Ephedra Fragilis Plant Alkaloids, Medicinal Use & Safety
Ephedra fragilis (joint pine) is one of several dozen species in the Ephedraceae plant family. This plant grows in southern Europe and Norther Africa and prefers the climate of the Mediterranean region.
Two subspecies of this plant have also been recognized – E. fragilis subsp. Cossonii and E. fragilis subsp. fragilis. It tends to grow in dry, rocky areas and can reach heights of up to 6 feet.
This plant has a long recorded history of medicine use and contains a number of active alkaloids, including ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Ephedra fragilis was used traditionally for asthma relief, as a vasodilator, general tonic, diuretic, anti-viral agent and more.
Currently, the ephedra plant is better known for its weight-loss potential and efficacy as a stimulant. While ephedra extracts have been banned in dietary supplements due to their risk of side effects, use of the whole plant is considered safer and does not cause serious adverse reactions. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Ephedra fragilis is one of the more well-known species of the ephedra plant family. It is named joint pine and can be found growing in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Libya, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
Not all ephedra species are created equal in terms of their medicinal properties and physiological effects. There can be big differences between the varieties of this herb and their alkaloid and phytonutrient contents.
It is the presence of alkaloids like ephedrine that determines the effects that this plant will have when consumed by humans. Ephedrine is the primary compound in ephedra that produces a stimulating effect on the central nervous system.
This alkaloid also affects the cardiovascular system, energy enhancement, weight loss, breathing, physical stamina, reaction times, mood and more.
The amount of active ingredients found in any given ephedra plant can depend on how it grows, where it grows, and when certain parts of the plants are harvested.
In some locations, the stems and twigs are used more frequently than the leaves or the berries of the plant. Cultivation methods, maturity of the plant, and how the extract is processed can also impact potency.
How does ephedra fragilis compare to other species of the ephedra plant family, such as E. Sinica or Ma Huang? This plant contains relatively potent levels of both ephedrine and the related alkaloid pseudoephedrine.
One study determined that the ephedrine component in the E. fragilis species measures 21.0 milligram to gram of dry weight. There is also 6.1 mg of pseudoephedrine for an overall total alkaloid content of 27.1 mg/gram. This is one of the highest alkaloid concentrations in the species. 
Ephedra major, another common species, provides 16.3 mg/gram of ephedrine and 14.3 mg/gram of pseudoephedrine, for a total of 30.6 mg/gram alkaloid content.
Some ephedra species contain pseudoephedrine and not ephedrine. Some contain the opposite. Some species, like those that grow in certain parts of North America, have very little alkaloid content at all.
Historical Use of Ephedra
Various species of the ephedra plant had been used for millennia by a number of cultures around the world. This plant has been brewed into a tea, used to make poultices, consumed as a food or made into tinctures and remedies by herbal medicine practitioners.
The Chinese have used the ephedra sinica species for thousands of years in medicinal treatments, primarily for the relief of lung and breathing conditions including asthma, hay fever allergies and bronchitis.
Native American Indians used other species of ephedra to brew a beverage used to invigorate the body and treat illness. They also ground the herb into a fine powder and applied it in poultices for wound care.
Other cultures have used ephedra extract for issues of health and wellness ranging from a treatment of the common cold to prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. According to folklore, ephedra fragilis was also used for cancer patients in some locations.
In modern usage, Western cultures noted its efficacy in boosting energy. Ephedrine and other alkaloids of the ephedra plant became very popular in the 1980s and 1990s as a weight loss aid and fat burner.
This herbal extract was shown to boost metabolism, increase energy levels, suppress the appetite and enhance athletic performance and desire to work out. While some studies demonstrated positive results, there was also a risk of adverse reactions.
In 2004, due to increasing numbers of individuals experiencing minor to life-threatening complaints of side effects, ephedra products were banned in the United States. This ban specifically applied to dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids.
Countries around the world have also banned use of ephedrine in over-the-counter nutritional products. Today, sales of products that contain Ephedra Fragilis, ephedrine or pseudoephedrine are carefully monitored.
While this herb is still legal in some forms, its use and availability is limited in the United States. Depending on where you live, it can only be purchased from a qualified herbalist that is certified in Chinese medicine.
Effects on Fat Loss
The primary mechanism of action for Ephedra Fragilis extract is to increase activation of the sympathetic or autonomic nervous system. This is the system which regulates those physiological functions over which we do not typically exert conscious control.
For example, breathing, heart rate, digestion, temperature regulation, fat breakdown, glucose modulation and metabolism are all controlled by the sympathetic nervous system.
When consumed orally, the natural plant chemical ephedrine and pseudoephedrine have direct and indirect influences on receptors involved in regulating these functions. Ephedrine, for example, is a beta-2 receptor agonist that promotes changes in blood vessel dilation, in lung tissues, and cardiovascular function.
By stimulating alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors, ephedrine can constrict or narrow blood vessels, resulting in higher blood pressure. Some of these receptors are found in the heart muscle itself, enhancing the force and the speed with which the heart beats.
Other receptors are found in the airways of the lungs, triggering these airways to dilate or widen, facilitating increased oxygen consumption. For this reason, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine continue to be beneficial components in a number of cold and asthma medications.
Ephedrine is also a stimulant, causing your body to mobilize more stored energy in the form of calories and raising your basal metabolic rate. It works by increase thermogenic activity, which refers to the conversion of calories into body heat.
Ephedrine has been shown to act on brown adipose tissue, causing this stored fat to be broken down more readily. The net result is that you burn more calories when taking a product like ephedra extract, which can help you lose weight faster in combination with the right diet and exercise program.
The fat-burning effects of ephedra fragilis can also be enhanced by combining it with caffeine in an EC stack.
A number of side effects are associated with use of ephedra plant products, including E.
Fragilis extract. However, many herbalists are quick to point out that ephedra extracts were used safely for thousands of years before these ingredients were banned in dietary supplements.
Almost all of the serious adverse event reports linked to ephedra supplements were the result of excess consumption of synthetic ephedrine HCL as opposed to using the herb in tea or liquid tincture form.
Ephedrine alkaloids can be dangerous, especially if used in high doses, combined with other stimulants or taken people with pre-existing medical conditions. However, many sources continue to assert that E. Fragilis is safe, so long as it is taken responsibly.
Some of the common side effects reported by users of ephedrine and ephedra products include:
- Heart palpitations
- Increased sense of anxiety
- Jitters or Restlessness
- Stomach pain or discomfort
- Increased urination
Not everyone who uses ephedra fragilis will experience side effects and not all adverse reactions are dangerous. Safety depends on health status, dosage and frequency of use.
Combination of other stimulants such as caffeine or other herbal products can also increase frequency and severity of side effects and adverse reactions.
Misuse of ephedra fragilis has the potential to cause more serious negative effects including:
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Dizziness, sometimes accompanied with blurred vision
- Risk of stroke
- Increased risk of seizure activity in the brain
You can minimize the risk of adverse effects by using this product at recommended dosages, not combining it with other substances and taking it for short periods of time.
While Ephedra Fragilis may have benefits for some individuals, this herb may not be appropriate for everyone to take.