Herbs & Plants

Ephedra intermedia

Botanical Name: Ephedra intermedia
Family: Ephedraceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Class: Gnetopsida
Order: Ephedrales
Genus: Ephedra
Species: E. intermedia

*Ephedra ferganensis V.A.Nikitin
*Ephedra microsperma V.A.Nikitin
*Ephedra persica (Stapf) V.A.Nikitin
*Ephedra tesquorum V.A.Nikitin
*Ephedra tibetica (Stapf) V.A.Nikitin
*Ephedra valida V.A.Nikitin

Common Name: Zhong Ma Huang

Habitat: Ephedra intermedia is native to west Asia – Iran, Turkestan, to the Himalayas and China. It grows on gritty mountain slopes at low elevations. Grasslands, deserts, river valleys, floodlands, sandy beaches, cliffs, other dry, sandy or rocky places, 100 – 4600 metres.

Ephedra intermedia is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1 m (3ft 3in), densely branched, erect to spreading or sometimes with a creeping stem producing single, erect, green primary branches. Branchlets yellowish or bluish green, often pruinose, internodes usually 2-6 cm × 1.5-3.5 mm, straight or slightly bent.It is in leaf all year. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). . The plant is not self-fertile.

Leaves in whorls of 3 or opposite, connate for at least 2/3 their length. Pollen cones up to 8, whorled, usually clustered at nodes, often sessile; bracts in 3 or 4 pairs or whorls; anthers 5-8, sessile or shortly stipitate; staminate column slightly exserted. Seed cones ellipsoid, ovoid, or oblong-ovoid; bracts in 2-5 pairs or whorls, outer ones connate at base, apical pair or whorl connate for ca. 1/2 their length, margins membranous, globose, red, and fleshy at maturity; integument tube long, 3-5 mm, usually spirally twisted. Berry ovoid, red. Seeds 2 or 3, ovoid or elongate-ovoid, 5-6 × ca. 3 mm, brownish, concealed by bracts. Pollination May-Jun, seed maturity Jul-Aug. 2n = 14, 28 (Ali and Qaiser 1987, Fu et al. 1999)


Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.
Requires a well-drained loamy soil and a sunny position. Established plants are drought resistant and are also lime tolerant. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Some forms are monoecious

Through seeds – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a greenhouse. It can also be sown in spring in a greenhouse in a sandy compost. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on for at least their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in the spring or early summer after the last expected frosts and give some protection in their first winter. Division in spring or autumn. Layering.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are edible, eaten – raw or cooked. The fruit is about 7mm in diameter.

Medicinal Uses:
Members of this genus contain various medicinally active alkaloids (but notably ephedrine) and they are widely used in preparations for the treatment of asthma and catarrh. Ephedrine has a similar effect to adrenaline in the body. It acts promptly to reduce swellings of the mucous membranes and has antispasmodic properties, thus making it valuable in the treatment of asthma. This species contains between 0.7 and 2.33% alkaloids, of which 10% is ephedrine. The whole plant can be used at much lower concentrations than the isolated constituents – unlike using the isolated ephedrine, using the whole plant rarely gives rise to side-effects. The plant also has antiviral effects, particularly against influenza. The stems are a pungent, bitter, warm herb that dilates the bronchial vessels whilst stimulating the heart and central nervous system. The stems are also antidote, diaphoretic. diuretic, vasoconstrictor and vasodilator. They are used internally in the treatment of asthma, hay fever and allergic complaints. This herb should be used with great caution, preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It should not be prescribed to patients who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or suffering from high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism or glaucoma. Ephedrine is seen as a performance-boosting herb and, as such, is a forbidden substance in many sporting events such as athletics. The stems can be harvested at any time of the year and are dried for later use. The root is antihydrotic, it lowers blood pressure and dilates the peripheral blood vessels. It is used in the treatment of night sweating and spontaneous sweating.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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