Ephedra is a stimulant herb usually from the stem and branches of Ephedra sinica. Most ephedra types consist of the chemical ephedrine. The ephedrine in ephedra is accountable for its healing impacts and likewise its major safety issues. It promotes the heart, lungs, and nervous system. [1]


Ephedra is a Chinese shrub which has been used in China for medicinal functions for several thousand years. The pure alkaloid ephedrine was first separated and characterized by Nagai in 1885. It was then forgotten till it was uncovered by Chen and Schmidt in the early 1920s. Its actions on the adrenoceptors could be classified into different alpha and beta impacts– a defining moment in the history of free pharmacology. Ephedrine ended up being an extremely popular and efficient treatment for asthma, especially due to the fact that, unlike adrenaline (until then the standard treatment), it can be provided by mouth. Ephedrine as a treatment for asthma reached its zenith in the late 1950s, considering that when there has actually been a steady and inevitable decline in its therapeutic use. From mainstream medication, ephedrine moved into the twilight zone of street drugs and nutritional supplements. Ephedra and ephedrine products are now banned in lots of countries, as they are a major source for the production of the addicting compound methamphetamine (crystal meth). [2]

Physical description

Members of the genus Ephedra are low, straggling, or climbing 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 happens in the green stems. Reduction in leaf surface may be connected to the necessity of decreasing water loss through the procedure of transpiration, a requirement for presence in a desert environment. Some types may have both microstrobili (male cones) and megastrobili (female cones) on the same plant, though they more typically happen on different plants.

Significant Types

Various Asian plants have actually 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 mainly produced synthetically. The North American types consist of plants typically referred to 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 indigenous individuals and were utilized by leaders as sources of food and medicinals, and stem pieces of types in the southwestern United States and Mexico are used in a tealike preparation known 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 hardly ever small trees) while others are vinelike, often clambering over other plants. Types are distributed in dry and cool regions in both the Eastern and Western Hemisphere. In the Western Hemisphere Ephedra happens 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 takes place in Kashmir at an elevation of 5,300 metres (almost 17,400 feet), the greatest altitude understood for any vascular plant. An Ephedra types called ma huang has actually been a common medicine in China for thousands of years. The reliable product, ephedrine, is prescribed as a decongestant; the drug ephedrine is now produced synthetically.Stem fragments of Ephedra types in the southwestern United States and in Mexico are used in a preparation known as Mormon tea, Mexican tea, or desert tea. The majority of the 30 species of Gnetum are lianas that climb up high into trees of tropical jungles 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, just like those of numerous blooming plants. The seeds are consumed prepared or roasted, and young leaves likewise are eaten.The most uncommon and geographically limited gnetophyte is Welwitschia mirabilis, which differs from any other recognized plant in the world. It happens 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 only 2 large, long-term, arching leaves; they divided, and the suggestions pass away when they touch the hot sand. Offered the aridity of the Namib, where rainfall ranges from absolutely no to 51 mm (2 inches) annually, it is not clear how the plant obtains adequate 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 numerous thin roots, which should tap a supply of water not offered 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 deal with low high blood pressure, but alternatives with reduced cardiovascular danger have actually changed it for treating asthma. Ephedrine is also thought about a performance-enhancing drug and is restricted in most competitive sports. Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine – that is, its principal system of action relies on its direct and indirect actions on the adrenergic receptor system, which becomes part of the considerate nerve system. Ephedrine increases post-synaptic noradrenergic receptor activity by (weakly) directly activating post-synaptic α-receptors and β-receptors, however the bulk of its result comes from the pre-synaptic nerve cell being not able to compare genuine adrenaline or noradrenaline from ephedrine. The ephedrine, combined with noradrenaline, is transferred through the noradrenaline reuptake complex and packaged (along with real noradrenaline) into blisters that reside at the terminal button of a nerve cell. Ephedrine’s action as an agonist at most significant noradrenaline receptors and its ability to increase the release of both dopamine and to a lesser extent, serotonin by the very same mechanism is presumed to have a significant function 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 compound ephedrine, promote the heart and increase blood flow, which energizes the body and keeps muscles fresh with blood and oxygen. This can likewise be dangerous, however, as it can potentially put the strain on the heart if a person is currently struggling with certain heart conditions.

Weight reduction

The big increase in appeal of ephedra is related to its effects on weight-loss and exercising. When people are looking for a fast method to reduce weight, even if they aren’t especially active, it presents a special option. It promotes the metabolism, which increases fat-burning. Some people utilize it with no physical component, which can put extra stress on the body’s system. However, the supplement’s popularity hasn’t waned in particular countries, in spite of the debate.

