Condensed Facts: The Chinese remedy, ephedra (ma huang), was originally used primarily for its effects on the respiratory system, e.g., congestion, asthma, and coughing. Conditions: It is now used in many weight loss products but not without significant adverse effects. Ma huang increases blood pressure and heart rate, and is a central nervous system stimulant. As such, it can cause loss of appetite, but concomitantly causes irritability, insomnia, nausea, flushing, tingling, heart palpitations, and more. Plants/Standard: The principal active component, ephedrine, has been used in the United States since the 1930s. Many over-the-counter products contain it or its chemical cousin, pseudoephedrine. Several dietary supplements containing ephedra or ephedrine, often with caffeine-containing herbs, are being marketed as “natural” weight loss aids. 58What to Look For: Ephedra (ma huang) and pseudoephedrine products are widely available in nearly all dosage forms. Never take any of these for more than one week. Traditional Dosing/Dosage Forms: Ephedrine dosage is usually 12.5 to 25 mg 3 times/day; pseudoephedrine dosage is 30 to 60 mg 3 times/day. Ma huang tea can be prepared using 1 teaspoonful of dried herb. Actions/Uses: Ephedrine is a chemical cousin to adrenaline (epinephrine) and consequently can cause rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, agitation, insomnia, nausea, and loss of appetite. All of these effects are increased if it is taken together with caffeine. Many states have instituted rules and regulations regarding quantities and strengths that may be legally sold. Excessively high doses have been promoted for use as an “herbal high.” To date, thirty-eight deaths due to heart failure from such use have been documented by the FDA. Precautions: Individuals with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma, hardening of the arteries, thyroid disease, or an enlarged prostate should not take ephedra or anything related to it. Consumption should be limited to adults for a maximum of seven days. 59Topical Price: Tincture, 1 oz = $9.00Powdered herb, 1 oz = $1.00