What Is Ephedrine?
Ephedrine is a central nervous system stimulant used to treat breathing problems (as a bronchodilator), nasal congestion (as a decongestant), low blood pressure problems (orthostatic hypotension), or myasthenia gravis. Ephedrine is also used to treat narcolepsy, menstrual problems (dysmenorrhea), or urine-control problems. Ephedrine is available in generic form.
What Are Side Effects of Ephedrine?
Common side effects of Ephedrine usually occur with larger doses and include:
- spinning sensation (vertigo),
- loss of appetite,
- trouble sleeping (insomnia),
- fast heart rate,
- weight loss, and
- difficult or painful urination.
Dosage for Ephedrine
The dosage of this drug is based on the patient’s medical condition and response to therapy. For prescription this drug, do not exceed 150 mg per day in adults or 75 mg per day in children.
What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Ephedrine?
This drug may interact with other adrenalin-like drugs, MAO inhibitors, beta-blockers, blood pressure medicine, tricyclic antidepressants, diuretics (water pills), digoxin, atropine, theophylline, oxytocin, or St John’s wort. Tell your doctor all medications you are taking.
Ephedrine During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
This drug should be used only when prescribed during pregnancy. It is not known whether this drug passes into breast milk. Due to the potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding while using this drug is not recommended.
Our Ephedrine Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.
Do not use ephedrine if:
- you are allergic to this medication.
- you do not have a diagnosis of asthma
- you have a diagnosis of asthma but use prescription asthma medications
- if you have ever been hospitalized for asthma
- you are taking a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor (eg, phenelzine) now or have taken an MAO inhibitor in the last 14 days. If you do not know if your prescription drug contains an MAO inhibitor, ask your health care provider before taking this product.
- you have high blood pressure, heart disease, an irregular heartbeat, thyroid disease, diabetes, or difficulty in urination due to enlargement of the prostate gland or other severe heart problems
Contact your doctor or health care provider before using ephedrine if any of these apply to you.
Before using ephedrine:
Some medical conditions may interact with ephedrine. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:
- if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding
- if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
- if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances
- if you have a history of heart problems, diabetes, glaucoma, an enlarged prostate or other prostate problems, adrenal gland problems, high blood pressure, seizures, stroke, blood vessel problems, an overactive thyroid, or severe asthma
Some medicines may interact with ephedrine. Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following:
- Beta-blockers (eg, propranolol), cocaine, indomethacin, methyldopa, MAO inhibitors (eg, phenelzine), linezolid, oxytocic medicines (eg, oxytocin), rauwolfia derivatives (eg, reserpine), or tricyclic antidepressants (eg, amitriptyline), or ergot alkaloids (eg, dihydroergotamine) because the actions and side effects of ephedrine may be increased
- Bromocriptine, catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors (eg, entacapone), or digoxin because the actions and side effects of these medicines may be increased
- Guanadrel, guanethidine, mecamylamine, methyldopa, or reserpine because its effectiveness may be decreased by ephedrine
This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if this drug may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.
How to use ephedrine:
Use this medication as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.
- This drug may be taken with or without food. If stomach upset occurs, take with food to reduce stomach irritation.
- If you miss a dose of ephedrine and are taking it regularly, take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once.
Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use ephedrine.
Important safety information:
- This drug may cause dizziness. Do not drive, operate machinery, or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how you react to ephedrine. Using ephedrine alone, with certain other medicines, or with alcohol may lessen your ability to drive or perform other potentially dangerous tasks.
- If your symptoms do not improve within 7 days or if you develop a high fever, check with your doctor.
- If you have trouble sleeping, ask your pharmacist or doctor about the best time to take this medication.
- Do not take diet or appetite control medicines while you are taking ephedrine.
- Before you begin taking any new prescription or nonprescription medicine, read the ingredients to see if it also contains ephedrine. If it does or if you are uncertain, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
- Diabetes patients – ephedrine may affect your blood sugar. Check blood sugar levels closely and ask your doctor before adjusting the dose of your diabetes medicine.
- Use this medication with caution in the elderly because they may be more sensitive to its effects.
- Use ephedrine with extreme caution in children. Safety and effectiveness have not been confirmed.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is unknown if this medication can cause harm to the fetus. If you become pregnant while taking ephedrine, discuss with your doctor the benefits and risks of using ephedrine during pregnancy. Ephedrine is excreted in breast milk. If you are or will be breast-feeding while you are using ephedrine, check with your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the risks to your baby.
