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Ephedra sinica

Ephedra sinica (Ephedraceae)

EPHEDRA, MA HUANG

 

Ephedra has been used as a treatment for asthma in Chinese medicine for 5,000 years. However, it was not until 1887 that the drug ephedrine was isolated from the plant, which is still used as a source of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine by the pharmaceutical industry. Ephedrine alone is used less commonly for asthma today because it may raise blood pressure dangerously. However, the whole plant is safer, as it contains other ingredients that help to lower blood pressure while ephedrine eases the asthma. Native to the Himalayas and China, it is a short shrub with smooth, green, grooved branches and leaves reduced to tufts. Its flowers are produced in summer and are followed by small succulent cones.

 

PARTS USED

Young stems.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Alkaloids, including ephedrine pseudoephedrine, and norephedrine.

 

ACTIONS

Relieves asthma; dilates the lung passages; stimulates the heart; constricts local blood vessels.

 

MEDICINAL USE

Given for asthma to relieve the severity and frequency of spasms of the lung passages, and for hives (urticaria), hay fever and other allergies. Chinese physicians also prescribe it for colds, influenza, coughs, joint pain, and swelling. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are ingredients in several pharmaceutical preparations for the relief of coughs and colds.

 

PREPARATIONS

Infusion, tincture, pharmaceutical preparations.

 

CAUTION

Only use under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. All products containing ephedrine or pseuodephedrine should be avoided by people with high blood pressure, glaucoma, and hyperthyroidism or in patients taking MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) antidepressant drugs.   

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