Ephedrine is a prescription drug

EphedrineDrug groupsEphedrine is an active ingredient from the group of sympathomimetics, which constricts the blood vessels, dilates the bronchi and increases blood pressure. It is injected for hypotension and bronchospasm, and is also found in some cold medicines that are given orally. The most common possible adverse effects include central nervous system disorders and digestive disorders. Ephedrine can be misused as a stimulant, as a precursor chemical for the synthesis of illegal intoxicants and as a doping agent. Therefore caution is advised when dispensing.

synonymous: Ephedrinum, Ephedrini hydrochloridumPhEur, Ephedrine hydrochloride


Ephedrine is commercially available in Switzerland in the form of injection solutions, combined cold remedies and veterinary medicinal products.

Structure and properties

Ephedrine (C.10H15NO, Mr = 165.2 g / mol) is often present in medicinal products as ephedrine hydrochloride, a white, crystalline powder or colorless crystals that are easily soluble in water. Other salts are also used, e.g. ephedrine sulfate.

Ephedrine is a natural substance which is made from Ephedra-Types can be obtained (Ma Huang). It was first isolated by Nagajosi Nagai in Tokyo in 1887.


Ephedrine (ATC R03CA02) has direct and indirect sympathomimetic properties. The effects are based on the stimulation of alpha and beta receptors. The effects include:

  • Expansion of the bronchi
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Narrowing and widening of the vessels
  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Central stimulation

The half-life is between three to six hours.

Mechanism of action of the sympathomimetics, click to enlarge. Illustration © PharmaWiki


In veterinary medicine, ephedrine is used, among other things, to treat urinary incontinence in dogs.


According to the specialist information.


Ephedrine can be misused as a stimulant, party drug, doping agent and as a precursor chemical for the synthesis of illegal intoxicants (methamphetamine). Therefore caution is advised when dispensing.

  • Hypersensitivity
  • Hypovolemia as monotherapy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Thyrotoxicosis
  • Patients with certain cardiovascular diseases
  • Severe arteriosclerosis
  • Angle-closure glaucoma

The complete precautionary measures can be found in the product information sheet.


Ephedrine has a high potential for interaction. Drug interactions are possible, for example, with other sympathomimetics, MAO inhibitors and beta blockers.

unwanted effects

The most common possible adverse effects include psychiatric disorders (high doses), central effects such as nervousness, feelings of tension, irritability, agitation and insomnia, headache, nausea and vomiting.

In the event of an overdose, paranoid psychoses and hallucinations can occur, among other things.

see also


  • Medicinal product information (CH)
  • Chen K.K., Schmidt C.F. The action of ephedrine, the active principle of the Chinese drug Ma Huang. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 1924, 24 (5), 339-357
  • Doping list
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • swell
  • Scheindlein S. Ephedra: once a boon, now a bane. Molecular Interventions, 2003, 3 (7), 358-359
  • Shekelle P.G. et al. Efficacy and safety of ephedra and ephedrine for weight loss and athletic performance. JAMA, 2003, 289 (12), 1537-1545 Pubmed
  • Soni et al. Safety of ephedra: lessons learned. Toxicology Letters, 2004, 150, 97-110
  • Ordinance on precursor chemicals

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on 5/10/2021.
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