The structures of two neutral and 17 salt forms of the base (1R, 2S)-(-)-ephedrine are reported. These structures are discussed in the light of the conformers of the ephedrine moiety, the existence of bilayers and the structure determining role of the counterions. Overall, most of the salt structures are essentially derived from the observed packing of the neutral base and are dominated by the amphiphilic nature of the ephedrine molecular structure. In a few cases the size and hydrophobicity of the counterion disrupts this behaviour. © 2006 International Union of Crystallography. Printed in Great Britain - all rights reserved.