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Common Name: Ma Huang
Ephedra gerardiana is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 0.60 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
E. Asia - S.W. China to the Himalayas.
Stony slopes and gravel terraces in drier areas of the Himalayas at 2400 - 5000 metres from Afghanistan to Bhutan[
Requires a well-drained loamy soil and a sunny position[
]. Established plants are drought resistant and are also lime tolerant[
Plants are hardy to about -15°c[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Fruit - raw[
]. A sweet flavour[
]. The fruit is about 7mm in diameter[
Members of this genus contain various medicinally active alkaloids (but notably ephedrine) and they are widely used in preparations for the treatment of asthma and catarrh[
]. Ephedrine acts promptly to reduce swellings of the mucous membranes and has antispasmodic properties, thus making it valuable in the treatment of asthma[
]. This species contains between 0.28 and 2.79 alkaloids[
]. The whole plant can be used at much lower concentrations than the isolated constituents - unlike using the isolated ephedrine, using the whole plant rarely gives rise to side-effects[
]. The plant also has antiviral effects, particularly against influenza[
]. The stems are a pungent, bitter, warm herb that dilates the bronchial vessels whilst stimulating the heart and central nervous system[
]. The stems are also diaphoretic. diuretic and vasodilator[
]. They are used internally in the treatment of asthma, hay fever and allergic complaints[
]. They are also combined with a number of other herbs and used in treating a wide range of complaints238]. This herb should be used with great caution, preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[
]. It should not be prescribed to patients who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or suffering from high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism or glaucoma[
]. Ephedrine is seen as a performance-boosting herb and, as such, is a forbidden substance in many sporting events such as athletics[
The stems are used in Tibetan medicine, where they are considered to have a bitter taste and a cooling potency[
]. Febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary, they are used in the treatment of severe bleeding and chronic fevers[
]. A decoction of the stems and roots is used in Russia to treat rheumatism and syphilis[
The stems can be harvested at any time of the year and are dried for later use[
The juice of the berries is used to treat respiratory affections[
The plant is traditionally grown in living fences in the northwestern Himalayas, where it helps to exclude livestock and other animals; mark out land boundaries; whilst also providing a range of medicinal and other uses[
A good ground cover plant for dry soils[
]. Plants should be spaced about 60cm apart each way[
The wood is very close grained[
]. Too small for commercial exploitation, though it is used locally for fuel[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a greenhouse[
]. It can also be sown in spring in a greenhouse in a sandy compost[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on for at least their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in the spring or early summer after the last expected frosts and give some protection in their first winter[
Division in spring or autumn[