What Is Epinephrine Exactly?

Ephinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter secreted by the adrenal gland, located above the kidney. It is naturally released by the body during stressful conditions, serving to increase blood circulation and breathing while preparing the muscles for a “fight or flight” response.

When released by the body, epinephrine contracts blood vessels, dilates air passages and has other effects on the bodily systems. Epinephrine is able to bind to receptors on a wide variety of cells, leading to responses in nearly all body tissues.

Epinephrine for Allergies

While epinephrine is naturally produced by the body, synthetic epinephrine is also available. It is commonly delivered as an injected medication for the control of severe or anaphylactic reactions. Marketed as EpiPen or Twinject, epinephrine auto-injectors are available by prescription. This emergency medication can reverse an allergic reaction and is prescribed for patients with severe allergies to bee stings, peanuts and other substances. Many individuals with allergies carry epinephrine medication with them at all times.

In medical jargon, the word "epinephrine" is often shortened to "epi." Epinephrine is also commonly referred to as "adrenaline," particularly outside of the United States. The term "adrenaline" originates from the Latin words "ad-" and "renes," meaning "on the kidney," and refers to the position of the adrenal gland near the kidney. "Epinephrine" is from the Greek roots "epi" and "nephros," which have similar meanings to the Latin root for this term.

Chemically, epinephrine is known as a catecholamine. Epinephine is produced inside the adrenal gland from the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. Its chemical formula is C9H13N03.

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