Ephedra, also known as Ma Huang, is an herbal product derived from the evergreen plant. It was originally used in China to treat conditions such as asthma, fever, flu, headaches, wheezing and nasal congestion.

Five thousand years ago, the Chinese used the ephedra plant as a medicinal treatment. The modern ephedra supplements are now banned because of synthetic ingredients and extremely high doses.


The ephedra herb contains the stimulants:

  • Ephedrine
  • Phenylpropanolamine
  • Pseudoephedrine


Ephedra is a powerful stimulant herb that enhances energy. As a cardiac and central nervous system stimulant, Ephedra has been known as herbal or natural “speed.” In fact, it has even threatened the sales of amphetamines.

The plant is a very effective broncho-dilator and helps open up air passages, thus stimulating circulation and counteracting fatigue. Since it is a decongestant, it has been used aid many respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, allergies and congestion.

Having thermogenesis properties, it stimulates calorie burning and allayed hunger. It has been used in the alternative/natural weight loss arena until the manufacturers started isolating it’s major alkaloid, ephedrine as well as making a synthetic ephedrine which caused major health problems for people.

Used to boost stamina, energy and circulation, ephedra supplies oxygen to muscle tissue. If the muscles have more oxygen, they will contract more easily and will increase in size.

Health Concerns

If taken in normal doses, Ephedra is not a dangerous herb.

Careful use of the herb is necessary, but this is true of all herbal stimulants. In some cases, an herbal stimulant should not be used if the person is suffering from a particular disease.

In high doses, ephedra can serious health conditions. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Irregular and racing heartbeat


A substance derived from the ephedra plant, Ephedrine has been used as:

  • Weight loss supplement
  • Energy booster
  • Athletic performance enhancer
  • Treatment for respiratory conditions

Ephedrine has been shown to be effective at promoting weight loss. By increasing the body’s metabolic rate, it enhances the ability to burn fat. These effects are greatest for individuals with low metabolic rates.

Health Risks

Pharmaceutical products containing ephedrine have been found to have many dangerous side effects and can be dangerous for human consumption.

When manufacturers began adding caffeine to weight loss products, many reports of heart problems appeared. The common side effects of ephedrine products include:

  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Tremor
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability


Due to the harmful side effects of ephedrine, the FDA has banned the dietary supplement. This ban does not apply to the traditional Chinese herbs or herbal teas. Ephedra is still available in the U.S. and can be purchased at herbal stores.

Ephedra was not the culprit in weight loss formulas that was harming people in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The isolated alkaloid called “ephedrine” was the synthetic chemical that was responsible.

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