It has been used in China for more than 4000 years to treat symptoms of asthma and upper respiratory infections. Varieties of the herb are also grown in Europe, India, Australia and Afghanistan. In the United States, the herb has street names of “natural ecstasy” as a stimulant and “natural fen-phen” as a diet aid. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against using the diet aid and has banned on 12 April, 2004 the stimulant version.
This herb comes from the ephedra species-an evergreen with a pinelike odor that grows in certain desert regions of Asia and the United States. Of the many ephedra species, the most common are Ephedra sinica and E. nevadensis. Herbalists use parts of the plant’s seeds and stems.
Common doses of ephedra
Ephedra comes as unprocessed extracts of root and aboveground parts, tablets (approximately 7 milligrams), and teas. Some experts recommend the following dose:
- As a tea, place V2 ounce of dried branches in a pint of boiling water and steep for 10 to 20 minutes.
Be aware that the FDA prohibits the sale of ephedra in quantities of 8 milligrams or more per dose and cautions against taking more than 8 milligrams every 6 hours or more than 24 milligrams daily. The FDA also warns not to use ephedra products for more than 7 days in a row.
Uses of ephedra herb
Ephedra has been used for thousands of years and is considered safe when used by healthy people. Ma huang (Ephedra sinica) is a mild engergizing herb that suppresses appetite and promotes thermogenic metabolism and increases perspiration and stimulates the nervous system. Some of the common ailement which can dure by ephedra herb are:-
- Bronchial asthma
- Common cold
- Fluid retention
- Joint pain
- Nasal congestion
- To stimulate the nervous system
- To suppress the appetite
Side effects of ephedra
Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of ephedra:
- irregular heartbeats
- skin inflammation
- urine retention
This herb also can cause heart attacks, psychosis, and uterine contractionsis.
Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Don’t use this herb with:
- drugs to relieve depression called MAO inhibitors (such as Marplan and Nardil)
- heart drugs called beta blockers (such as Inderal)
- phenothiazines such as Thorazine, used for anxiety, nausea, vomiting, or psychosis
Important points to remember
- Don’t take ephedra if you’re pregnant because it can stimulate the uterus.
- Be aware that many of the heart attacks, seizures, and strokes reported to the FDA occurred in previously healthy young adults using ephedra.
- Know that the FDA has linked 17 deaths and hundreds of serious side effects to ephedra products containing the alkaloid ephedrine.
- Avoid ephedra if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or an enlarged prostate.
- Watch for side effects-especially chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, or fainting-when using ephedra. Seek medical help immediately if you experience any of these.
- Take less than 8 milligrams every 6 hours and never more than 24 milligrams daily. Also, don’t use ephedra for more than 7 consecutive days.
What the research shows
Scientists believe the main components in some Ephedra species may be valuable in treating certain conditions, especially fluid retention. However, standardized formulations of ephedra’s active chemicals are available over the counter, so medical experts don’t recommend taking the herbal product.
Other names for ephedra : –
Other names for ephedra include brigham tea, cao ma huang (Chinese ephedra), desert tea, epitonin, herba ephedrae, herbal, joint fir, ma huang, mahuuanggen (root), Mexican tea, Mormon tea, muzei mu huang (Mongolian ephedra), natural ecstasy, popotillo, sea grape, squaw tea, teamster’s tea, yellow astringent, yellow horse, and zhong ma huang (intermediate ephedra).
Products containing ephedra are sold under such names as Herbal Fen-Phen, Power Trim.