Ephedra sinica


Botanical Name: Ephedra sinica
Common name: Ephedra, Ma Huang (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 546)
Family: Ephedreaceae (Heinrich, Barnes, Gibbons & Williamson, 2012, p. 227)
Parts used: Stems (Heinrich et al., 2012, pp. 227-228)



  • Alkaloids
    • Main: ephedrine
    • Pseudoephredrine
    • Norephedrine
    • Norpseudoephedrine
    • Ephedroxane
    • N-methylephedrine
    • Maokonine
    • Transtorine
    • Ephedradines
  • Catechin derivatives
  • Diterpenes

(Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)



  • Anti-allergic (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)
    • Induces immunoglobin A
    • Blocks complement activation in both classical and alternative pathways
  • Anti-inflammatory (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)
  • Bronchodilator (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)
  • Central Nervous System (CNS) and cardiac stimulant (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)


History & Traditional Use

Ephedra sinica is an ancient Chinese medicine (used for at least 5000 years), which is the original source of ephedrine, the decongestant and bronchodilator. Active constituent ephedrine was widely used in pharmaceuticals, however pseudoephedrine is more commonly used today as it has fewer central nervous system stimulating effects. (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 227).

Ephedrine was the first ephedra alkaloid to find wide use in Western Medicine, hailed as a “cure for asthma” due to it’s bronchodilating action. Traditionally it is used to treat asthma and nasal congestion and is administered in the form of nasal drops (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 546).



  • Asthma
  • Hay fever
  • Enuresis
  • Allergies
  • Narcolepsy

(Hoffmann, 2003, p. 546)


Preparation & Dosage

Thereapeutic doses are calculated to deliver 30mg of the ephedrine alkaloids (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)

  • Tincture: (1:4 in 45%) 1-4mL/tds
  • Decoction: 1-2tsp/1 cup water/tds

(Hoffmann, 2003, p. 548)



  • The herb has been abused to stimulate weight loss and for erogenic aid in athletic performance (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)
  • May exacerbate hepatitis (Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)
  • Herb should be avoided in individuals with hypertension, thyrotoxcis, narrow-angle glaucoma and urinary retention(Heinrich et al., 2012, p. 228)



Combined with cardiac glycosides or halothane, ephedra can produce cardiac arrhythmias (Hoffmann, 2003, p. 547)


Heinrich, M., Barnes, J., Gibbons, S., & Williamson, E. (2012). Fundamentals of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Image: Altnature. (2007). Herbie’s Herbs. Retrieved from: http://www.herbies-herbs.com/pages/herbuses-2.html