Jointfir (Ephedra sp., Ephedraceae) has long been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for congestion. It contains the compounds ephedrine and its diastereomer pseudoephedrine. These stimulants increase heart rates, constrict blood vessels, and dilate bronchial tubes. It was this latter effect that made pseudoephedrine valuable in cold medicines until a few years ago. It became heavily regulated due to its use in the production of methamphetamine.
Ephedra was also popular in weight-loss supplements. The FDA banned ephedra use in supplements in 2004 because of a variety of adverse side effects, including fatal heart attacks. Chronically increased heart rates and high blood pressure sometimes lead to that.