Ephedra equisetina

Plant Name

Ephedra equisetina Bunge.

Botanical Info

Evergreen shrub. 150 cm high.


Central and Middle Asia mountains. Grows on dry and rocky places reaching up to 800 – 3000 m above see level.

Chemical Content

Carbohydrates and related compounds (in%): 1.30 monosaccharides, dextrin, inulin, and mucus 0.27, starch 0.57, 2.99 pectin, glucose. Alkaloids (in%) 1.67-2: 0.23 ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, 0.21, 0.0042 norephedrine, pseudonorefedrine 0.01, methylephedrine. Catechins: (-)-epicatechin, (-)-epicatechin, (-)-epigallocatechin. Tannins 4.1 – 10.82%. Flavonoids 1-1.46% : vicenin-1, vicenin-2, vicenin-3, vitexin . Leucoantocyanidins 7.12-7.27%. The above-ground part. Alkaloids (in%) 2.38-3.1: 2.51-2.61 ephedrine, (-)-ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, (+)-pseudo-ephedrine, N-methylephedrine , efedroksan 0.001-0.0021. Steroids. Tannins 0.8%. Branches (green ). 3.11% alkaloids: ephedrine and pseudoephedrine 0.6-3.2%. Vitamins: P. Phenolcarbonic acids: benzoic, p-hydroxybenzoic, cinnamic, coumaric, vanillic, protocatechuic. Tannins 1.14-14.04%. Flavonoids 0.93. Branches (lignified). Alkaloids of 0.79%. Tannins 3.12%. Internode. Alkaloids of 1.82%. Megastrobilus, seeds. Alkaloids (in%) 0.12 and 0.56, respectively.

Traditional Use and Activity

Ephedra has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 5,000 years for the treatment of asthma and hay fever, as well as for the common cold. Pseudoephedrine is used in over-the-counter decongestants. Derivatives of ephedrine are used to treat low blood pressure, but alternatives with reduced cardiovascular risk have replaced it for the treating of asthma. Ephedrine is also considered a performance-enhancing drug and is prohibited in most competitive sports. The plant stimulates the brain, increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels (increasing blood pressure), and expands bronchial tubes (making breathing easier). Their thermogenic properties cause an increase in metabolism, evidenced by an increase in body heat. Ephedra has also been used for weight loss, sometimes in combination with aspirin and caffeine. Some studies have shown that ephedra, when taken in a regulated and supervised environment, is effective for marginal short-term weight loss (0.9kg/month more than the placebo). Side effects of ephedra may include severe skin reactions, irritability, nervousness, dizziness, trembling, headache, insomnia, profuse perspiration, dehydration, itchy scalp and skin, vomiting, hyperthermia, irregular heartbeat, seizures, heart attack, stroke, or death. In recent years, the safety of ephedra-containing dietary supplements has been questioned by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the medical community as a result of a high rate of serious side effects and ephedra-related deaths. In response to accumulating evidence of adverse effects and deaths related to ephedra, the FDA banned the sale of ephedra-containing supplements on April 12, 2004. Ephedra may also be used as a precursor in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine.