Overview

Brief Summary

Ephedra is one of three genera in the gymnosperm group of seed plants known as Gnetales, whose relationship to other plants has long been a subject of controversy among botanists and evolutionary biologists. Ephedra includes around 50 species, which are distributed in both temperate and subtropical arid environments in the Northern Hemisphere and South America. About a dozen of these species, often known as Mormon Tea, are found in arid regions in western North America.

(Loera and Ickert-Bond 2012)

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Comprehensive Description

Notes

Image copyright © 1995 David R. Maddison

Image copyright © 1995 David R. Maddison

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Ecology

Associations

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / saprobe
Camarosporium coelomycetous anamorph of Camarosporium ephedrae is saprobic on dead wood of Ephedra

Foodplant / feeds on
pycnidium of Conothyrium coelomycetous anamorph of Coniothyrium ephedrinum feeds on Ephedra

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:350
Specimens with Sequences:350
Specimens with Barcodes:225
Species:68
Species With Barcodes:66
Public Records:318
Public Species:66
Public BINs:0
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Barcode data

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Wikipedia

Ephedra (plant)

This article is about the genus Ephedra. For the use of the plant in medicine, see Ephedra.

Ephedra is a genus of gymnosperm shrubs, the only genus in its family, Ephedraceae, and order, Ephedrales. The various species of Ephedra are widespread in many lands, native to southwestern North America, southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwest and central Asia, northern China, and western South America.[2]

In temperate climates, most Ephedra species grow on shores or in sandy soils with direct sun exposure. Common names in English include joint-pine, jointfir, Mormon-tea or Brigham tea. The Chinese name for the Ephedra species is mahuang (simplified Chinese: 麻黄; traditional Chinese: 麻黃; pinyin: máhuáng; Wade–Giles: ma-huang; literally: "cannabis yellow"). Ephedra is also sometimes called sea grape (from the French raisin de mer), a common name for the flowering plant Coccoloba uvifera.

Ephedra fragilis pollen cones
Ephedra distachya: ripe female cones with seeds

Medical uses[edit]

Plant as used in Chinese herbology (crude medicine)
Main article: Ephedra

Plants of the genus Ephedra, including E. sinica and others, have traditionally been used by indigenous people for a variety of medicinal purposes, including treatment of asthma, hay fever, and the common cold.[3] The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are active constituents of E. sinica and other members of the genus. These compounds are sympathomimetics with stimulant and decongestant qualities and are related chemically to the amphetamines.

Pollen of Ephedra spp. was found in the Shanidar IV burial site in Iraq, suggesting its use as a medicinal plant dates to over 60,000 years ago.[4] It has been suggested that Ephedra may be the Soma plant of Indo-Iranian religion.[5]

Species[edit]

Accepted species:[2]

Economic botany and alkaloid content[edit]

Earliest uses of Ephedra spp. (Ma Huang) for specific illnesses date back to 5000 BC. Ephedrine and isomers were already isolated in 1881 from Ephedra dystachia and characterized by the Japanese organic chemist Nagai Nagayoshi of the 19th century. His work to access Ephedra drug materials to isolate a pure pharmaceutical substance, and the systematic production of semi-synthetic derivatives thereof is relevant still today as the three species Ephedra sinica, Ephedra vulgaris and to a lesser extent Ephedra equisetina are commercially grown in Mainland China as a source for natural ephedrines and isomers for use in pharmacy. E. sinica and E. vulgaris usually carry six optically active phenylethylamines, mostly ephedrine and pseudoephedrine with minor amounts of norephedrine, norpseudoephedrine as well as the three methylated analogs. Reliable information on the total alkaloid content of the crude drug is difficult to obtain. Based on HPLC analyses in industrial settings, the concentrations of total alkaloids in dried Herba Ephedra ranged between 1 to 4%, and in some cases up to 6%.[6]

For a review of the alkaloid distribution in different species of the genus Ephedra see Jian-fang Cui (1991).[7] Other American and European species of Ephedra, e.g. Ephedra nevadensis (Nevada Mormon tea) have not been systematically assayed; based on unpublished field investigations, they contain very low levels (less than 0.1%) or none at all.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kramer, K.U.; (illustrations), P.S. Green ; assisted by E. Götz (1990). Kramer, K.U.; Green, P.S., ed. The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, Vol. 1: Pteridophytes and Gymnosperms. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. pp. 379–381. ISBN 3540517944. 
  2. ^ a b c Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  3. ^ Abourashed E, El-Alfy A, Khan I, Walker L (2003). "Ephedra in perspective—a current review". Phytother Res 17 (7): 703–12. doi:10.1002/ptr.1337. PMID 12916063. 
  4. ^ Solecki, Ralph S. (1975). "Shanidar IV, a Neanderthal Flower Burial in Northern Iraq". Science 190 (4217): 880–881. doi:10.1126/science.190.4217.880. JSTOR 1741776. 
  5. ^ Rudgley, Richard (1993). The Alchemy of Culture. London: British Museum Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-7141-2711-6. 
  6. ^ Brossi, Arnold (ed) (1989), The Alkaloids: Chemistry and Pharmacology, Vol. 35, ISBN 0-12-469535-3.
  7. ^ Cui, Jian-fang et al. (1991). "Analysis of alkaloids in Chinese Ephedra species by GC methods". Phytochemical Analysis 2 (3): 116–119. doi:10.1002/pca.2800020305. 
  8. ^ Hegnauer R. (1962) "Chemotaxonomie der Pflanzen. I". Birkhauser Verlag, Basel; Switzerland, pp. 460–462 as cited in Roman MC (2004). "Determination of ephedrine alkaloids in botanicals and dietary supplements by HPLC-UV: collaborative study". J AOAC Int. 87 (1): 1–14. PMID 15084081. 
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