Botanical Name: Ephedra sinica
Common Names: Ephedra, Ma Huang,Joint-pine, Jointfir, Mormon-tea or Brigham Tea.
The Chinese name is má huáng, which means “yellow hemp”. Ephedra is also sometimes called sea grape (from the French raisin de mer), although that is also a common name for Coccoloba uvifera.
Ephedra sinica Stapf. Engl.: Chinese ephedra, Chinese joint-fir. Suom.: efedra. Sven.: efedra. TCM: ma huang, cao ma huang
Habitat :These plants occur in dry climates over a wide area mainly in the northern hemisphere, across southern Europe, north Africa, southwest and central Asia, southwestern North America, and, in the southern hemisphere, in South America south to Patagonia.
Description: 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.
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Ephedra alata Decne
Ephedra altissima Desf.
Ephedra americana Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
Ephedra antisyphilitica Berl. ex C.A.Meyer – Clapweed, Erect Ephedra
Ephedra aspera Engelm. ex S.Wats. – Boundary Ephedra, Pitamoreal
Ephedra boelckei F.A.Roig
Ephedra californica S.Wats. – California Ephedra, California Jointfir
Ephedra campylopoda C. A. Mey.
Ephedra chilensis C. Presl
Ephedra ciliata Fisch. ex C. A. Mey.
Ephedra coryi E.L.Reed – Cory’s Ephedra
Ephedra cutleri Peebles – Navajo Ephedra, Cutler’s Ephedra, Cutler Mormon-tea, Cutler’s Jointfir
Ephedra dahurica Turcz.
Ephedra distachya L. – Joint-pine, Jointfir
Ephedra distachya L. subsp. distachya
Ephedra distachya subsp. helvetica (C.A.Meyer) Aschers. & Graebn.
Ephedra distachya L. subsp. monostachya (L.) Riedl
Ephedra equisetina Bunge – Ma huang
Ephedra fasciculata A.Nels. – Arizona Ephedra, Arizona Jointfir, Desert Mormon-tea Photo
Ephedra fedtschenkoae Pauls.
Ephedra foliata Boiss. ex C.A.Mey.
Ephedra fragilis Desf.
Ephedra fragilis subsp. campylopoda (C.A.Meyer) Aschers. & Graebn.
Ephedra frustillata Miers – Patagonian Ephedra
Ephedra funerea Coville & Morton – Death Valley Ephedra, Death Valley Jointfir
Ephedra gerardiana Wallich ex C.A.Meyer – Gerard’s Jointfir, Shan Ling Ma Huang
Ephedra holoptera Riedl
Ephedra intermedia Schrenk ex C.A.Meyer
Ephedra lepidosperma C.Y.Cheng
Ephedra distachyaEphedra likiangensis Florin
Ephedra lomatolepis Shrenk
Ephedra macedonica Kos.
Ephedra major Host
Ephedra major subsp. procera Fischer & C.A.Meyer
Ephedra minuta Florin
Ephedra monosperma C.A.Meyer
Ephedra multiflora Phil. ex Stapf
Ephedra nevadensis S.Wats. – Nevada Ephedra, Nevada Jointfir, Nevada Mormon-tea
Ephedra pachyclada Boiss.
Ephedra pedunculata Engelm. ex S.Wats. – Vine Ephedra, Vine Jointfir
Ephedra procera Fisch. & C. A. Mey.
Ephedra przewalskii Stapf
Ephedra przewalskii var. kaschgarica (B.Fedtsch. & Bobr.) C.Y.Cheng
Ephedra regeliana Florin – Xi Zi Ma Huang
Ephedra saxatilis (Stapf) Royle ex Florin
Ephedra sinica Stapf – Cao Ma Huang, Chinese ephedra
Ephedra strobilacea Bunge
Ephedra torreyana S.Wats. – Torrey’s Ephedra, Torrey’s Jointfir, Torrey’s Mormon-tea, Cañutillo
Ephedra trifurca Torrey ex S.Wats. – Longleaf Ephedra, Longleaf Jointfir, Longleaf Mormon-tea, Popotilla, Teposote
Ephedra viridis Coville – Green Ephedra, Green Mormon-tea
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.
Biochemistry and pharmacology
The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the active constituents of the plant. Pseudoephedrine is used in over-the-counter decongestants. Derivatives of ephedrine are used to treat low blood pressure, but alternatives with reduced cardiovascular risk have replaced it for treating asthma. Ephedrine is also considered a performance-enhancing drug and is prohibited in most competitive sports. Some species in the Ephedra genus have no alkaloid content; however, the most commonly used species, E. sinica, has a total alkaloid content of 1–3% by dry weight. Ephedrine constitutes 40–90% of the alkaloid content, with the remainder consisting of pseudoephedrine and the demethylated forms of each compound.
Plants of the Ephedra genus, including E. sinica and others, have traditionally been used by indigenous people for a variety of medicinal purposes, including treatment of asthma, hay fever, and the common cold. They have also been proposed as a candidate for the Soma plant of Indo-Iranian religion. The alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are active constituents of E. sinica and other members of the genus. These compounds are sympathomimetics with stimulant and decongestant qualities and are related chemically to the amphetamines. Ephedra nevadensis contains ephedrine in its roots, stems and branches. Ephedra distachya contains up to 3% ephedrine in the entire plant. Ephedra sinica contains approximately 2.2% ephedrine.
The stems of the ephedra plant can be brewed into a pungent, bitter, herb tea that dilates the bronchial vessels while stimulating the heart and central nervous system.
The active chemical components of ephedra, or ma huang, the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine, are found in over the counter allergy and cold medications as over-the-counter decongestants. . An internal review of FDA records between 1969 and September 2006 found 54 reports of deaths in children associated with decongestant medicines containing pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine, prompting the recent recall of these medications in children’s cold care products.
The phytochemical ephedrine possesses properties similar to adrenaline that serves a critical role in our system as a neurotransmitter and a modulator of our metabolic rate. This powerful stimulant action is the major reason why it is so dangerous when misused. Ephedra has fallen into disfavor because of its misuse in the west as a diet drug. A handful of people have died over the last few years prompting the FDA to ban its use.
Herbalists, however, use the whole plant which contains six other related alkaloids, one of which, pseudoephedrine, actually reduces the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. This plant has been used in China for thousands of years, yet no undesirable side-effects have been recorded from the proper administration of the whole plant. Mabey, Richard ,48 Those wishing to use the whole herb to treat allergies and asthma can still buy bulk ephedra from reputable whole herb sources such as Mountain Rose, however it is recommended that it be used under only under supervision of a qualified herbalist.
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Traditional Chinese Medicine
Ma Huang has a 5,000 year history of use in Chinese medicine as an asthma treatment and is traditionally prescribed in TCM as an effective treatment of hay fever, edema, arthritis, colds, asthma, bronchitis and hives.
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 herb and its extracts are potentially addictive, and can disrupt regular heart rhythm, induce cardiac arrest, and raise blood pressure. They are very likely to make you sweat profusely, become irritable, nervous, nauseous and cause insomnia.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.