What exactly is ephedrine?

Given the common confusion between the various types of ephedrine, it is important to have a clear understanding of what it is exactly.

Ephedrine is a natural substance contained in some herbs:

Ephedra known as Ma Huang contains ephedrineEphedra sinica known in Chinese as Ma Huang. This herb has been used in the traditional Chinese medicine for more than 5,000 years for the treatment of hay fever and asthma. This plant contains also pseudoephedrine, a natural substance which we will detail later.



Ephedrine is contained in Sida Cordifolia's leavesSida cordifolia native to India but spread to Africa, Australia, United States etc… It contains ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, but less than 2% found in the leaves.



More specifically:

ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine…

What does that mean ?

    • Amine: it is an organic compound containing a basic nitrogen atom, derivative of ammonia
    • Sympathomimetic: it means that this amine is producing physiological effects analog to those caused by the sympathetic nervous system, which is a part of the nervous system originating in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spinal cord. In this case it inhibits the physiological effects of another part of the nervous system, tending to reduce digestive secretions, speed up the heart, and contract the blood vessels.

Ephedrine is an alkaloid, Nature's Curse or Blessing?

Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are alkaloids [1], defined as naturally occurring chemical compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms (cf. amine). Alkaloids are often used as medications or drugs due to their pharmacological effects. In this large group we have the very well known caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, morphine, quinine, … and ephedrine!

In a nutshell : ephedrine is a chemical substance present in the leaves of an herb called Ephedra or Ma Huang, which has physiological effects on digestive, heart and blood pressure functions.

How does it work ?

You all know adrenaline, don’t you ?

Well, let’s say that noradrelanine is its cousin, and that they both target adrenergic receptors in many cells – in other words, when these substances are released in your body, the adrenergic receptors will react:

Ephedrine has a Fight or Flight Response effecttypically your heart rate will increase, your pupils will dilate, your blood will be directed to your important muscles – as in the «fight or flight response», where animals react to threats with a general discharge of the nervous system, urging them to defend their live (fight) or to escape (flight).


Now the link with ephedrine: being a sympathomimetic alkaloid, ephedrine will work by increasing the activity of noradrenaline on adrenergic receptors. In other words, 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.

Here are the main effects: ephedrine will

  • Ephedrine's effect on neurotransmittersact as bronchodilator due to its stimulation of beta–2 receptors in the lungs
  • increase blood pressure
  • stimulate thermogenesis which is the heat production of the body, thus higher metabolic rate, increasing energy consumption and fat oxidation
  • decrease gastric emptying
  • improve athletic performance by stimulating the central nervous system and by increasing heart rate and contraction force via activation of the beta-1 receptors
  • have synergistic effects with caffeine and aspirin: hence the famous ECA stack, Ephedrine + Caffeine + Aspirin

What is the difference between ephedra and ephedrine?

Ephedra is the plant and ephedrine is the active ingredient – alkaloid – contained in the leaves.

What is the difference between ephedrine and pseudoephedrine?

They are similar, both are alkaloids present in ephedra’s leaves, pseudoephedrine has a better effect as decongestant but ephedrine is by far better for metabolism effects targeted in weight loss programs.

What is the difference between ephedrine and ephedrine sulfate?

Ephedrine HCL is approximately 82% ephedrine by weight and ephedrine sulfate 77%. Ephedrine sulfate is reported to deliver effects much quicker than HCL.

What is ephedrine HCL?

Ephedrine HCL (for hydrochloride) is the synthetic form of the natural ephedrine present in ephedra’s leaves, it is produced by pharmaceutical companies.

That was it for the basic knowledge, now if you want to know more about the effectiveness of ephedrine in weight loss, don’t miss this page.

If you wonder why ephedrine has been banned by the FDA as dietary supplement, check out this page, it will answer following questions: is ephedrine legal? Why has it been banned? Why is ephedrine so efficient for weight loss and yet so controversial?

You probably heard about EC stacks but you are not sure about composition, dosage, risks, duration, cycling? Everything you always wanted to know about it is here.

You might then have a look at the page where we give our recommendation about the main sites selling ephedrine. Don’t miss it before buying, it’s so easy to get the wrong product, or even one without ephedrine inside.

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Fascinating Alkaloids, CaffeineFascinating Alkaloids, The Example of Ephedrine


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