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Ephedra is a stimulant herb generally from the stem and branches of Ephedra sinica. Many ephedra types contain the chemical ephedrine. The ephedrine in ephedra is accountable for its healing effects and also its severe safety issues. It promotes the heart, lungs, and nerve system. [1]


Ephedra is a Chinese shrub which has actually been utilized in China for medicinal purposes for a number of thousand years. The pure alkaloid ephedrine was first isolated and defined by Nagai in 1885. It was then forgotten till it was found by Chen and Schmidt in the early 1920s. Its actions on the adrenoceptors could be categorized into separate alpha and beta impacts– a specifying moment in the history of free pharmacology. Ephedrine ended up being a highly popular and effective treatment for asthma, particularly since, unlike adrenaline (till then the standard therapy), it can be provided by mouth. Ephedrine as a treatment for asthma reached its zenith in the late 1950s, because when there has been a progressive and unavoidable 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 banned in many countries, as they are a significant source for the production of the addicting compound methamphetamine (crystal meth). [2]

Physical description

Members of the genus Ephedra are low, straggling, or climbing up desert shrubs. The leaves, reduced to scales about one centimetre long, are opposite or whorled about the nodes of green branchlets. The bulk of photosynthesis takes place in the green stems. Decrease in leaf surface area may be associated with the need of lowering water loss through the process 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 occur on different plants.

Significant Species

Numerous Asian plants have actually been used as sources of the drug ephedrine. Ephedrine is prescribed for colds, to break a fever and cause sweating, and as a decongestant and is now largely made artificially. The North American species consist of plants frequently known as 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 native peoples and were used by pioneers as sources of food and medicinals, and stem fragments of species in the southwestern United States and Mexico are used in a tealike preparation understood variously as Mormon tea, Mexican tea, and desert tea. The joint pine of the eastern Mediterranean area is E. fragilis.

General includes

The majority of species of Ephedra are branched shrubs (or seldom little trees) while others are vinelike, often clambering over other plant life. Types are dispersed in dry and cool regions in both the Eastern and Western Hemisphere. In the Western Hemisphere Ephedra happens in desert areas in the southwestern United States, in part of Mexico, and in a wide area in South America. In the Eastern Hemisphere a species occurs in Kashmir at an elevation of 5,300 metres (almost 17,400 feet), the highest elevation known for any vascular plant. An Ephedra types known as ma huang has actually been a common medicine in China for thousands of years. The effective item, ephedrine, is recommended as a decongestant; the drug ephedrine is now produced synthetically.Stem fragments of Ephedra species in the southwestern United States and in Mexico are utilized in a preparation called Mormon tea, Mexican tea, or desert tea. Most of the 30 species of Gnetum are lianas that climb high into trees of tropical rainforests in main Africa, Asia, northern South America, and islands in between Australia and Asia. Some types, such as G. gnemon, are trees about 9 metres (30 feet) tall. The leaves are big, similar to those of lots of blooming plants. The seeds are eaten cooked or roasted, and young leaves likewise are eaten.The most uncommon and geographically restricted gnetophyte is Welwitschia mirabilis, which differs from any other known plant on the planet. It occurs 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 two big, irreversible, arching leaves; they split, and the tips die when they touch the hot sand. Provided the aridity of the Namib, where rainfall varies from no to 51 mm (2 inches) annually, it is unclear how the plant acquires sufficient water to fulfill its requirements. There is a taproot that might extend downward for 1.5 metres (about 5 feet) or more prior to it divides into many thin roots, which must tap a supply of water not available to other plants of the desert. [4]

Mechanism of action

The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the active constituents of Ephedra. Pseudoephedrine is used in non-prescription decongestants. Derivatives of ephedrine are used to treat low blood pressure, however options with reduced cardiovascular danger have actually changed it for dealing with asthma. Ephedrine is likewise thought about a performance-enhancing drug and is restricted in a lot of competitive sports. Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine – that is, its principal mechanism of action depends on its direct and indirect actions on the adrenergic receptor system, which is part of the supportive nerve system. Ephedrine increases post-synaptic noradrenergic receptor activity by (weakly) directly triggering post-synaptic α-receptors and β-receptors, but the bulk of its effect comes from the pre-synaptic nerve cell being not able to distinguish between genuine 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 reside at the terminal button of an afferent neuron. Ephedrine’s action as an agonist at most significant noradrenaline receptors and its ability to increase the release of both dopamine and to a lower level, serotonin by the very same mechanism is presumed to have a major role in its mechanism of action. [5]

