Biological Name: Ephedra sinica, Ephedra intermedia, Ephedra equisetina, Ephedra distacha, Ephedra trifurca
Other Names: Mahuang, Ma Huang, desert tea, Mormon tea, American ephedra, Chinese ephedra, European ephedra, Pakistani ephedra, Ephedra
Ephedra is a shrublike plant found in desert regions throughout the world. It is distributed from northern China to Inner Mongolia. The dried green stems of the three Asian species (E. sinica, intermedia, equisetina) are the plant parts employed medicinally. The North American species of ephedra does not appear to contain the active ingredients of its Asian counterparts. The plants are 1.5 to 4 foot high. They typically grow on dry, rocky, or sandy slopes. The many slender, yellow green branches of ephedra have two very small leaf scales at each node. The mature, double seeded cones are visible in the fall.
Ephedra's active medicinal ingredients are the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The stem contains 1-3% total alkaloids, with ephedrine accounting for 30-90% of this total, depending on the plant species employed. Both ephedrine and its synthetic counterparts stimulate the central nervous system, dilate the bronchial tubes, elevate blood pressure, and increase heart rate. Pseudoephedrine (the synthetic form) is a popular over-the-counter remedy for relief of nasal congestion.
Diaphoretic, bronchial dilator, diuretic
Induces perspiration, warms coldness, relieves wheezing, moves fluids. It is used for common cold, wheezing, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, and edema.
Asthma, Common Cold, Hay fever, Congestion, Cough, Weight loss and obesity
Ephedra is used to treat asthma, hay fever, the common cold, and as a weight loss aid.
Asthma and hay fever: Ephedra is useful in the treatment of mild to moderate hay fever and asthma. It is recommended that you supplement the ephedra use with substances that support the adrenal glands, such as licorice, panax ginseng, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B-6, and pantothenic acid.
The traditional herbal treatment of asthma involves the use of ephedra in combination with herbal expectprants. The expectorants modify the secretions from the respiratory tract, ultimately improving its function by having the user spit up the secretions out. The most commonly used expectorants are licorice, grindelia, euphorbia, sundew, and senega.
Weight Loss Aid: Ephedrine suppresses the appetite and increases the metabolic rate of adipose tissue. Ephedrine activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the metabolic rate and increasing the amount of the food converted to heat (thermogenesis). This prevents the body from converting these foods to fat, thus helping in the control of weight gain by those who have low metabolism.
Ephedrine is often used in conjunction with methylxanthine sources such as coffee, tea, cola nut, and guarana. The methylxanthines enhances the thermogenic effect of ephedrine. Clinical studies have also shown that aspirin may be effective in increasing the thermogenic effect of ephedrine.
The crude powdered stems of ephedra (with less than 1% ephedrine) are employed at a dose of 1-4 grams per day in tea form.
Tinctures of 1-4 ml three times per day can be taken.
Over-the-counter drugs containing ephedrine can be safely used by adults at a dose of 12.5-25 mg every four hours. Adults should take no more than 150 mg every twenty-four hours.
Pseudoephedrine is typically recommended at a dose of 60 mg every six hours.
Anyone with high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, glaucoma, thyroid disease, and those taking MAO-inhibiting antidepressants should consult with a physician before using any type of product with ephedra.
Pseudoephedrine can cause drowsiness and should be used with caution if driving or operating machinery Ephedra-based products should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation and used with caution in children under the age of six years.