Ephedra major is an evergreen Shrub growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. 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 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 chemically substituted amphetamines.