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Common Name: Ma Huang
Ephedra major is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 2.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
Europe to E. Asia - the Mediterranean to the Himalayas.
Stony slopes and gravel terraces, often on limestone, in arid regions[
Requires a well-drained loamy soil and a sunny position[
]. Established plants are drought resistant and are also lime tolerant[
Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Fruit - raw.
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[
]. This species is the richest source of ephedrine in India, the stems containing over 2.5% total alkaloids, of which about 75% is ephedrine[
]. 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, febrifuge, hypertensive, nervine, pectoral, tonic, vasoconstrictor 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 complaints[
]. 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 can be harvested at any time of the year and are dried for later use[
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[