Ma Huang is Nature’s Most Powerful Stimulant



Whether it be for work, for class, or just for the hell of it, everyone could use a little extra energy. You may be surprised to know that there are natural alternatives to caffeine pills–some that are less expensive and entirely vegan. One of which is ma huang, commonly referred to as ephedra. This article is here to educate you on the herb and give you a little insight on how it can help you out with your daily activities.

From Ancient Beginnings…

Ma huang is an incredibly old herb, given that it originated in ancient China. We know that ephedras have been used at least for 5000 years in China, probably elsewhere. Beverage made with the ephedra plant have been referred to under many names, e.g., yellow river, mormon tea, and whorehouse tea. Ancient Chinese physicians prescribed ephedra tea and pills for the common cold, coughs, asthma, headaches, and hay fever. Ephedra comforts asthma patients by acting as a bronchial dilator. Honey is often added to the ephedra.

… To Modern Times

Ten species of Ephedra are known to exist in North America, and many were popular in folk medicine and as a daily beverage. After the Mormons had arrived in Utah, the native tribe introduced them to a species of Ephedra, and they used the stems as a substitute for coffee and tea.


In the Old West, the same species used by the Mormons gained a reputation as a cure for syphilis and gonorrhea, although this cure was never actually proven to work.

Growing Ma Huang

Seeds for ma huang are planted in the early spring. During the first year of growth, the plants must be watered and kept entirely weed free. Stems are harvested usually after four years of plant growth, and during the blooming season, when alkaloid content is the highest. Ephedra sinica is not harvested during the summer months, because alkaloid content is reduced when stems are fully hydrated from summer rains.


Stems less than 1.25 cm in diameter are cut, dried in the sun for 15 days, and then artificially dried at 120 degrees F for three more hours. Afterwards, the stems are beaten with sticks to break their great jointing, and then screened to separate unwanted joints from the internodes. Packed in bags or covered in containers, the stems must be stored in a dry atmosphere.

A Cough and Cold Cure

Ma huang is great when you need a bit of a boost, but it also has a bunch of other uses. Ephedra, and the active alkaloid ephedrine, is ideal for treating a variety of lung, kidney, and eye ailments. It’s also great for killing a cold and cutting through mucus. That’s why it was such a popular ingredient in cold pills. Here’s a partial list of all of the things that ma huang has been used to treat.

  • Cough with fever, headache, and severe chills
  • Bronchitis and phlegm
  • Nasal swelling due to allergies
  • Whooping cough and asthma
  • Renal cirrhosis and swelling due to kidney disease
  • Colds accompanied by cough and swelling
  • Conjunctivitis and inflammation of the tear ducts
  • Arthritis with edema

Recent studies with both humans and laboratory animals have shown ephedrine to be beneficial in promoting weight loss. The main mechanism at work is its thermogenic ability to increase the metabolic rate of adipose tissue, enhancing the body’s ability to burn fat. Its weight reducing effects are greatest in those who have a slow metabolism.

Taking Ephedra

Ephedra can be used either as a tea or powdered and put into capsules. When prepared as a tea, old time herbalists and Mormon pioneers recommend that one use the “grounds” repeatedly — adding a teaspoon of the freshly dried herb on top of the herbal grounds left from previous days.


This method should be continued for at least four to six days since it takes several days of simmering this tea — 15 to 20 minutes a day — to sufficiently extract all the bio-available copper and other minerals. Naturally, more water and ephedra should be added to the tea each day.

Risks and Side Effects

As with a lot of other marketable stimulants, adverse side effects are not uncommon. The alkaloids of ma huang can cause rapid or irregular heartbeat, very similar to the effects of adrenaline. Blood pressure rises. Unfortunately, there have been reported cases of liver injury and hepatitis, and users experience aggressiveness, anxiety, and tremors.

