenoceptors could be classified into separate alpha and beta effects– a specifying moment in the history of free pharmacology. Ephedrine ended up being an extremely popular and reliable treatment for asthma, particularly because, unlike adrenaline (till then the basic treatment), it can be offered by mouth. Ephedrine as a treatment for asthma reached its zenith in the late 1950s, because when there has actually been a progressive and inevitable decline in its healing use. From mainstream medicine, ephedrine moved into the twilight zone of street drugs and nutritional supplements. Ephedra and ephedrine products are now prohibited in many nations, as they are a significant source for the production of the addictive compound methamphetamine (crystal meth). [2]

Physical description

Members of the genus Ephedra are low, straggling, or climbing desert shrubs. The leaves, lowered to scales about one centimetre long, are opposite or whorled about the nodes of green branchlets. The bulk of photosynthesis occurs in the green stems. Decrease in leaf surface might be connected to the necessity of lowering water loss through the procedure of transpiration, a requirement for existence in a desert environment. Some types may have both microstrobili (male cones) and megastrobili (female cones) on the very same plant, though they more frequently happen on separate plants.

Significant Types

Various Asian plants have been utilized as sources of the drug ephedrine. Ephedrine is prescribed for colds, to break a fever and induce sweating, and as a decongestant and is now mostly produced synthetically. The North American types include plants typically called joint firs and Mormon tea, including green Mormon tea (E. viridis), California joint fir (E. californica), Nevada joint fir (E. nevadensis), rough joint fir (E. aspera), and Torrey’s Mormon tea (E. torreyana). The plants have been used by indigenous peoples and were utilized by pioneers as sources of food and medicinals, and stem pieces of species in the southwestern United States and Mexico are used in a tealike preparation understood otherwise as Mormon tea, Mexican tea, and desert tea. The joint pine of the eastern Mediterranean area is E. fragilis.

General features

The majority of species of Ephedra are branched shrubs (or seldom small trees) while others are vinelike, frequently climbing over other greenery. Types are distributed in dry and cool regions in both the Eastern and Western Hemisphere. In the Western Hemisphere Ephedra takes place in desert locations in the southwestern United States, in part of Mexico, and in a large location in South America. In the Eastern Hemisphere a types occurs in Kashmir at an elevation of 5,300 metres (nearly 17,400 feet), the greatest elevation understood for any vascular plant. An Ephedra species referred to as ma huang has actually been a common medication in China for thousands of years. The efficient item, ephedrine, is prescribed as a decongestant; the drug ephedrine is now manufactured synthetically.Stem pieces of Ephedra types in the southwestern United States and in Mexico are utilized in a preparation known as Mormon tea, Mexican tea, or desert tea. The majority of the 30 species of Gnetum are lianas that climb high into trees of tropical rainforests in central Africa, Asia, northern South America, and islands in between Australia and Asia. Some species, such as G. gnemon, are trees about 9 metres (30 feet) high. The leaves are large, much like those of lots of flowering plants. The seeds are eaten prepared or roasted, and young leaves likewise are eaten.The most unusual and geographically limited gnetophyte is Welwitschia mirabilis, which is unlike any other known plant on the planet. It takes place in the Namib, a desert of southwestern Africa near the coast of Angola and Namibia, along with inland to about 150 km (more than 90 miles). The plant has just 2 large, permanent, arching leaves; they split, and the tips die when they touch the hot sand. Given the aridity of the Namib, where rainfall varies from absolutely no to 51 mm (2 inches) per year, it is unclear how the plant acquires adequate water to satisfy its requirements. There is a taproot that might extend downward for 1.5 metres (about 5 feet) or more before it divides into many thin roots, which must tap a supply of water not readily available to other plants of the desert. [4]