Health benefits of ephedra:

Increases Energy Levels

The main use of ephedra in popular culture is as an energy booster, however that name can be a little misleading. Ephedra and its active substance ephedrine, promote the heart and boost blood circulation, which stimulates the body and keeps muscles fresh with blood and oxygen. This can also be dangerous, nevertheless, as it can potentially put the strain on the heart if a person is already suffering from certain heart disease.

Weight reduction

The substantial rise in appeal of ephedra is connected to its results on weight loss and exercising. When individuals are trying to find a quick way to reduce weight, even if they aren’t especially active, it provides a distinct solution. It stimulates the metabolic process, which increases fat-burning. Some people use it without any physical element, which can put additional stress on the body’s system. Nevertheless, the supplement’s appeal hasn’t subsided in particular countries, regardless of the debate.

Eliminates Fatigue

If you struggle with persistent tiredness or are someone who experiences insomnia, resulting in exhaustion the next day, an ephedra supplement can help to momentarily increase your energy levels and avoid tiredness from keeping you active and engaged with your day. This need to only be used in percentages, and not in the same way as you might rely on a daily cup of coffee.

Increases Cognition

There have been specific research studies that have actually connected ephedra to increased cognition. This is generally due to the increased blood circulation to the brain and other crucial organs, optimizing neural processing and keeping our brains “fresh”. The benefits of this drug on cognition must be stabilized against the other possible risks, and once again, need to not be a frequently taken in supplement.

Boosts Resistance

When it pertains to the common cold 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 body immune system. While this should not be utilized as a continuous preventative medicine, some people and research studies have argued that taking it in the start stages of illness can help avoid full-blown sickness or quicken recovery time.

Respiratory Health

Ephedra can assist to minimize inflammation of mucous membranes in the body, especially in the breathing system, which makes it rather effective in preventing asthmatic attacks and wheezing. By permitting clear passage of air to the lungs, it can reduce these typical respiratory conditions that impact millions of individuals.

Controls High Blood Pressure

Although the majority of people are worried about lowering their high blood pressure, there are those that struggle with hypotension, which can be just as harmful in its own way. By including ephedra to your herbal treatment program, you can successfully improve your heart health and high blood pressure. [6]

Increases metabolic rate

Several components of ephedra might impact your body, the most significant results are likely due to ephedrine. Several research studies showed that ephedrine increases resting metabolic rate– the number of calories your body burns at rest– which might be due to a boost in the number of calories burned by your muscles. One research study discovered that the variety of calories burned over 24 hours was 3.6% greater when healthy adults took ephedrine compared to when they took a place able. Another research study observed that when overweight individuals went on a very-low-calorie diet plan, their metabolic rate dropped. Nevertheless, this was partially prevented by taking ephedrine.In addition to the short-term changes in metabolic process. [3]

Types of ephedra

Ephedra gerardiana: It consists of cylindrical woody stem that is grey or greenish in colour. Nodes, internodes, scaly leaves and terminal buds exist 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 2 carpels with a single seed in each and is a succulent cone, branches slim and set 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 approximately 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 intense and recurved and lamina white in colour. A set 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, outer surface is grey to pale 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 distinct and fractured surface is fibrous in the cortex but pith consists of brownish grainy mass. The leaves are brownish to whitish-brown in colour, scaly, connate, opposite and decussate, severe, reasonable and somewhat aromatic odour and taste is astringent and bitter. [7]

