Ephedra: Chemical | Organic composition

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 2:11 pm

Ephedra is available in both natural and synthetic forms. The Asian version of natural ephedra comes from a 1.5 — 4 ft (0.45-1.2 m) high shrub-like plant that grows in desert regions of Asia from northern China to Inner Mongolia. There are three Asian species of ephedra — Ephedra sinica, E. intermedia, and E. equisetina. Chinese and other early users of ephedra dried the green stems of the plants and ground them into a powder for medicinal use. The Asian version of the plant generally has the highest concentration of ephedrine. The ephedra plant is also grown in North America and other parts of the world, but some of these ephedra species have no alkaloid content, and it is the alkaloid content of the plant that causes its medicinal effects.
In the United States, ephedrine alkaloids are derived from the Ephedra sinica, or ma huang plant. Most ephedra supplements contain a standard extract of 6-8% ephedrine alkaloids. Other herbs and ingredients, including caffeine, may also be added to ephedra supplements.
The molecular structure of ephedra resembles that of amphetamine, a stimulant. Dietary supplement product manufacturers often mixed caffeine with ephedra. Some experts believe that caffeine probably enhances or heightens ephedra’s stimulant effects. Ephedra may also be combined with other herbs in supplements, depending on the desired effects.

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