System of action

The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the active constituents of Ephedra. Pseudoephedrine is used in non-prescription decongestants. Derivatives of ephedrine are utilized to treat low high blood pressure, however alternatives with reduced cardiovascular danger have actually replaced it for treating asthma. Ephedrine is likewise thought about a performance-enhancing drug and is forbidden in most competitive sports. Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine – that is, its primary system of action counts on its direct and indirect actions on the adrenergic receptor system, which is part of the understanding nervous system. Ephedrine increases post-synaptic noradrenergic receptor activity by (weakly) directly activating post-synaptic α-receptors and β-receptors, however the bulk of its impact originates from the pre-synaptic neuron being unable to distinguish between real adrenaline or noradrenaline from ephedrine. The ephedrine, mixed with noradrenaline, is transported through the noradrenaline reuptake complex and packaged (together with real noradrenaline) into vesicles that live at the terminal button of an afferent neuron. Ephedrine’s action as an agonist at most significant noradrenaline receptors and its capability to increase the release of both dopamine and to a lower level, serotonin by the very same system is presumed to have a major role in its system of action. [5]

Health benefits of ephedra:

Enhances Energy Levels

The primary use of ephedra in pop culture is as an energy booster, but that name can be slightly misleading. Ephedra and its active compound ephedrine, promote the heart and increase blood circulation, which stimulates the body and keeps muscles fresh with blood and oxygen. This can also threaten, however, as it can possibly put the stress on the heart if a person is already struggling with specific heart conditions.


The substantial increase in appeal of ephedra is related to its results on weight-loss and working out. When individuals are looking for a fast method to slim down, even if they aren’t especially active, it provides a special solution. It promotes the metabolic process, which increases fat-burning. Some individuals use it with no physical element, which can put extra stress on the body’s system. Nevertheless, the supplement’s popularity hasn’t waned in particular countries, in spite of the controversy.

Eliminates Fatigue

If you suffer from persistent tiredness or are somebody who experiences insomnia, leading to exhaustion the next day, an ephedra supplement can help to briefly increase your energy levels and prevent tiredness from keeping you active and engaged with your day. This need to only be used in small amounts, and not in the same way as you might rely on an everyday cup of coffee.

Boosts Cognition

There have been specific studies that have actually linked ephedra to increased cognition. This is generally due to the increased blood flow to the brain and other essential organs, optimizing neural processing and keeping our brains “fresh”. The benefits of this drug on cognition must be stabilized versus the other potential threats, and once again, should not be a regularly taken in supplement.

Enhances Immunity

When it pertains to the acute rhinitis and the influenza, a treatment constantly appears to be just out of reach. There are specific steroidal residential or commercial properties to ephedra that make it an effective booster for the immune system. While this should not be used as a consistent preventative medicine, some individuals and research studies have actually argued that taking it in the start stages of health problem can help prevent full-blown illness or quicken healing time.

Breathing Health

Ephedra can assist to decrease swelling of mucous membranes in the body, particularly in the respiratory tract, that makes it rather effective in avoiding asthmatic attacks and wheezing. By permitting clear passage of air to the lungs, it can ease these typical respiratory conditions that affect countless individuals.

Controls High Blood Pressure

Although most people are worried about lowering their blood pressure, there are those that struggle with hypotension, which can be just as hazardous in its own method. By including ephedra to your organic solution program, you can successfully increase your heart health and blood pressure. [6]

Enhances metabolic rate

Several elements of ephedra may affect your body, the most notable effects are most likely due to ephedrine. A number of research studies revealed that ephedrine increases resting metabolic rate– the number of calories your body burns at rest– which might be due to a boost in the variety of calories burned by your muscles. One study found that the variety of calories burned over 24 hours was 3.6% higher when healthy grownups took ephedrine compared to when they took a place able. Another research study observed that when overweight people went on a very-low-calorie diet plan, their metabolic rate dropped. Nevertheless, this was partially avoided by taking ephedrine.In addition to the short-term changes in metabolism. [3]

Types of ephedra

Ephedra gerardiana: It consists of round woody stem that is grey or greenish in colour. Nodes, internodes, flaky leaves and terminal buds are present in the stems. The range in between the internodes is 3– 4 cm and the nodes bare the flaky leaves. They are bitter in taste. The plant has endurances and pistils on different flowers; staminate flowers in catkins and a membraneous perianth, pistillate flowers terminal on axillary stalks, within a two-leaved involucre. Fruit has two carpels with a single seed in each and is a succulent cone, branches slender and put up, small leaves, scale-like, articulated and signed up with at the base into a sheath.

Ephedra sinica: Density of the stem is 4– 7 mm branches are 1– 2 mm. Length up to 30 cm of branches and 3– 6 cm of internodes. The primary stem is brown in colour. Leaves are 2– 4 mm long, opposite, decussate and subulate. Leaf, base is reddish-brown, peak severe and recurved and lamina white in colour. A pair of sheathing leaves present at the nodes, encircling the stem and fused at the base,.

Ephedra equisetina: Stems are woodier and more branched 1.5– 2 mm. Length 25– 200 cm of branches and 1– 2.5 cm of internodes, external surface is grey to fade green and smooth.

Ephedra nebrodensis: The stems are 15– 35 cm in length; 1– 2 mm thick, cylindrical, greenish-yellow in colour, nodes are brownish and unique and fractured surface is fibrous in the cortex but pith contains brownish powdery mass. The leaves are brownish to whitish-brown in colour, scaly, connate, opposite and decussate, acute, acceptable and somewhat fragrant odour and taste is astringent and bitter. [7]

The threats of the herb ephedra

After the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler more than 10 years ago, numerous concerns developed about the security of ephedra and the federal government’s function in managing the herb. Bechler died of heat stroke while taking ephedra, which happens naturally in the Chinese. The speed-like drug contains the chemical ephedrine, an amphetamine-like substance closely related to adrenaline. Athletes and typical people alike began taking ephedra when word started spreading out about its ability to assist weight loss and increase energy and alertness. However just because a supplement originates from natural sources doesn’t make it safe. Ephedra can cause a sped up heartbeat and elevated blood pressure. Negative effects include heart palpitations, queasiness, and throwing up. More than 800 harmful responses have been reported with use of the herb. These include cardiac arrest, strokes, seizures, and sudden deaths. According to a research study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ephedra items comprise only 1% of natural supplement sales in the U.S., but they are accountable for 62% of herb-related reports to poison-control centers. The authors of one analysis concluded that supplements including ephedra and ephedrine trigger modest short-term weight-loss (about 2 pounds monthly more than placebo). But none of the 52 trials they looked at lasted more than six months, so there is no proof to support ephedra use for long-lasting weight loss. And no studies were discovered that examined ephedra usage for enhancing athletic performance. Information from 50 trials did program, nevertheless, that ephedra and ephedrine are connected with 2- to 3-fold increases in psychiatric symptoms (such as irritation and stress and anxiety), free symptoms (jitteriness, problem sleeping), upset stomach, and heart palpitations.Study results rushed any claims that dietary supplements containing ephedra or ephedrine can aid with long-lasting weight reduction or boost athletic efficiency. Even before the official FDA restriction, ephedra was prohibited from the Olympics, college sports, and by the National Football League. [8]

Dose of ephedra

The FDA recommends that ephedra items not be utilized for longer than 7 days and dosages need to not be more than 8 mg of ephedrine every 6 hours, or 24 mg/day. Other sources state that the adult dosage is 15 to 30 mg/dose, while some list the maximum dose as 300 mg/day. [9]

Possible Interactions

While no specific interactions (favorable or unfavorable) in between the herb ephedra and conventional medications have actually been reported, the active ingredients of ephedra, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine have actually been associated with several major drug interactions. We might assume, for safety’s sake, that drugs that engage with ephedra’s active ingredients might likewise communicate with the herb ephedra. Medications for which there are well documented interactions with ephedra’s active components consist of, but are not limited to:.