The risks of the herb ephedra

After the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler more than ten years back, many concerns occurred about the safety of ephedra and the federal government’s role in regulating the herb. Bechler died of heat stroke while taking ephedra, which takes place naturally in the Chinese. The speed-like drug contains the chemical ephedrine, an amphetamine-like compound closely related to adrenaline. Athletes and typical individuals alike began taking ephedra when word began spreading about its ability to aid weight reduction and boost energy and awareness. But just because a supplement originates from natural sources doesn’t make it safe. Ephedra can trigger a quickened heartbeat and raised high blood pressure. Adverse effects include heart palpitations, nausea, and throwing up. More than 800 harmful reactions have actually been reported with use of the herb. These consist of cardiovascular disease, strokes, seizures, and sudden deaths. According to a research study in the Annals of Internal Medication, ephedra products make up just 1% of herbal supplement sales in the U.S., however they are accountable for 62% of herb-related reports to poison-control centers. The authors of one analysis concluded that supplements consisting of ephedra and ephedrine trigger modest short-term weight loss (about 2 pounds each month more than placebo). But none of the 52 trials they took a look at lasted more than 6 months, so there is no evidence to support ephedra usage for long-term weight loss. And no research studies were discovered that examined ephedra usage for boosting athletic performance. Information from 50 trials did program, nevertheless, that ephedra and ephedrine are related to 2- to 3-fold boosts in psychiatric symptoms (such as irritability and anxiety), free symptoms (jitteriness, problem sleeping), upset stomach, and heart palpitations.Study results rushed any claims that dietary supplements consisting of ephedra or ephedrine can assist with long-term weight-loss or enhance athletic performance. Even before the official FDA ban, ephedra was prohibited from the Olympics, college athletics, and by the National Football League. [8]

Dosage of ephedra

The FDA advises that ephedra items not be used 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 specify that the adult dose is 15 to 30 mg/dose, while some list the maximum dose as 300 mg/day. [9]

Possible Interactions

While no specific interactions (positive 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 related to numerous serious drug interactions. We might presume, for safety’s sake, that drugs that connect with ephedra’s active ingredients might likewise engage 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 utilized with ephedra. Ephedra might cause increased results of amphetamines on the body, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Antidepressants. Ephedra may connect with antidepressants, namely 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 may increase bleeding in sensitive individuals, such as those taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications.

High blood pressure medications. Ephedra might engage with blood pressure lowering medications, particularly clonidine. Caffeine and guarana (a caffeine consisting of herb).

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

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

When to take ephedrine?

Ephedrine treats shortness of breath briefly, wheezing due to bronchial asthma and avoids low high blood pressure during anaesthesia. Even more, it has shown results in weight reduction, reduction motion sickness and sedating effects. It is a prescription drug and ought to be taken after speaking with physician to prevent conditions like a drug overdose. [11]

Safety measures

Your doctor will inspect your progress closely while you are receiving this medication. This will allow your physician to see if the medicine is working correctly and to check for undesirable results. High blood pressure (high blood pressure) might take place after getting this medicine. It is very important that your doctor examine your high blood pressure after receiving this medicine. If you discover any modifications to your typical blood pressure, call your doctor right away.Using this medicine repeatedly may trigger a quick reduction of reaction to the drug. Do not take other medications unless they have actually been discussed with your physician. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC] medicines and organic or vitamin supplements. [12]

How Does Long Ephedra Remain In Our System?

Although ephedrine is typically reported to have an elimination half-life of 3-6 hours, there are various elements that identify its duration of results in individual users. Some people are more conscious ephedrine’s effects and feel this drug stay active in their body for a longer time period. Other people may have a tolerance to stimulants in general and not experience as significant a physiological response.Each person will metabolize ephedrine at a distinct rate depending upon aspects including body weight, body composition, gender, diet, hydration, other medications used, present health state, and more. Clearance of ephedrine can also be increased or reduced with use of other compounds including diuretics. According to Erowid, lowering the pH of urine will decrease the removal half-life of this compound. This drug has a pKa of 9.6, which is a procedure of the strength of an acid in solution. At a urinary pH of 6.3, the removal half-life of ephedrine is 6 hours, however this is reduced to 3 hours if urinary pH is decreased to 5. [13]

FDA Banned Ephedra

A 13-year tally of deaths and poisonings from ephedra reveal a magnificent decline after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of weight-loss items including the herb in 2004.

