Ephedra Vulgaris Plant Uses, Effects & Side Effects [Ephedrine Content]
Ephedra vulgaris is a species of shrub-like plant that is also known as ephedra distachya. The stems and leaves of this plant have long been used in traditional medicine practices for its stimulating properties.
It is common to brew E. Vulgaris into a tea to increase energy, vitality, vigilance and arousal. This herbal extract has also been used as an ingredient in diet and weight loss products, due to its ephedrine content.
The ephedra vulgaris species is just one of over two dozen that belong to the plant family of Ephedracaea. This plant is typically found throughout the world in relatively temperate climates and along shorelines.
One of the alkaloids found in the ephedra vulgaris species is ephedrine. How does ephedra vulgaris differ from other forms of ephedra when it comes to using the herb for weight loss, athletic performance enhancement, or promotion of energy. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Ephedra Vulgaris (E. Distachya, Sea Grape, Jointfir) grows in central and southern Europe and prefers dry, arid soils and desert-like regions. It can also be found in Portugal, the Middle East and has been naturalized in some other parts of Asia.
As a traditional medical remedy, it was used to alleviate join pain and muscle discomfort. It was viewed as a stimulatory herb that could rejuvenate the mind and body.
The reason for its stimulating effects is attributable to the ephedrine content in this plant. This is a natural plant alkaloid that has the ability to bind to beta-adrenergic receptors in the human body.
Ephedrine behaves as a stimulant within the sympathetic nervous system, and is known to mimic some of the effects of adrenaline.
In addition to this alkaloid, phedra species contain a number of other active components or alkaloids and include:
The alkaloid content of these species is dependent upon the individual plant family, where it grows, the soil in which it grows, and when it’s harvested.
E. Vulgaris is viewed as having higher alkaloid content than some species of this plant, but it is not as powerful as the Ephedra Sinica (Ma Huang) species that grows in China.
Mechanism of Action
Ephedra alkaloids have long been used in folk medicine. Today, derivatives from this plant and found in various forms in a number of cold and flu medications as well as asthma medications and allergy treatment.
It has also been used since the 1920s in bronchodilator medications and for the relief of nasal congestion. Additional uses include:
- Breathing problems such as asthma and bronchitis
- Sinus issues including stuffiness caused by colds, sinusitis, and rhinitis
- Wound application
- Treatment of hypotension
Many of the mechanisms of action for Ephedra Vulgaris extract are explained by the ephedrine content of this plant.
Its primary medical properties involve its ability to cause blood vessels to dilate, opening of bronchial passages and effects on the mucous membranes as well as other anti-spasmodic capabilities.
Ephedrine can influence mucous membranes found in the airways of the lungs, the nasal passages, and the mouth. It also has the potential to influence adrenergic receptors in the brain, triggering a number of resulting actions in the body.
It does cross the blood-brain barrier, hence its effects on not only the central nervous system, but the sympathetic nervous system which controls autonomic functions including:
- Heart rate
- Respiratory rate
Ephedrine has a relatively short half-life of approximately 6 hours, although it can peak anywhere from two to three hours. It is metabolized in the liver and the majority of the component are excreted in urine.
Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine (norephedrine) behave in a similar fashion.
Ephedra Vulgaris and Weight Loss
Medically, ephedrine is used to treat shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing due to asthma. However, it is more commonly taken for off-label purposes such as fat loss, appetite suppression, physical performance and energy enhancement.
Ephedra vulgaris is not the most potent of the ephedra plant family, but it does contain ephedrine alkaloids. A number of studies have been conducted regarding use of ephedra of various species and weight loss.
Studies show that it can contribute to an average of 0.9 kg per month loss in weight, which is modest at best. Efficacy can be increased when the ephedra is combined with sources of caffeine. However, this practice also increases the risk of potential side effects.
The practice of using ephedrine as a weight-loss stimulant became prevalent in the US in the 1980s and 90s. It was the most widely used ingredient in diet pills for both men and women.
It worked by boosting your thermogenic metabolism, increasing mental and physical energy, helping people be more active and suppressing food cravings. While many people experienced benefits, it eventually had to be withdrawn from the market.
The US Food and Drug Administration began receiving thousands of reports of negative side effects and adverse reactions associated with its usage.
They banned the use of ephedrine in dietary supplements targeted to fat reduction, weight management or other off-label uses. However, this has not stopped the demand of these products for use by dieters and bodybuilders.
Effects on Energy and Mood
In addition to its use for increasing fat loss, Ephedra vulgaris and other forms of this plant have also been used to stimulate greater alertness, arousal, mood, motivation and feelings of euphoria.
Because ephedrine acts much like amphetamines and/or adrenaline, it causes your body to mobilize more calories and produce greater amounts of energy. Many users describe the energy-enhancing effects as the main reason they take this product, rather than the potential weight loss benefits.
The stimulative properties of ephedra vulgaris can increase circulation, heart rate and blood pressure. It is a metabolism booster and it causes you to convert more stored calories and fat into excess energy.
If that energy cannot be used up for fueling cellular reactions, the result is heat as a byproduct. Use of ephedrine can cause your body temperature to increase through thermogenesis.
The increase in blood pressure accelerates the flow of the deoxygenated blood to the lungs and heart, where it is them flooded with oxygen and nutrients.
Ephedrine’s effect on the brain is also stimulative in nature. Some studies have determined that ephedrine (in rat brains) can stimulate dopamine-like effects, increasing “spontaneous local motor activity”. 
Safety and Negative Effects Reported
A number of side effects are associated with the Ephedra Vulgaris (Distachya) or other species of the plant. Dosage recommendations in medicinal products are often exceeded by those using those products for weight loss or energy enhancement.
Limitations regarding sales and dosage limits are increasingly prevalent, not only in the US, but other countries around the world.
Some of the more common side effects of ephedrine of include but are not limited to:
- Tremors or jitteriness
- Upset stomach or nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting
- Racing heart
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty sleeping
Adverse effects can also be made worse through the practice of combining ephedra with other stimulants. For example, it is common to take an EC stack or an ECA stack which is a combination involving caffeine and aspirin.
Ephedra is noted as being synergistic with caffeine, but this also means that they can potentiate each other’s negative effects in addition to the positive effects.
Other more serious side effects have been linked to ephedrine such as fatalities. These have occurred in people combining this drug with other stimulant ingredients or among those who have pre-existent medical conditions such as heart disease or extreme obesity.
When used appropriately and according to instructions or dosage recommendations, serious or life-threatening side effects or adverse reactions are not particularly common.
However, when used in high dosages, which is considered more than 32 mg daily by a number of medical guidelines, potential risk of side effects increases. Among the more dangerous:
- Tachycardia (accelerated heart rate)
- Arrhythmias (irregular heart rate)
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Any individual looking to ephedra vulgaris supplements to aid in weight-loss or energy enhancement needs to be aware of the risks as well as the benefits of use. This is especially true of individuals combining other forms of caffeine or other stimulative products such as sida cordifolia or citrus aurantium.
Any use of ephedrine from any species of ephedra plant for weight loss should be combined with a balanced and nutritious diet, decreased caloric intake, and increased level and intensity of exercise for long-term weight loss and weight loss management.