Ma-Huang, Ephedra Sinica
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Thomas C Brecht
Posted: Before April 1998

I have recently read an article from a past issue of "HerbalGram" on a Chinese herb called Ma-Huang, Ephedra Sinica, which appears to be a "cousin" to Mormon Tea. This herb is supposed to be good for bronchial asthma and nasal problems. I do not see this herb listed in your 1996 catalog.

Do you have any seeds or plants of Ma-Huang available. If you do not, could you suggest a possible alternative source? I have purchased from you before and have been satisfied with your service and products.

Ma-huang (Ephedra sinica) is the most commonly used species of ephedra in the Chinese medical system. It was the original source of the stimulant, ephedrine, which was the inspiration for a whole family of modern drugs used in over-the-counter cold remedies sold widely in North America and Europe. Because it contains ephedrine, health authorities in a number of jurisdictions have or are about to restrict the sale of products containing ma-huang. Some profiteers have marketed products containing ma-huang as ‘legal highs’. Ephedrine can be converted to amphetamines, raising the concerns of drug enforcement agencies. The North American species, Mormon tea or E. nevadensis, contains little or no ephedrine. This is the species we have carried since the 1980s. Richters has led the way in bringing seeds and plants of Chinese herbs to North America, but so far we have not succeeded in finding a reliable source of the Chinese ephedra. In 1997, we plan to offer another North American species, E. viridis, which our research suggests contains more ephedrine than E. nevadensis although not as much as E. sinica. It may well serve adequately as a substitute, but that remains to be confirmed by herbal practitioners.

[Note added Feb. 2004: Richters now has Ephedra sinica seeds available. Check the online catalogue.]

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