” The number of poisonings leading to major results or deaths has decreased by more than 98% because 2002. The 2004 FDA ban has actually shown to be a really effective means of restricting the availability of ephedra and therefore its prospective toxicity in the United States,” Illinois scientists report in the May 28 New England Journal of Medication.

It was the very first dietary supplement to be prohibited. “I utilized to see patients with a great deal of ephedra issues in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I have not seen one literally in ten years,” coauthor Dr. Jerrold Leikin, director of toxicology at North Coast University Health System in Evanston told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.” It’s the obliteration– you can nearly utilize that word– of this substance within a relative brief period of time– a couple of years,” he said. “It was expected, 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 studies taking a look at the result of an FDA ban on dietary supplements. It has been connected to cardiac arrest, stroke, seizure, high blood pressure, and heart rhythm issues. It was delegated the death of Baltimore Orioles pitching possibility Steve Bechler in 2003. It was especially hazardous when utilized in conjunction with caffeine. The restriction was executed in April 2004, reversed by the market in 2005 but eventually supported by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2006. Prior to the restriction, industry groups were saying the substance had actually been used by 12 million individuals. Utilizing information from the National Poison Data System, the researchers discovered that ephedra poisonings peaked at 10,326 in 2002 and after that began a considerable decline to 180 by 2013. Significant impacts, specified as hospitalization typically needing critical care, peaked the same year, at 108, one year after the system started collecting ephedra data. By 2008, such reports were down to three or fewer per year. The variety of deaths peaked later on– at 7 in 2004. There had actually been five, 3 and six 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 kind of surprised us was the near-completeness of the decline in toxicity, how it went from 8,000 to 10,000 down to actually a couple of lots calls to the toxin center,” Dr. Leikin stated. He hypothesized that the initial decreases seen right before the restriction entered into effect might have been the outcome of natural changes in the variety of poisonings and significant impacts. Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who has actually been following the dietary supplement market for years, said he was please to see proof “that action by the FDA has actually reduced the damage triggered by a natural item. “Unfortunately, said Dr. Barrett, who runs the Quackwatch.org, website, the FDA’s “capability to act rapidly and to prohibit other dangerous items has been badly crimped by the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. This awful law categorizes herbal products as dietary supplements and prevents the FDA from prohibiting them without proof that they have actually triggered deaths and/or serious injuries. That’s backwards. He said “the law ought to require that natural products sold for alleged health purposes be shown safe and reliable before marketing.” [14]

Where it can be found

The various species of Ephedra are widespread in numerous arid regions 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 one of the three living members of the division Gnetophyta together with Gnetum and Welwitschia. In temperate climates, a lot of Ephedra types grow on shores or in sandy soils with direct sun exposure. Common names in English include joint-pine, jointfir, Mormon-tea or Brigham tea. [15]


Ephedra natural items have attracted more and more attention considering that they can display complementary biological and therapeutic impacts versus diseases. Historically, Ephedra might even have actually varied and extensive at that time and the matching fossils document that Ephedra was currently present in the Early Cretaceous. Additional screening and advancement of techniques for molecular dating will be needed to clarify conflicts in between molecular signals and the fossil record. In this evaluation, we summarized the chemical elements separated and recognized by MS. Additional instrument sophistication in coupling a number of systems such as multidimensional chromatography with NMR and MS in series is currently happening. The forecast of the future for appealing methods involves the application of HPLC with ESI time of flight mass spectrometers and ESI feet ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometers. An increased emphasis on microcapillary columns with nanotechnology ESI systems driven partly by environmental issues seems unavoidable. In addition, bio-pharmacological results, such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, hepato-protective, antioxidant, and antimicrobial activities, have been well discussed. The relationship between the Ephedra natural products structure and its pharmacological activity needs to be further studied. In this context, the systems of action of phytochemical Ephedra content can provide assistance 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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