Ephedra Facts

Ephedra Facts
Ephedra belongs to the group of gymnosperms (plants that produce "naked" seed). There are 69 species of ephedra that can be found in Asia, North and South America, Europe and Africa. Ephedra prefers sunny, dry areas and sandy soils. It usually grows in the deserts, areas near the shore, plains and on the mountain slopes. People are familiar with healing properties of ephedra for thousands of years. Researchers found ephedra's pollen in the grave of Neanderthal buried in Iraq 60.000 years ago. Ephedra is still one of the most popular and most commonly used herbal remedies in the world. People cultivate and use ephedra mainly in medical purposes.
Interesting Ephedra Facts:
Ephedra is an evergreen shrub that can reach 12 to 35 inches in height. It has grooved stem and yellow-green, cylindrical branches.
Ephedra produces few, scale-like leaves that can reach 0.08 to 0.15 inches in length. Leaves are oppositely arranged on the branches.
Ephedra produces small, yellowish pollen-bearing cones (male reproductive structures) and seed-bearing cones (female reproductive structures). Male and female cones develop on separate plants (dioecious plant).
Cones are visible from May to June. They are designed for the pollination by wind.
Ephedra produces black-red or grayish-brown seed covered with the red, fleshy bracts (modified leaves). Seed ripens from August to September.
Ephedra propagates via seed and via division of root.
Fresh or dried berry-like "fruit" of Ephedra sinica are used in human diet in Mongolia.
Some types of ephedra contain tannins (group of chemical compounds) that can induce intoxication of pregnant cows and sheep. Consumption of ephedra is not fatal, but it is often accompanied with vomiting, diarrhea and anorexia.
Ephedra has strong root system that can prevent erosion of the soil.
Native Americans consumed ephedra in the form of drink (made of ground plant mixed with hot water). This beverage, also known as "Mormon tea" (because of its popularity among Mormons in Utah) was often consumed as a substitute for black tea and coffee.
Ephedra was used in treatment of hay fever, asthma and common cold in China 5.000 years ago. Zen monks used ephedra to produce calming effects during the meditation.
Alkaloids isolated from ephedra are used in treatment of asthma, bronchitis, nasal and chest congestion, allergy, rheumatism, arthritis and emphysema today. They are available in the form of tinctures, pills and fluid extracts.
Ephedra is key ingredient of numerous dietary supplements that are used to boost energy, facilitate weight loss and reduce desire for cigarettes. Despite its popularity, ephedra is on the list of prohibited substances in the professional sport.
Ephedra is also used for the manufacture of illegal, street drugs such as methamphetamines.
Ephedra is perennial plant which means that it can survive more than 2 years in the wild.

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