Ephedra horsetail – horsetail ephedra

Name: Ephedra horsetail – horsetail ephedra

Horsetail ephedra (Ephedra equisetina); mountain ephedra; ephedra horsetail


Dioecious alpine plant of the ephedra family. Densely branched bush or tree up to 1.5-2.5 m tall. One-year green twigs are straight, smooth, longitudinally grooved, jointed, with internodes up to 4 cm, placed in a ring or opposite. The leaves are opposite, reduced, membranous, red-brown, 1-2.5 mm long. The flowers are small, unisexual, collected in spikelets; female spikelets are single-flowered, male spikelets are 2-4-flowered, single or collected in groups of 2-3. The fruit is a one-seeded red fleshy spherical cone berry. Blooms in May – June.


Spread. Ephedra horsetail occurs in the mountainous regions of Central and Central Asia on open rocky slopes, scree screes at an altitude of 1000-1800 m above sea level. In Ukraine, it is in the collections of some botanical gardens.

Procurement and storage . For the manufacture of medicines, green non-woody shoots of the plant (Herba Ephedrae) are used. Harvesting of raw materials begins in April and ends in late autumn, stopping it only during the period of growth of new twigs (approximately from mid-May to the end of June). The raw materials are dried directly on the field, folding them into strips 1-1.5 m wide and 1-1.5 m high of any length. 50-60% of dry raw materials are obtained. The validity period is 1 year. The ephedra herb is a raw material for the industrial production of the alkaloid ephedrine, it is not sold by pharmacies.

Chemical composition . The green shoots of the plant contain alkaloids (up to 3.5%), tannins (up to 14%) and coloring substances, ascorbic acid (up to 660 mg %). Alkaloids include ephedrine (up to 90%), pseudoephedrine and other substances.

Pharmacological properties and use. The therapeutic activity of the plant is due to the presence in it of the alkaloid ephedrine, which belongs to sympathomimetic agents; it causes vasoconstriction, increases blood pressure, promotes bronchial expansion, inhibits intestinal peristalsis, and slightly increases blood sugar. In addition, ephedrine stimulates the central nervous system, stimulates the respiratory center. Compared to adrenaline, ephedrine acts weaker, but longer. The use of ephedrine is indicated for low blood pressure, collapse, bronchial asthma, whooping cough, hay fever, urticaria, seasickness, and poisoning with drugs and sleeping pills. It is also used when it is necessary to dilate pupils and narrow blood vessels in ophthalmological and otorhinolaryngological practice. Ephedrine is part of the complex anti-asthmatic agent theophedrine. Ephedrine has the ability (especially in overdose) to cause a number of undesirable toxic phenomena, namely: nausea; vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, arterial hypertension, nervous excitement, insomnia, tremors of limbs, anuria, hyperhidrosis and skin rashes.

Medicinal forms and applications .

Internally – ephedrine hydrochloride (Ephedrini hydrochloridum) is prescribed 1 tablet 2-3 times a day before meals, and 0.5-1 ml of a 0.5% solution is injected subcutaneously to stop an attack of bronchial asthma.

It is contraindicated to use ephedrine in case of hypertension, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, cardiosclerosis, hyperthyroidism and diabetes.

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