Eliminates Fatigue

If you suffer from chronic fatigue or are someone who experiences sleeping disorders, leading to fatigue the next day, an ephedra supplement can assist to temporarily increase your energy levels and prevent tiredness from keeping you active and engaged with your day. This must only be used in percentages, and not in the same way as you may turn to a daily cup of coffee.

Increases Cognition

There have actually been specific research studies that have actually linked 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 balanced versus the other prospective threats, and once again, ought to not be a frequently consumed supplement.

Boosts Immunity

When it pertains to the cold and the flu, a cure always appears to be just out of reach. There are certain steroidal residential or commercial properties to ephedra that make it an efficient booster for the immune system. While this should not be utilized as a consistent preventative medicine, some people and research studies have argued that taking it in the beginning stages of disease can help prevent full-blown sickness or quicken healing time.

Breathing Health

Ephedra can help to decrease inflammation of mucous membranes in the body, particularly in the respiratory system, which makes it rather effective in preventing asthmatic attacks and wheezing. By allowing for clear passage of air to the lungs, it can alleviate these typical breathing conditions that impact countless individuals.

Manages High Blood Pressure

Although many people are concerned about lowering their high blood pressure, there are those that experience hypotension, which can be just as dangerous in its own method. By adding ephedra to your natural solution regimen, you can effectively boost your heart health and high blood pressure. [6]

Boosts metabolic rate

Multiple components of ephedra may affect your body, the most significant results are likely due to ephedrine. Numerous studies showed that ephedrine increases resting metabolic rate– the number of calories your body burns at rest– which may be because of an increase in the variety of calories burned by your muscles. One research study found that the number of calories burned over 24 hr was 3.6% greater when healthy adults took ephedrine compared to when they took a place able. Another research study observed that when obese people went on a very-low-calorie diet plan, their metabolic rate dropped. Nevertheless, this was partly prevented by taking ephedrine.In addition to the short-term modifications 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 are present in the stems. The range in between the internodes is 3– 4 cm and the nodes bare the scaly 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 slim and put up, little leaves, scale-like, articulated and joined at the base into a sheath.

Ephedra sinica: Thickness 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, pinnacle intense and recurved and lamina white in colour. A set of sheathing leaves present at the nodes, surrounding 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 area 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 unique and fractured surface is fibrous in the cortex however pith consists of 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 dangers of the herb ephedra

After the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler more than 10 years ago, many questions arose about the security of ephedra and the government’s role in controling the herb. Bechler passed away of heat stroke while taking ephedra, which occurs naturally in the Chinese. The speed-like drug contains the chemical ephedrine, an amphetamine-like compound closely related to adrenaline. Professional athletes and typical individuals alike started taking ephedra when word began spreading about its ability to assist weight loss and increase energy and alertness. But even if a supplement originates from natural sources does not make it safe. Ephedra can cause an accelerated heartbeat and elevated blood pressure. Negative effects include heart palpitations, nausea, and throwing up. More than 800 hazardous reactions have actually been reported with use of the herb. These consist of heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and sudden deaths. According to a research study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ephedra items make up just 1% of herbal supplement sales in the U.S., but they are responsible 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 reduction (about 2 pounds per month more than placebo). However none of the 52 trials they looked at lasted more than 6 months, so there is no proof to support ephedra usage for long-term weight loss. And no studies were discovered that assessed ephedra usage for boosting athletic performance. Data from 50 trials did show, nevertheless, that ephedra and ephedrine are associated with 2- to 3-fold increases in psychiatric symptoms (such as irritation and anxiety), free symptoms (jitteriness, problem sleeping), indigestion, and heart palpitations.Study results dashed any claims that dietary supplements including ephedra or ephedrine can aid with long-term weight reduction or enhance athletic performance. Even before the official FDA restriction, ephedra was prohibited from the Olympics, college athletics, and by the National Football League. [8]

Dose of ephedra

The FDA suggests 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 mention that the adult dose is 15 to 30 mg/dose, while some list the maximum dosage as 300 mg/day. [9]

Possible Interactions

While no specific interactions (favorable or negative) in between the herb ephedra and standard medications have been reported, the active ingredients of ephedra, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine have actually been associated with numerous major drug interactions. We may assume, for security’s sake, that drugs that interact with ephedra’s active components may likewise engage with the herb ephedra. Medications for which there are well recorded interactions with ephedra’s active components include, but are not limited to:.

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

Antidepressants. Ephedra might connect 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 may increase bleeding in sensitive people, such as those taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications.

High blood pressure medications. Ephedra may engage with high blood pressure decreasing medications, especially clonidine. Caffeine and guarana (a caffeine including herb).

Narcotics. Ephedra might connect with narcotics prescribed for discomfort, such as morphine and codeine; codeine might also be prescribed for cough.

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

When to take ephedrine?

