Common Names — Ephedra, Chinese ephedra, Ma huang, Desert Herb, Ephedrine

What Is Ephedra Used For?

  • Ephedra has been used for more than 5,000 years in China and India to treat conditions such as colds, fever, flu, headaches, asthma, wheezing, and nasal congestion.
  • It has also been an ingredient in many dietary supplements used for weight loss, increased energy, and enhanced athletic performance.

How Ephedra Is Used?

The medicinal parts are the young canes collected in autumn and the dried rhizome with roots. The dried stems and leaves of the plant are used to create capsules, tablets, extracts, tinctures, and teas.

Commission E approved ephedra for use in treating cough and/or bronchitis.

Folk medicine uses: Ma-Huang is used for diseases of the respiratory tract with mild bronchospasms in adults and children over the age of six. Various indications include asthma, cardiovascular stimulation and as a CNS stimulant.

Chinese medicine: Ephedra has been used for over 4000 years for severe febrile illnesses, bronchial asthma, joint symptoms, inability to perspire, coughing with dyspnea, edema and pains in the bones.

Common Ephedra Preparations

  • Tea: Made with 1 to 4 gm, 3 times daily.
  • Ephedra tincture (1:1): Medium single dose 5 gm.
  • Ephedra extract: 1 to 3 ml 3 times daily.
  • Ephedra tincture (1:4): 6 to 8 ml 3 times daily.

Side Effects and Cautions for Ephedra

  • An NCCAM-funded study that analyzed phone calls to poison control centers found a higher rate of side effects from ephedra, compared with other herbal products. Common side effects include headache, irritability, motor restlessness, nausea, sleeplessness, tachycardia, urinary disorders and vomiting.
  • Other studies and systematic reviews have found an increased risk of heart, psychiatric, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as high blood pressure and stroke, with ephedra use.
  • According to the FDA, there is little evidence of ephedra’s effectiveness, except for short-term weight loss. However, the increased risk of heart problems and stroke in high dosages outweighs any benefits.
  • Dependence can develop with extended intake. The herb should only be administered for short periods.

Read More: Essential Nutrients