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Ephedra sinica - Stapf.

Common Name Ma Huang, Chinese ephedra
Family Ephedraceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards Not recommended with high blood-pressure, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease or inflammation of the prostrate gland. Avoid in glaucoma patients. Avoid if thyrotoxicosis - over-active thyroid gland. Avoid if restless or have anxiety states. Adverse effects include: headache, irritability, restlessness, nausea, sleeplessness, rapid heart beat, hyperthermia, loss of appetite, insomnia, restlessness and increased blood pressure. May lead to heart attacks, strokes and even death [301].
Habitats Deserty areas[254]. Waste and sandy places, plains and mountain slopes at elevations of 700 - 1600 metres[266].
Range E. Asia - N. China.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Ephedra sinica Ma Huang, Chinese ephedra

Ephedra sinica Ma Huang, Chinese ephedra


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Ephedra sinica is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in). It is in leaf all year, in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). . The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Ephedra flava. Ephedra ma-huang

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidote  Cardiac  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Pectoral  Vasoconstrictor  Vasodilator

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[218, 254]. 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[238]. Ephedrine has a similar effect to adrenaline in the body[176]. It acts promptly to reduce swellings of the mucous membranes and has antispasmodic properties, thus making it valuable in the treatment of asthma[4]. 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[254]. The stems are a pungent, bitter, warm herb that dilates the bronchial vessels whilst stimulating the heart and central nervous system[238]. The stems are also antidote, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral, vasoconstrictor and vasodilator[165, 176, 238]. They are used internally in the treatment of asthma, hay fever and allergic complaints[238]. The plant also has antiviral effects, particularly against influenza[238]. 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[238]. It should not be prescribed to patients who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or suffering from high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism or glaucoma[238]. Ephedrine is seen as a performance-boosting herb and, as such, is a forbidden substance in many sporting events such as athletics[K]. The stems can be harvested at any time of the year and are dried for later use[238]. The root is antihydrotic, it lowers blood pressure and dilates the peripheral blood vessels[176]. It is used in the treatment of night sweating and spontaneous sweating[176]. The root is believed to have the opposite action to the stem, but is only prescribed in cases of profuse sweating[218]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Ephedra sinica for cough and bronchitis (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

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[K]. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Requires a well-drained loamy soil and a sunny position[11]. Established plants are drought resistant and are also lime tolerant[200]. Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown in fruit and seed are required.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a greenhouse[200]. It can also be sown in spring in a greenhouse in a sandy compost[K]. 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[K]. Division in spring or autumn[238]. Layering.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Ephedra altissimaHigh-climbing jointfirShrub0.0 0-0  LMNDM13 
Ephedra americana andina Shrub1.8 5-9  LMNDM233
Ephedra ciliata Shrub0.2 -  LMNDM13 
Ephedra distachyaSea Grape, JointfirShrub1.0 5-9  LMNDM243
Ephedra equisetinaMuzei Ma Huang, Ma huangShrub1.5 0-0  LMNDM14 
Ephedra fragilis Shrub1.8 7-10  LMNDM24 
Ephedra gerardianaMa Huang, Gerard jointfirShrub0.6 6-9  LMNDM243
Ephedra intermediaZhong Ma HuangShrub1.0 5-9  LMNDM14 
Ephedra majorMa HuangShrub2.0 5-9  LMNDM14 
Ephedra nevadensisMormon Tea, Nevada jointfirShrub1.2 5-9  LMNDM330
Ephedra pachyclada Shrub0.0 -  LMNDM23 
Ephedra torreyanaMexican Tea, Torrey's jointfirShrub1.0 0-0  LMNDM23 
Ephedra triandra Shrub0.0 -  LMNDM13 
Ephedra trifurcaLongleaf JointfirShrub2.0 -  LMNDM12 
Ephedra viridisMormon Tea, Brigham Tea, Long Leaf Ephedra, Mountain Joint Fir, Mormon Tea, EphedraShrub1.8 6-11  LMNDM231

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

   Wed Mar 5 19:38:00 2003

How can it be antihydrotic and diaphoretic at the same time? This would appear to be contradictory

BAC   Thu May 13 08:50:05 2004

The root is antihydrotic, it lowers blood pressure and dilates the peripheral blood vessels[176].

The stems are also antidote, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral, vasoconstrictor and vasodilator[165, 176, 238].

Different parts of the plant have different effects/uses.

Debra   Sat Aug 21 18:41:09 2004

thank you for an informative website. Needs a little updating, but I am still quite happy with all the information that you have. Glad to see that you are trying out different climates to grow this hardy plant. Again, thank you for the information, keep up the good work.

Christy   Fri Mar 11 07:04:41 2005

Can this plant be bought for growing in my herbal garden?

Habib   Sun Oct 23 2005

There are several online sites that will sell these, including http://www.azarius.net/cat_other_seeds.html http://shaman-australis.com.au/

Sharman Australis Purchase Ephedra seeds

Richard Mountford   Sat Apr 21 2007

Ephedrea sinica has been grown outdoors for several seasons, easily surviving winter, at Derwen College Walled Garden in North Shropshire (Oswestry)

roberta Greenspan   Wed Jun 20 2007

Does anyone sell the dried whole plant tea? It is not legal in the USA anymore but i would love to have it for allergies.

kumar saurav   Thu Aug 9 2007

sir, can u please tell me the places in india where we can get this plant easily.

Aries   Thu Nov 20 2008

I have some that I bought in China town from a herbalist in London.. I just made it into a tea by boiling it and by straining it. Hopefully I can judge the correct amount to drink. I wish there was info on this here or somewhere. Does anyone know?

david N   Thu Nov 20 2008

Sorry don't know the correct dose, but some caution may be wise, an author(Dr Duke) says large doses (whatever that means) have caused psychosis and death in people trying to get high off it (contains ephidrine, ingredient of speed) . The dose must be pretty big because most authorities note no side effects.

alexander   Fri Nov 28 2008

Hello, I am looking to purchase Ephedra sinica plants. I understand that the plant and its seeds are still legal and available. I am having a hard time finding them. From what I underAstand the plants can take 2-3 years to reach a harvest able maturity. I am also buying seeds from a seller from amazon. I want make my own tea. Does anyone know where i can find live plants , please email me [email protected]

   Fri Dec 4 2009

i grow a number of plants in the northwest of England. Growing outside they survive the winters. the plants still small for a 5 year plant, but have no other plants for comparison, how big should they be? Works well as a pot plant aswell.

   Mar 1 2015 12:00AM

My understanding is that it is hardy to at least zone 5 US, some say zone 2 but it is really intolerant of moisture and as it moves north this is more true.

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