Additional notes (click to expand)


Induction of noradrenaline release. Contains ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. These are bronchial dilators and vasoconstrictors, used for asthma and nasal congestion. Amphetamines and ecstasy are synthesised from them.
Oakeley, Dr. H.F. (2013). Medicines from RCP plants label list 5-2013.docx.

Herba Ephedrae preparations are used in the treatment of nasal congestion due to hay fever, allergic rhinitis, acute coryza, common cold, and sinusitis. The drug is further used as a bronchodilator in the treatment of bronchial asthma and has been used to aid weight loss. Use of the herb is related to its active components - ephedrine and pseudoephedrine which are potent stimulators of the sympathetic nervous system. Since overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system my induce lethal cardiac rhythm disorders or hypertension their use can not be recommended. The interaction of the herbs with some antidepressant medication (e.g. monoamine oxidase inhibitors) may be lethal. Preparations containing ephedra are banned in the United States. Prescription only medicine: ephedrine, pseudephedrine, amphetamine, ecstasy


Ephedra- Greek name for the common mare’s tail (Hippuris) which it somewhat resembles. For botanists, Ephedra is of great interest, as the genus forms a linking group between conifers and flowering plants.
Stearn, W.T. (1996). Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners. Cassell. p.132

Other use

A cyclist taking amphetamines (synthesised from ephedrine, present in the sap of the primitive plant species Ephedra) died in the 1960 games.
DeSwiet, Michael. (2012). Plants and the Olympic Games. link


Toxic due to sympathomimetic actions. Deaths have been reported.
Professor Anthony Dayan, 2022

Geographical distribution

  • Asia-Temperate, Caucasus, North Caucasus
  • Asia-Temperate, Caucasus, Transcaucasus
  • Asia-Temperate, Middle Asia, Kazakhstan
  • Europe, Eastern Europe, Northwest European Russia
  • Europe, Eastern Europe, South European Russia
  • Europe, Eastern Europe, Ukraine
  • Europe, Middle Europe, Austria
  • Europe, Middle Europe, Germany
  • Europe, Middle Europe, Hungary
  • Europe, Middle Europe, Slovakia
  • Europe, Middle Europe, Switzerland
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Albania
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Bulgaria
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Greece
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Italy
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Romania
  • Europe, Southeastern Europe, Yugoslavia
  • Europe, Southwestern Europe, France
  • Europe, Southwestern Europe, Spain

Ephedra distachya L.

Genus: Ephedra
Species: distachya L.
Common names: Great Shrubby Horsetail; Sea Grape
Distribution summary: Europe to C.Asia
Habit: Perennial
Hardiness: H6 - Hardy; very cold winter
Habitat: Dry, sunny, rocky mountains
Garden status: Currently grown
Garden location: Plants of the World (B)
Flowering months: April, May
Reason for growing: Medicinal, toxic, prescription only medicine

Back to List