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Fascinating Alkaloids, The Example of Ephedrine

There is a group of molecules which has always fascinated chemists, biologists and even ecologists, due to its amazing diversity and to the number of applications in so many areas, thereof agriculture, food, biotechnology, etc…

Fascinating Alkaloids, CaffeineWe are speaking of Alkaloids, which became rapidly a huge field of scientific investigation attracting thousands of researchers from various areas and professionals in clinical laboratories. In this article we will go through a definition of alkaloids in order to get a clearer idea of this family (not only the chemical description but hopefully a real idea of what exactly is an alkaloid), then we will see why we are sure that alkaloids deserve our special attention, and finally we will take one example which will not surprise our frequent readers: ephedrine. This time we are less focused on ephedrine for sale but rather on the biological properties of this amazing molecule.

What are alkaloids?

Even agreeing on a definition of alkaloids is a subject of academic controversy and started in 1805 when an apothecary’s assistant in Germany first isolated morphine, which is a giant step in the medical history (think of how much pain has been relieved in hospitals thanks to morphine). Based on the same process, two French pharmacists isolated a few years later an interesting range of alkaloids, thereof quinine, caffeine, febrifuge, veratrine and strychnine. The name Alkaloids has been found by a German apothecary due to similarities to « Alkali » or chemical base solution (you know, solutions with a pH higher than 7, opposed to acid solutions). Alkali is an Arabic term meaning burned plant ashes, used since antiquity to produce soaps with added animal fats. The water extract of « Alkali » or burned ashes was called potash, which gave its name to potassium, hence the chemical symbol K from alkali.
Now that we know the origin of the name, still there is this question of definition. It took ages to scientists to debate about it and still there is not one but several commonly agreed definitions, we will give you here a broad one that we like, from T. Aniszewski: « Alkaloid is any biologically active and heterocyclic chemical compound which contains nitrogen and may some pharmacological activity and, in many cases, medicinal or ecological use ». We like it because it is a broad definition focusing on applications rather than chemical structure. From a chemical point of view, alkaloids are compounds which contain mostly nitrogen. But maybe this doesn’t give you a clear idea of what exactly are alkaloids? Think of natural products (molecules) found all around the Globe, produced by a very large range of organisms by chemical reactions: plants, animals, bacteria, etc… There are more than 8000 natural compounds recognized as alkaloids and each year we find another 100. These secondary compounds are derived from amino acids, they are synthesized by living cells, for other living cells.

Why are alkaloids so interesting?

Alkaloids are more than interesting, they are fascinating: they are studied since more than 200 hundred years and they did not yet reveal all their secrets. We still don’t understand why these chemicals are produced by organisms and why they have such a broad range of biological effects. The more we know, the more new questions we have, understanding the alkaloid group is similar to revealing the secrets of life on Earth. Millions of people use alkaloids every day without knowing it, for instance when drinking a cup of tea or coffee. The amazing part is that these natural products have medicinal use. Did you heard somebody criticizing the wisdom of primitive peoples who knew how to use plants for medicinal use, compared to the efficiency of our modern pharmaceutical products? Well, the pharmaceutical industry made progress of course but in many cases the source of inspiration is in Nature and we try to mimic the chemical behavior of natural substances that primitives peoples knew since centuries. Alkaloids are used by the pharmaceutical industry to fight malaria (quinine), cancer (vincristine, vinblastine, taxol), leukaemia, Parkinson disease, they can even promote blood circulation in the brain (vincamine). Here are some famous alkaloids: caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, morphine, quinine, and ephedrine.

The amazing effects of Ephedrine

Ephedrine is a good example of the powerful physiological effects of alkaloids: ephedrine will work by increasing the activity of noradrenaline on adrenergic receptors. It will cause your brain to discharge neurotransmitters to some of your cells which will react in a kind of « fight-or-flight response », or to use another image, it will be similar to an adrenaline rush.
Ephedrine has been used for 5,000 years for weight loss as being one of the most powerful fat burner. It has synergetic effects that looks like a blessing of Nature if you want to lose your extra pounds:

  • Ephedrine will act as bronchodilator due to its stimulation of beta–2 receptors in the lungs increase blood pressure
  • Ephedrine will stimulate thermogenesis which is the heat production of the body, thus higher metabolic rate, increasing energy consumption and fat oxidation
  • Ephedrine will decrease gastric emptying
  • Ephedrine will improve athletic performance by stimulating the central nervous system and by increasing heart rate and contraction force via activation of the beta-1 receptors

In a nutshell: ephedrine will boost your metabolism through increased thermogenesis, reduce your appetite, keep your energy and improve your athletic strength for adding a physical activity to a diet.
Ephedrine is to our knowledge the most effective product for weight loss. Many medical studies have confirmed these points, please check these references on our detailed page.

Alkaloids, Nature’s Curse or Blessing?

Ephedrine in Alkaloids, Nature's Curse or BlessingThis title is from Manfred Hesse who analyzed the controversial image of alkaloids, due to their link to drugs like cocaine but also all their medical contribution as above mentioned. Quoting Paracelsus: « The dose makes the poison ». You could die from drinking too much water, yet water is essential to life. To our point of view, the same is valid for alkaloids, and also for ephedrine. We are so convinced that we have developed a complete website dedicated to ephedrine, its risks and benefits. Despite all these benefits used since 5,000 years for weight loss, ephedrine is now banned by the FDA after a very controversial decision (probably linked to the control of methamphetamine in the USA). Still ephedrine is legal in the USA, ironically for asthma treatment. If you plan to buy ephedrine online, just have a look at our recommendation of the best sites having real ephedrine for sale, not fake products.

By Mike Budd

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