Ephedra is an organic chemical compound, found in plants of the genus Sprout (Ephedra) – its use improves metabolism, has a slimming effect and accelerates weight gain. In addition, it shows stimulant effects on the nervous system and is a doping substance. Check out what you should know about ephedrine.
Ephedrine – what is it?
Ephedrine has a very wide range of uses. It is used as a stimulant, appetite reducer, concentration enhancer, medicine for rhinitis and treatment of hypotension associated with anesthesia. Ephedrine is found in plants of the genus spinach and in yew. It is most commonly available in hydrochloride and sulfate form. In traditional Chinese medicine it was used, as a stimulant and anti-asthmatic, while in the second half of the 16th, Ephedra was used as a diaphoretic, antitussive, stimulant and antipyretic. It was also used by Persians and Hindus during religious ceremonies to induce feelings of excitement. In the Americas, it was taken orally or into the genitals, in the form of various species of yarns for the prevention of syphilis and gonorrhea. It was first isolated in 1885, by Nagayoshi Nagai, a Japanese chemist. In 1883, he used ephedrine to synthesize methamphetamine. In China in the 1920s, it began to be mass-produced and pre-sold as ephedrine.
Ephedrine – uses
Ephedrine has a very wide range of uses. It reduces stored body fat in the following ways:
- increases the use of fatty acids as a source for energy production,
- causes an increase in metabolism in the body,
- has an effect on muscle cells in which it increases energy expenditure,
- affects brown adipose tissue, responsible for thermogenesis, through beta-adrenergic receptors.
- Increases oxygen consumption,
- affects the slowing of gastric emptying, thus prolonging the absorption of nutrients and delaying the sensation of hunger.
In addition, ephedrine protects muscles from catabolism – due to reduced urinary nitrogen excretion during ephedrine supplementation, it has the effect of protecting muscle tissue from catabolic processes. In addition, ephedrine increases physical endurance. As a pharmaceutical agent, it is an ingredient in drugs for bronchial asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis and is used in respiratory tract infections. Ephedrine enhances the force of contraction of the heart muscle and the frequency of its contractions – these are positive inotropic and positive chronotropic effects, this is due to the stimulation of β- adrenergic receptors. It dilates the bronchi, reduces mucus secretion in the airways and stimulates breathing – that’s why it is an asthma drug. It penetrates the blood-brain barrier, showing stimulant effects on the central nervous system. It reduces symptoms of fatigue – such as drowsiness – and increases concentration. It also causes relaxation of the bladder muscles while contracting its sphincter. It resembles adrenaline in its effects, but is not broken down in the digestive system as it is.
Ephedrine – a doping substance
Because ephedrine’s action affects the strength of skeletal muscle contraction, in people who train for sports, it increases strength – it can also speed up metabolism, by as much as 10 percent. According to studies, people who use ephedrine lose weight much faster – its use is associated with an increase in body temperature and faster breakdown of body fat. Its use, can give positive results in anti-doping tests.
Ephedrine can give positive results of anti-doping tests in athletes.
Undesirable effects that ephedrine use may carry
Side effects with ephedra use are more common with regular intake (such as orally) than with intermittent intake (like using inhalers). Possible side effects of ephedrine include:
- cardiovascular disorders: cardiac arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, hypertension, tachycardia, vasoconstriction,
- dermatological changes: sweating, acne, skin redness,
- upset stomach: loss of appetite, nausea,
- Genitourinary system, decreased or impaired urination,
- Nervous system: insomnia, anxiety, chaotic, euphoria, mania, hallucinations, irritability, paranoia, psychomotor agitation (when taken with caffeine),
- Respiratory system: shortness of breath, pulmonary edema,
- dizziness, headache, hand tremor, hyperglycemia, dry mouth.
An overdose of ephedrine, can even lead to death – by excessive strain on the heart. Adverse effects usually do not occur at the dose recommended by the doctor. If high doses of ephedrine are taken, brain damage can occur due to the continuous effect on neurotransmitters, in addition, it can lead to damage to blood vessels due to increased pressure. There is also a risk of decreased muscle tone and paranoid psychosis.
Ephedrine – contraindications
Contraindications to taking ephedrine include hypersensitivity to the substance, as well as ischemic heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, coronary insufficiency, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, closed-angle glaucoma and prostate growth.
Particular caution should be exercised for problems with angina, shortness of breath and chest pain, patients with hardening of the arteries, hypertension, aneurysm and vasoconstriction disorders. Since there is a risk of hypoglycemia, people with diabetes should exercise caution. With the presence of prostatic proliferation, ephedrine can cause difficulty urinating and even urinary retention. People with neurosis should not use the drug for long periods of time due to the risk of anxiety. Patients with closed-angle glaucoma also need to exercise caution.
The use of ephedrine during pregnancy is not advisable – the substance crosses the placenta and causes accelerated heart rate in the fetus. Since it naturally occurs in breast milk, its use by nursing women is not recommended.
Symptoms of ephedrine overdose
In case of ephedrine overdose, symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, palpitations, increased body temperature, delusions, hallucinations, tachycardia, increased blood pressure, decreased blood pressure, anuria, onset of convulsions, coma, and respiratory inhibition may occur. With long-term use of ephedrine, chronic congestion of the nasal mucosa may occur.
Absorption and excretion of ephedrine
Applied topically, ephedrine is absorbed 64%, after oral administration 85%. Complete absorption after oral intake occurs within 2.5 hours, while maximum serum levels are reached within three hours. Ephedrine is excreted unchanged in the urine. Renal excretion depends on the pH of the urine. At pH 5, the half-life is three hours, while at pH 6.3 it is up to six hours.
Because ephedrine is used in the treatment of respiratory tract infections – as an ingredient of compounded preparations available without a prescription. However, the use of this substance should be done after consultation with a doctor.