Medicinal plants


What is Ephedra

Ephedra is a plant that grows spontaneously in nature in areas with a mild and temperate climate such as Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America. Characterized by gnarled and thin branches of bright green color and dark gray leaves, it produces false fruits consisting of a set of bracts and hermaphrodite inflorescences, in which both male and female strobile coexist at the same time. The plant contains 90% of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine alkaloids, especially in the younger bright green twigs; the active ingredients are industrially extracted, used pharmacologically and herbalistically for their vasoconstrictive, analeptic, expectorant, hypertensive and muscle-tonic properties. Being considered natural drugs and doping substances, in addition to being dangerous for side effects with frequent cases of sudden death, ephedra and ephedrine have been withdrawn from the herbal and pharmacological market and are considered illegal unless there is an explicit request from the doctor, with a specific prescription. In popular tradition, the natives also used it as a diuretic, for fever and to calm asthma.

The properties of Ephedra

The main use of Ephedra lies in its anti-asthmatic properties, as it has a powerful bronchodilator action; acts on the breath center, improving essential asthma and allergic asthma. Its effect extends to the treatment of chronic bronchitis and permanent dyspnea. Having vasoconstrictive action, Ephedra is used locally in rhinitis, with the drawback of having a systemic effect, as it enters the circulation and determines, with vasoconstriction, also arterial hypertension. Like adrenaline, but not naturally produced and therefore taken exogenously, ephedra stimulates the muscular tonic response, improving its efficiency and for this reason considered sports doping in any national and international federation. It has an anorectic effect with a reduction of the sense of hunger, and slimming properties with stimulation of the basal metabolism, which is why body building athletes use it to reduce fat mass in favor of muscle mass.Used as a decongestant in hay fever, this plant officinale has a very similar effect to that of an antihistamine. It is used in dog urinary incontinence.

Contraindications and side effects of Ephedra

The use of Ephedra is not without risks, on the contrary, due to its powerful activity on the cardiovascular system, the heart and the respiratory system, it encounters numerous side effects, some of which are potentially lethal. In fact, numerous cases of sudden death due to cardiac infarction have been described. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, heart patients, people with thyroid dysfunction and hypertension cannot use it because the effects on blood pressure and on the heart could also lead to pressure changes. fatal or death from arrhythmias, cerebral ischemia and heart attack. The intake of Ephedra, if required for a specific therapeutic reason and if the subject does not fall into the categories of people particularly at risk, can only be used under strict medical supervision.

Ephedra: Ephedra drug interactions

It is good to know that Ephedra, given its strong vasoconstrictive and exciting activity, can enhance its effects and be even more harmful if associated with particular substances or drugs, with which the risk factors associated with it would increase. It would be advisable never to make a reckless and unconscious domestic use and, in particular, Ephedra should never be associated with other exciters such as: caffeine, synephrine, yohimbine, theophylline and reserpine. The exciting activity of these substances, added to the already powerful activity of ephedrine, would be excessive and harmful, causing nervousness, insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure and tachycardia. Ephedra should not even be associated with hypotensives because it would reduce their effectiveness by having contrary activity, nor to thyroxine or thyroid derivatives because it would negatively alter the functionality of an already compromised thyroid gland. The use of Ephedra must always be prudent and justified by reasons ascertained by the doctor.

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