Possible side effects:
All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most common side effects persist longer than one hours or become worse:
- Dizziness; headache; nausea; nervousness; tremor; loss of appetite; restlessness; sleeplessness; stomach irritation.
Seek medical attention right away if any of these severe side effects occur:
- Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); difficulty urinating.
This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur.
Store this medication at room temperature, between 59 and 77 degrees F (15 and 25 degrees C). Store away from heat, moisture, and light. Do not store in the bathroom. Keep ephedrine out of the reach of children and away from pets.
- If you have any questions about this drug, please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
- ephedrine is to be used only by the patient for whom it is prescribed. Do not share it with other people.
- If your symptoms do not improve or if they become worse, check with your doctor.
This information is a summary only. It does not contain all information about this drug. If you have questions about the medicine you are taking or would like more information, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
Copyright 1996-2018. Version: 2.01.
For the Consumer
Applies to ephedrine: intravenous solution
Side effects requiring immediate medical attention
Along with its needed effects, ephedrine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking this drug:
Incidence not known
- Blurred vision
- fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- pounding in the ears
- slow or fast heartbeat
Side effects not requiring immediate medical attention
Some side effects of ephedrine may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects.
Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
Incidence not known
For Healthcare Professionals
Applies to ephedrine: compounding powder, injectable solution, intravenous solution, oral capsule
Very rare (less than 0.01%): Myocardial infarction
Frequency not reported: Tachycardia, palpitations, reactive hypertension, bradycardia, ventricular ectopics, R-R variability, pallor, angina/anginal pain, hypertension, hypotension, extrasystole, arrhythmias, vasodilation with low blood pressure, flushing, impaired circulation to extremities[Ref]
Frequency not reported: Dizziness, headache, trembling, lightheadedness, tremor, sedation[Ref]
Frequency not reported: Nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, mild epigastric distress, hypersalivation[Ref]
Frequency not reported: Hyperglycemia, anorexia[Ref]
Frequency not reported: Sweating[Ref]
1. “Product Information. Akovaz (ePHEDrine).” Eclat Pharmaceuticals, Menomonee Falls,, WI.
2. Cerner Multum, Inc. “UK Summary of Product Characteristics.” O 0
3. “Product Information. Ephedrine Sulfate (ephedrine).” Akorn Inc, Buffalo Grove, IL.
4. Cerner Multum, Inc. “Australian Product Information.” O 0
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.
Most frequently checked interactions
View interaction reports for ephedrine and the medicines listed below.
- Acetylsalicylic Acid (aspirin)
- Adderall (amphetamine / dextroamphetamine)
- Adrenalin (epinephrine)
- Ambien (zolpidem)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Augmentin (amoxicillin / clavulanate)
- Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
- Ginkgo Biloba (ginkgo)
- Lyrica (pregabalin)
- Norco (acetaminophen / hydrocodone)
- Paracetamol (acetaminophen)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Ritalin (methylphenidate)
- Valproate Sodium (valproic acid)
- Vicodin (acetaminophen / hydrocodone)
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
- Vitamin K (phytonadione)
- Voltaren (diclofenac)
- Wellbutrin (bupropion)
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
This drug was first described in western literature in 1888, as a naturally occurring component of the ephedra plant, along with pseudoephedrine.5 Ephedrine is an adrenergic receptor agonist used for its vasoconstrictive, positive chronotropic, and positive inotropic effects.8 Ephedrine and phenylephrine are still commonly used to treat hypotension but their use in other indications has decreased due to the development of more selective adrenergic agonists.6,7,9
This drug was granted a type 7 FDA Approval on 29 April 2016.9
This drug is a sympathomimetic amine that activates adrenergic receptors, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, and causing bronchodilation.4 The therapeutic window is wide as patients can be given doses of 5mg up to 50mg.11 Patients should be counselled regarding the pressor effects of sympathomimetic amines and the risk of tachyphylaxis.4
This drug is a direct and indirect sympathomimetic amine.4 Ephedrine activates adrenergic α and β-receptors as well as inhibiting norepinephrine reuptake, and increasing the release of norepinephrine from vesicles in nerve cells.4 These actions combined lead to larger quantities of norepinephrine present in the synapse, for longer periods of time, increasing stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.4 Ephedrine’s stimulation of α-1 receptors causes constriction of veins and a rise in blood pressure, stimulation of β-1 adrenergic receptors increase cardiac chronotropy and inotropy, stimulation of β-2 adrenergic receptors causes bronchodilation.4