Ephedra is also known as Ma Huang, Ma-Huang, Cao Mahuang Desert Herb Herbal Ecstasy, Joint Fir, Mahuang, Mahuanggen (ma huang root), Muzei Mahuang, Popotillo, Sea Grape, Teamster's Tea, Yellow Astringent, Yellow Horse and Zhong Mahuang among others.
Ephedra is an herb, whose branches are usually used to make medicine. However, the root or whole plant can be used. Ephedra contains a chemical called ephedrine, which stimulates the heart, the lungs, and the nervous system.
There is limited evidence that ephedra may decrease the symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing problems but in most cases the does needed to lessen these symptoms is too high to be safe. Using ephedra for these conditions is not worth the risk, since there are many safer alternative treatments. There is no credible evidence that ephedra has any effect on weight loss or improving athletic performance.
On the other hand, there is some evidence that ephedra is not safe, especially when used in high doses or when used long-term. Use of ephedra has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, muscle disorders, seizures, strokes, loss of consciousness, and death. Ephedra can also cause less serious side effects including dizziness, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and others.
Taking ephedra with other stimulants, such as caffeine, is extremely dangerous. This may increase the chance of having serious and possibly life-threatening side effects. Sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, cola nut, guarana, and mate.
Under no circumstances should ephedra be taken with medicine for depression that is classified as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Blood pressure could get dangerously high. There is some concern that ephedra could also cause high blood pressure if taken with certain migraine medications such as ergotamine. There is also some concern that taking ephedra with digoxin might cause an irregular heartbeat. Ephedra can increase blood sugar. People with diabetes might need to have their medications adjusted to make up for this.