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

Preventative measures

Your doctor will examine your progress closely while you are getting this medication. This will permit your medical professional to see if the medication is working appropriately and to look for undesirable results. High blood pressure (hypertension) might occur after receiving this medication. It is really important that your physician inspect your high blood pressure after receiving this medicine. If you discover any changes to your typical high 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 medicines unless they have 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 Stay In Our System?

Although ephedrine is commonly reported to have a removal half-life of 3-6 hours, there are various elements that identify its period of effects in individual users. Some individuals are more conscious ephedrine’s effects and feel this drug remain active in their body for a longer time period. Other people may have a tolerance to stimulants in general and not experience as substantial a physiological response.Each individual will metabolize ephedrine at a distinct rate depending on factors including body weight, body composition, gender, diet plan, hydration, other medications utilized, existing health state, and more. Clearance of ephedrine can also be increased or decreased with use of other compounds consisting of diuretics. According to Erowid, lowering the pH of urine will reduce the removal half-life of this substance. 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 elimination half-life of ephedrine is 6 hours, but this is lowered to 3 hours if urinary pH is decreased to 5. [13]

FDA Banned Ephedra

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

” The number of poisonings resulting in significant impacts or deaths has decreased by more than 98% since 2002. The 2004 FDA restriction has actually proved to be a very effective ways of limiting the accessibility of ephedra and for that reason its prospective toxicity in the United States,” Illinois scientists report in the May 28 New England Journal of Medicine.

It was the first dietary supplement to be banned. “I utilized to see clients with a lot of ephedra issues in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I haven’t seen one literally in 10 years,” coauthor Dr. Jerrold Leikin, director of toxicology at North Shore University Health System in Evanston told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.” It’s the obliteration– you can nearly use that word– of this compound within a relative brief period of time– a few years,” he stated. “It was anticipated, but the extent is rather surprising. And remember, this was not a drug. This was an over-the-counter dietary supplement. There’s been very few research studies taking a look at the result of an FDA ban on dietary supplements. It has been linked to cardiovascular disease, 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 specifically dangerous when utilized in conjunction with caffeine. The restriction was implemented in April 2004, reversed by the industry in 2005 but eventually promoted by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2006. Prior to the restriction, industry groups were saying the compound had actually been utilized by 12 million individuals. Utilizing data from the National Poison Data System, the scientists discovered that ephedra poisonings peaked at 10,326 in 2002 and then started a substantial decline to 180 by 2013. Major impacts, defined as hospitalization typically needing crucial care, peaked the very same year, at 108, one year after the system started collecting ephedra data. By 2008, such reports were down to three or less annually. The variety of deaths peaked later on– at 7 in 2004. There had been five, three 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 reduction in toxicity, how it went from 8,000 to 10,000 down to actually a few dozen contacts us to the toxin center,” Dr. Leikin said. He speculated that the preliminary declines seen just before the restriction entered into effect might have been the result 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 industry for decades, stated he was please to see proof “that action by the FDA has actually minimized the harm brought on by a natural item. “Unfortunately, said Dr. Barrett, who runs the Quackwatch.org, site, the FDA’s “capability to act rapidly and to prohibit other harmful products has actually been seriously crimped by the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. This awful law classifies natural products as dietary supplements and avoids the FDA from prohibiting them without proof that they have actually caused deaths and/or severe injuries. That’s backwards. He stated “the law ought to need that natural products sold for alleged health purposes be proven safe and effective before marketing.” [14]

Where it can be discovered

The numerous types of Ephedra are widespread in lots of deserts of the world, ranging throughout 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 department Gnetophyta along with Gnetum and Welwitschia. In temperate climates, most Ephedra species grow on shores or in sandy soils with direct sun direct exposure. Common names in English consist of joint-pine, jointfir, Mormon-tea or Brigham tea. [15]


Ephedra natural items have actually attracted more and more attention because they can exhibit complementary biological and healing impacts against illness. Historically, Ephedra may even have actually varied and prevalent at that time and the corresponding fossils document that Ephedra was already present in the Early Cretaceous. More screening and advancement of approaches for molecular dating will be needed to clarify disputes between molecular signals and the fossil record. In this review, we summarized the chemical elements isolated and identified by MS. More instrument elegance in coupling numerous systems such as multidimensional chromatography with NMR and MS in series is currently taking place. The prediction of the future for promising techniques includes 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 partly by environmental concerns appears unavoidable. In addition, bio-pharmacological results, such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, hepato-protective, antioxidant, and antimicrobial activities, have been well gone over. The relationship in between the Ephedra natural items structure and its pharmacological activity requires to be further studied. In this context, the mechanisms of action of phytochemical Ephedra content can provide assistance for its medical 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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