Amphetamine and amphetamine derivatives. Amphetamine and amphetamine derivatives (such as dextroamphetamine, in some cases utilized for attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy) ought to not be used with ephedra. Ephedra might cause increased effects of amphetamines on the body, such as increased heart rate and high blood pressure.

Antidepressants. Ephedra might engage with antidepressants, specifically those in the class of tricyclics (such as clomipramine, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, and nortriptyline) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs, consisting of phenelzine and trancylcypromine).

Aspirin and blood-thinning medications. Ephedra might increase bleeding in delicate people, such as those taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications.

High blood pressure medications. Ephedra may connect with blood pressure lowering medications, particularly clonidine. Caffeine and guarana (a caffeine including herb).

Narcotics. Ephedra may communicate with narcotics prescribed for discomfort, such as morphine and codeine; codeine may likewise be prescribed for cough.

Theophylline. Ephedra may connect with theophylline (utilized for asthma). [10]

When to take ephedrine?

Ephedrine deals with shortness of breath briefly, wheezing due to bronchial asthma and prevents low blood pressure during anaesthesia. Further, it has actually proven impacts in weight-loss, decrease motion sickness and sedating effects. It is a prescription drug and should be taken after consulting medical professionals to prevent conditions like a drug overdose. [11]

Preventative measures

Your physician will inspect your progress closely while you are receiving this medication. This will allow your doctor to see if the medication is working correctly and to check for unwanted impacts. Hypertension (high blood pressure) may take place after receiving this medicine. It is really crucial that your doctor check your high blood pressure after receiving this medicine. If you notice any changes to your typical blood pressure, call your doctor right away.Using this medication repeatedly might cause a quick decline of reaction to the drug. Do not take other medications unless they have actually been talked about with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over the counter [OTC] medications and herbal or vitamin supplements. [12]

How Does Long Ephedra Remain In Our System?

Although ephedrine is frequently reported to have a removal half-life of 3-6 hours, there are numerous aspects that determine its period of results in specific users. Some individuals are more sensitive to ephedrine’s effects and feel this drug remain active in their body for a longer amount of time. Other people may have a tolerance to stimulants in general and not experience as substantial a physiological response.Each individual will metabolize ephedrine at an unique rate depending on elements consisting of body weight, body composition, gender, diet, hydration, other medications used, current health state, and more. Clearance of ephedrine can likewise be increased or decreased with use of other substances consisting of diuretics. According to Erowid, decreasing the pH of urine will reduce the elimination half-life of this substance. This drug has a pKa of 9.6, which is a step of the strength of an acid in solution. At a urinary pH of 6.3, the elimination half-life of ephedrine is 6 hours, but this is reduced to 3 hours if urinary pH is reduced to 5. [13]

FDA Banned Ephedra

A 13-year tally of deaths and poisonings from ephedra show a magnificent decrease after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of weight-loss products containing the herb in 2004.

” The variety of poisonings resulting in significant effects or deaths has decreased by more than 98% since 2002. The 2004 FDA restriction has actually shown to be a really efficient means of limiting the schedule of ephedra and therefore its potential toxicity in the United States,” Illinois researchers report in the May 28 New England Journal of Medicine.

