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Ephedra

Ephedra is
Ephedra Herb
a genus of gymnosperm shrubs, the only genus in the family Ephedraceae and order Ephedrales. These plants occur in dry climates over a wide area mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, across southern Europe, north Africa, southwest and central Asia, southwestern North America, and, in the Southern Hemisphere, in South America south to Patagonia. They are also called Joint-pine, Jointfir, or Mormon-tea. The Chinese name is 麻黄, má huáng, which means "yellow hemp". Ephedra is also sometimes called sea grape (from the French raisin de mer), although that is also a common name for Coccoloba uvifera.

Species
The following list of species is from the Gymnosperm Database page for Ephedra.

Ephedra alata Decne
Ephedra altissima Desf.
Ephedra antisyphilitica Berl. ex C.A.Meyer - Clapweed, Erect Ephedra
Ephedra aspera Engelm. ex S.Wats. - Boundary Ephedra, Pitamoreal
Ephedra californica S.Wats. - California Ephedra, California Jointfir
Ephedra coryi E.L.Reed - Cory's Ephedra
Ephedra cutleri Peebles - Navajo Ephedra, Cutler's Ephedra, Cutler Mormon-tea, Cutler's Jointfir
Ephedra distachya L. - Joint-pine, Jointfir
Ephedra distachya subsp. helvetica (C.A.Meyer) Aschers. & Graebn.
Ephedra equisetina Bunge - Ma huang
Ephedra fasciculata A.Nels. - Arizona Ephedra, Arizona Jointfir, Desert Mormon-tea
Ephedra fedtschenkoae Pauls.
Ephedra fragilis Desf.
Ephedra fragilis subsp. campylopoda (C.A.Meyer) Aschers. & Graebn.
Ephedra frustillata Miers - Patagonian Ephedra
Ephedra funerea Coville & Morton - Death Valley Ephedra, Death Valley Jointfir
Ephedra gerardiana Wallich ex C.A.Meyer - Gerard's Jointfir, Shan Ling Ma Huang
Ephedra intermedia Schrenk ex C.A.Meyer
Ephedra lepidosperma C.Y.Cheng
Ephedra likiangensis Florin
Ephedra macedonica Kos.
Ephedra major Host
Ephedra major subsp. procera Fischer & C.A.Meyer
Ephedra minuta Florin
Ephedra nevadensis S.Wats. - Nevada Ephedra, Nevada Jointfir, Nevada Mormon-tea
Ephedra pedunculata Engelm. ex S.Wats. - Vine Ephedra, Vine Jointfir
Ephedra przewalskii Stapf
Ephedra przewalskii var. kaschgarica (B.Fedtsch. & Bobr.) C.Y.Cheng
Ephedra regeliana Florin - Xi Zi Ma Huang
Ephedra saxatilis (Stapf) Royle ex Florin
Ephedra sinica Stapf - Ma Huang, Chinese ephedra
Ephedra torreyana S.Wats. - Torrey's Ephedra, Torrey's Jointfir, Torrey's Mormon-tea, Cañutillo
Ephedra trifurca Torrey ex S.Wats. - Longleaf Ephedra, Longleaf Jointfir, Longleaf Mormon-tea, Popotilla, Teposote
Ephedra viridis Coville - Green Ephedra, Green Mormon-tea

Uses and health concerns

These plants have traditionally been used by indigenous people for a variety of medicinal purposes, and are a likely candidate for the Soma plant of Indo-Iranian religion. The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the active constituents of the plant. Some species in the Ephedra genus have zero alkaloid content and are therefore essentially inert, however the most commonly used species, E. sinica, has a total alkaloid content of 1-3% by dry weight. Ephedrine constitutes 40-90% of the alkaloid content, with the remainder consisting of pseudoephedrine and the demethylated forms of each . Ephedrine is considered a performance-enhancing drug and is prohibited in most competitive sports.

Beginning in the 1990s, concerns about the safety of Ephedra and Ephedra-based products began to be publicly raised. As Ephedra is a herb, products containing it were marketed as dietary supplements and therefore were exempt from FDA regulation in the United States. Ephedra was found in many popular weight control products, some of which the FDA believed may be hazardous. Sympathomimetic amines such as ephedrine raise heart rate and blood pressure and can be
Ephedra Herb
particularly hazardous to those with pre-existing cardiac problems.

According to the FDA, 155 deaths can be blamed on Ephedra, most of them related to cardiac problems and strokes. However, many advocates of Ephedra maintain that it is safe when used as directed, and continue to regard it as a dietary supplement rather than as a drug. Critics maintain, however, that there is anecdotal evidence that the use of Ephedra can cause tolerance and dependence. Health food store GNC stopped carrying ephedra-containing products in June 2003, and the National Football League banned players from using it as a dietary supplement in 2001.

On December 30, 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration announced a ban (effective from 12 April 2004) on the uncontrolled sale of supplement products containing Ephedra, citing "an unreasonable risk of illness or injury" from the use of the drug. Synthetic ephedrine is still available as an ingredient in some over the counter (OTC) medications that are clearly labeled in accordance with FDA regulations. Bulk ephedra herb (such as that used in traditional Chinese medicine) not specifically marketed for human consumption is not under the jurisdiction of the FDA and is therefore unaffected. Several states have enacted their own laws regarding the sale of ephedra and ephedra-based products, some stricter than the non-statutory FDA regulation.

On 14 April 2005, this ban was struck down on procedural grounds by Utah federal judge Tena Campbell . However, as of July 2005, diet supplement manufacturers, including the very company that challenged the ephedra ban in court, are still reluctant to reintroduce ephedra into their product lines.

In the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the Argentine footballer Diego Armando Maradona tested positive for ephedrine in a doping control for using one dietary supplement product containing the substance. The Japanese motorcycle racer Noriyuki Haga tested positive for it in 2000, being disqualified from 2 races and banned from 2 more as a result



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