: any of a genus (Ephedra of the family Ephedraceae) of jointed nearly leafless shrubs of dry or desert regions with the leaves reduced to scales at the nodes
: an extract of ma huang containing ephedrine and related alkaloids and used as a dietary supplement

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Local producers shifted from using over-the-counter medicines — used in the rest of the world to make ephedrine — to the widely available ephedra, growing wild on Afghan hillsides. Mustafa Salim, Washington Post, 17 Oct. 2022 In an incendiary New York Post piece published shortly after the NIH study appeared, several contestants alleged that they had been given drugs like Adderall and supplements like ephedra to enhance fat burning. Nick Heil, Outside Online, 26 Mar. 2020 The amount of raw materials sent to him increases every year, as more and more people are drawn to harvesting ephedra. Washington Post, 2 May 2022 All of the stuff Bozenko analyzed was made from ephedrine, a natural substance commonly found in decongestants and derived from the ephedra plant, which was used for millennia as a stimulant and an anti-asthmatic. Sam Quinones, The Atlantic, 18 Oct. 2021 Every morning and evening, the 38-year-old was handed a bag of brown soup -- a traditional Chinese remedy blended from over 20 herbs, including ephedra, cinnamon twigs and licorice root. Nectar Gan And Yong Xiong, CNN, 14 Mar. 2020 Meanwhile, farmers tell him, the price of ephedra leaves has tripled in a year. The Economist, 5 Sep. 2019 Afghanistan’s innovative producers are not the first to use ephedra to make meth. The Economist, 5 Sep. 2019 But no one knows for sure where ephedra is being farmed in Afghanistan or in what quantities. The Economist, 5 Sep. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ephedra.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


New Latin, genus name, from Latin, equisetum, from Greek, from ephedros sitting upon, from epi- + hedra seat — more at sit

First Known Use

circa 1889, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ephedra was circa 1889

Dictionary Entries Near ephedra

Cite this Entry

“Ephedra.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephedra. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Medical Definition


capitalized : a large genus of gymnospermous shrubs (family Gnetaceae) of dry or desert regions with jointed stems and leaves reduced to scales
: any plant of the genus Ephedra
: an extract of any of several Asian ephedras (especially E. sinica) that contains ephedrine and related alkaloids, was formerly used as a dietary supplement especially to promote weight loss and increase energy, and was banned in the U.S. by the FDA in 2004 due to adverse side effects
The FDA is also analyzing reports linking a weight-loss and energy supplement, ephedra (ma huang), to heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and fatalities in otherwise healthy adults. Consumer Reports

called also ma huang

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