Latin name: Ephedra Gerardiana
Common name: Somlata,
English name: Ephedrine. Epitonin, Ma Huang
Habitat: West Central China, Southern Siberia, Japan.
Macroscopic identification: It is found on sandy seashores and in temperate climates of both hemispheres. The plant has stamens and pistils on separate flowers--staminate flowers in catkins and a membraneous perianth, pistillate flowers terminal on axillary stalks, within a two-leaved involucre. Fruit has two carpels with a single seed in each and is a succulent cone, branches slender and erect, small leaves, scale-like, articulated and joined at the base into a sheath.
Parts used: root and ried branch
Pharmacological action: A sympathetic nerve stimulant resembling adrenaline, its effect on the unstriped muscular fibers is remarkable. It acts promptly in relieving swellings of the mucous membrane. It has valuable antispasmodic properties, acts on the air passages and is of benefit in asthma and hay fever; it is also employed for rheumatism; a 5 to 10 per cent solution has mydriatic properties, prophylactically used for low blood pressure in influenza, pneumonia, etc. It is also alterative, diuretic, stomachic and tonic.
Action and uses in Ayurveda: kaphavatashamak, shothara, vednashamak, shwaskas hara, mutrl and gharbhashyasankochak
Photochemical: Ephedrine is salt of an alkaloid and is in shining white crystals. Heating ephedrine with hydrochloric acid forms Pseudoephidrine.
Properties and action:
Preparations: decoction, tincture, alcoholic extract,
Therapeutic classification index:
Ephedrine Resembles Adrenaline:
- Central nervous system: Blood and haemopoeitic tissue:.
- Cardiovascular system: The circulatory stimulation diverts blood flow from the digestive tract and forces more blood to the brain and limbs, thus reducing fatigue and reducing hunger
- Respiratory system: Used to control wheezing. Relaxes the lungs and bronchioles and is useful in affections of respiratory passage
- Nutrition and metabolism: Weight Management: Somlata has a thermogenic effect that is increased by salicylic acid (aspirin) or caffeine (kola nut). This effect is successfully used as part of a weight loss program. It improves digestion and tones up the small intestines
- Genito-urinary system: Opens the pores and promotes sweating. Used for chills, fever, headache and tight, floating pulse. Promotes urination and reduces edema
The alkaloid ephedrine contained in the plant has an action nearly akin to that of adrenaline (Dr. Chen. U. Schmidt) when used by mouth hence can be suitably used in place of adrenaline, which acts only when injected. It acts o the sympathetic nervous system, constricts the blood vessels and raises the blood pressure. It stimulates the respiratory centers, uterus, dilates the bronchi and pupils, contracts the intestines and raises blood sugar.
Pseudo ephedrine stimulates both the inhibitory and the accelerator mechanism of the heart and has stimulating influence on myocardium.
Effect of ephedrine on lungs:
The pulmonary pressure shows a marked rise, the action resembles that of adrenaline. The rise in pressure is due to contraction of the branches of the pulmonary artery and this also relieves the turgescent of the mucus membrane. Along with this, at the same time there is dilatation bronchioles and both these factors help in relieving paroxysms of asthma.
Ephedra and its alkaloids are effective bronchodilators in the treatment of mild to moderate asthma and hay fever. The peak bronchodilation effect occurs in 1 hour and lasts about 5 hours after administration.
Many believe that the therapeutic effect of Ephedra will diminish if used for a long period of time, owing to a weakening of the adrenal glands caused by ephedrine. But, according to the American Pharmaceutical Association, "there is far more discussion of ephedrine tachyphylaxis [rapid decrease in effectiveness] or tolerance than is evidenced as a significant problem in the scientific literature." A 1977 study of ephedrine therapy in asthmatic children, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded: "Ephedrine is a potent bronchodilator that, in appropriate doses, can be administered safely along with therapeutic doses of theophylline without the fear of progressive tolerance or toxicity.
Nonetheless, many practitioners of natural medicine prescribe ephedra in combination with substances that support the adrenal glands, such as licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Panax ginseng and/or supplemental levels of vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.
The old-time herbal treatment of asthma involves the use of ephedra in combination with herbal expectorants. Expectorants modify the quality and quantity of secretions from the respiratory tract, causing the user to spit up the secretions and ultimately improving respiratory tract function
Effect of ephedrine on heart:
The stimulant action of both the chemicals is well known on blood pressure and therefore is used as a cardiac stimulant. Ephedrine in large doses has a depressant action on myocardium. Pseudo ephedrine on the other hand has a stimulant action on heart muscles. Besides its action on the vasomotor endings it also stimulates the muscle fibers of arterioles.
In cases of left heart failure ephedrine tincture proved very effective even when the digitalis and other cardiac stimulant proved ineffective.
Use of Ephedra in weight loss:
Ephedra preparations may be useful as a weight loss aid. Although ephedrine does suppress appetite, its main mechanism for promoting weight loss appears to be by increasing the metabolic rate of adipose tissue. Its weight reducing effects are greatest in those individuals with a low basal metabolic rate and/or decreased diet-induced thermo genesis.
Because it is such a powerful stimulant and can raise blood pressure, caution is recommended for those who already have high blood pressure or weak internal organs.
Taking too much of ephedra-based products too fast can result in hand tremor, nervousness, restlessness, excessive stimulation, rapid heart rate or insomnia, all similar to the effects of too much coffee, tea or cola drinks. Tolerance usually develops rapidly to these effects, but not to the fat burning benefits. Caffeine will increase both the stimulant and thermogenic effects of ephedra. Do not use this product if you're pregnant or lactating. Persons with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, prostatic hypertrophy, glaucoma, hyperthyroidism or psychosis should not take any product containing ephedrine or ephedra herb. Elderly persons may be more sensitive to ephedrine.
Capsule Somlata contains pure powder of Somlata.
Dosage: one capsule twice a day, after meals.
Package size: 60 capsules.
- Dr.KM Nadkarni, The Indian Materia Medica, Vol.I, pg 486
- Prof P.V Sharma, Dravya Guna Vigyana, Vol II, pg 302
- British Pharmacopoeia 1980, page 172, Vol I