It was the very first dietary supplement to be prohibited. “I used to see patients with a great deal of ephedra problems in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I haven’t seen one actually in ten years,” coauthor Dr. Jerrold Leikin, director of toxicology at North Shore University Health System in Evanston informed Reuters Health in a telephone interview.” It’s the elimination– you can nearly utilize that word– of this substance within a relative brief period of time– a few years,” he stated. “It was anticipated, but the extent is rather unexpected. And remember, this was not a drug. This was an over the counter dietary supplement. There’s been very few research studies looking at the result of an FDA restriction on dietary supplements. It has been linked to cardiac arrest, stroke, seizure, high blood pressure, and heart rhythm problems. It was held responsible for the death of Baltimore Orioles pitching possibility Steve Bechler in 2003. It was especially harmful when utilized in conjunction with caffeine. The restriction was executed in April 2004, overturned by the market in 2005 however ultimately maintained by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2006. Prior to the restriction, market groups were stating the compound had been utilized by 12 million individuals. Using information from the National Toxin Data System, the researchers discovered that ephedra poisonings peaked at 10,326 in 2002 and after that began a significant decline to 180 by 2013. Major impacts, specified as hospitalization typically needing critical care, peaked the same year, at 108, one year after the system began gathering ephedra information. By 2008, such reports were down to three or less per year. The number of deaths peaked later– at seven in 2004. There had actually been five, 3 and 6 the previous years. After the ban, there was one death in 2005 and 2007. There were none in 2006 and in the years after 2007.” What sort of shocked us was the near-completeness of the decrease in toxicity, how it went from 8,000 to 10,000 to literally a couple of lots calls to the toxin center,” Dr. Leikin said. He speculated that the preliminary decreases seen prior to the restriction entered into impact could have been the outcome of natural fluctuations in the variety of poisonings and major effects. Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who has been following the dietary supplement market for years, said he was please to see proof “that action by the FDA has minimized the harm brought on by a herbal product. “Regrettably, stated Dr. Barrett, who runs the Quackwatch.org, website, the FDA’s “ability to act rapidly and to prohibit other harmful products has actually been severely crimped by the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. This awful law categorizes organic products as dietary supplements and prevents the FDA from prohibiting them without evidence that they have triggered deaths and/or severe injuries. That’s in reverse. He said “the law needs to require that organic products sold for alleged health purposes be proven safe and efficient before marketing.” [14]

Where it can be discovered

The various species of Ephedra are widespread in many deserts of the world, ranging across southwestern The United States and Canada, southern Europe, north Africa, southwest and main Asia, northern China and western South America. It is the only extant genus in its household, Ephedraceae, and order, Ephedrales, and among the 3 living members of the division Gnetophyta along with Gnetum and Welwitschia. In temperate climates, most Ephedra species grow on shores or in sandy soils with direct sun exposure. Typical names in English consist of joint-pine, jointfir, Mormon-tea or Brigham tea. [15]


Ephedra natural products have attracted more and more attention because they can display complementary biological and healing impacts versus diseases. Historically, Ephedra might even have actually been diverse and extensive at that time and the matching fossils document that Ephedra was currently present in the Early Cretaceous. More testing and advancement of methods for molecular dating will be needed to clarify conflicts between molecular signals and the fossil record. In this evaluation, we summed up the chemical parts isolated and identified by MS. Additional instrument sophistication in coupling numerous systems such as multidimensional chromatography with NMR and MS in series is already taking place. The prediction of the future for promising methods involves the application of HPLC with ESI time of flight mass spectrometers and ESI FT ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometers. An increased emphasis on microcapillary columns with nanotechnology ESI systems driven partially by environmental issues appears unavoidable. In addition, bio-pharmacological impacts, such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, hepato-protective, antioxidant, and antimicrobial activities, have actually been well gone over. The relationship in between the Ephedra natural products structure and its medicinal activity requires to be further studied. In this context, the mechanisms of action of phytochemical Ephedra content can offer guidance for its clinical application. [16]


  1. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-847/ephedra
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21365072/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ephedra-sinica
  4. https://www.britannica.com/plant/Ephedra
  5. https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB01363
  6. https://www.organicfacts.net/ephedra.html
  7. https://www.pharmacy180.com/article/ephedra-161/
  8. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dangers-of-the-herb-ephedra
  9. https://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/pharmacy/marapr2003/ephedra.htm
  10. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/ephedra
  11. https://www.yashodahospitals.com/medicine-faqs/ephedrine/
  12. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/ephedrine-intravenous-route/precautions/drg-20406071
  13. https://nootriment.com/how-long-does-ephedrine-last/
  14. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fda-ephedra-idUSKBN0OC2SR20150527
  15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephedra_( plant)
  16. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2020/1540638/#conclusion
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