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Common Name: Ma Huang
Ephedra sinica is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 0.40 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
E. Asia - N. China.
]. Waste and sandy places, plains and mountain slopes at elevations of 700 - 1600 metres[
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it should succeed outdoors in many parts of this country. A small plant of this species is being grown in the Centenary Border at Hilliers Arboretum in Hampshire. It has survived at least one winter of temperatures down to below -10°c, but was not looking very vigorous when seen in September 1997[
]. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus.
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 in fruit and seed are required.
Fruit - raw or cooked.
Ma Huang is a strongly stimulant acrid-tasting herb that is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs[
Most 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 has a similar effect to adrenaline in the body[
]. It acts promptly to reduce swellings of the mucous membranes and has antispasmodic properties, thus making it valuable in the treatment of asthma[
]. 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 stems are a pungent, bitter, warm herb that dilates the bronchial vessels whilst stimulating the heart and central nervous system[
]. The stems are also antidote, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral, vasoconstrictor and vasodilator[
]. They are used internally in the treatment of asthma, hay fever and allergic complaints[
]. The plant also has antiviral effects, particularly against influenza[
]. Ephedra is often 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 can be harvested at any time of the year and are dried for later use[
The root is antihydrotic, it lowers blood pressure and dilates the peripheral blood vessels[
]. It is used in the treatment of night sweating and spontaneous sweating[
]. The root is believed to have the opposite action to the stem, but is only prescribed in cases of profuse sweating[
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[