Complications from these side effects can result in cerebral hemorrhage, cardiac arrest, and, of course, death. Prolonged use of the drug, which is not recommended, can be the cause of weakened adrenal glands, nervousness, and insomnia. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, fever, depression, seizures, and headaches. It should be noted, however, that the low dosage of ephedrine in many ma huang products is not large enough to produce significant cardiovascular changes.


The United States Food and Drug Administration has described ephedra as an herb of “undefined safety.” But because ephedra plants are considered nutritional supplements, products containing ma huang are not regulated for safety. Again, alkaloid content varies so greatly from plant to plant (and between different ephedra species) that it is very difficult to monitor the safety level of each batch. Probably as a result of no monitoring and poor warnings, at least fifteen fatalities have been linked to supplements containing the active ingredient ephedrine.

Clandestine Uses

In 1993, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine were put on the list of the official regulated chemicals for the state of California. One major reason for this regulation was to help identify illicit drug labs by monitoring quantities and destinations of precursor chemicals. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are used as starting compounds, or “substitute precursors,” in the illicit manufacturing of methamphetamines.


10 responses to “Ma Huang is Nature’s Most Powerful Stimulant”
  1. CJ Avatar

    hold up most powerful stimulant in nature? u kno cocaine comes from leaves right?

    1. Axel42 Avatar

      Fair enough

  2. tb01 Avatar

    Around thirty years ago I used to purchase “ma huang, commonly referred to as ephedra” as dry herb from my local health food store in Atlanta. I used to make an infusion which allowed me to survive the air quality issues I suffered from, living in the city. Then the FDA ruled it unsafe because (allegedly), someone over-dosed on it. Sudafed (even the real stuff behind pharmacy counter) doesn’t do nearly as well for me as the actual, real herb once did. Do you have any idea where or how I might obtain the loose dry herb in it’s natural form? I would -really- like to breathe well again! Thank you so much in advance, for -any- information (or the reply that you have no info?) you might provide. –Tom

    1. Axel42 Avatar

      Hi tb01, thanks for sharing your story. I know getting your hands on some plants can be tricky sometimes, especially when the FDA has ruled against it. I’ll keep my eyes open for you and share anything asap.

    2. BP Avatar

      It is easily purchased from China-based retailers such as Wish.

      1. Axel42 Avatar

        I can confirm Wish is the only place where I’ve seen it lately. Be careful and take care!

  3. Mary Avatar

    Do you have a tea recipe for using the stems of Ma Haung? Or ratio of amount of teaspoons to ounces of water? Ty you

    1. Nicolas Duval Avatar
      Nicolas Duval

      Hi Mary,
      I don’t consume Ephedra / Ma Huang, but here is a basic tea recipe from a user on Erowid:

      About 2 g of ephedra stems (ma huang, ephedra vulgaris) into cold water slowly heated to boiling point, let boiling for 10 minutes, cooled down for 20 minutes.
      T : I drank the tea quickly. There was a brown powder in my cup, I swallowed it to. Ephedra tea had a very good taste and didnt need any sugar.

  4. Susan Barr Avatar
    Susan Barr

    we need what god gave us . not what man has copped in a pill . then says you cant have this herb. it belongs to us.

  5. undefined Avatar

    ephedra – as loose stems under various named teas – is now available on Amazon because I assume people are finally realizing that the alkaloids APART/EXTRACTED from the plant is what is banned. ephedra is still legal.

    you see, the FDA, I see is figuring out this little trick as most effective via a bit of two-step choreography with their new buddies at the DEA.

    the FDA can NOT APPROVE a dietary supplement (which means they also don’t have the authority to DISAPPROVE them). the only thing the FDA can say regarding “dietary supplements” with any authoritative approval is can an entity actually put their product on the market for sell >>> they do so by APPROVING THE FACILITIES that were used to get said supplement from whatever preliminary form/substance through til it and whatever other ingredients go into the proprietary blend plus inactive stuff, preservatives, etc AND INTO THE CARRIER/HANDLING/DELIVERY mechanism that is passed to the consumer in the package.

    so if someone wants to try and look the part in a saturated market, well, hire a decent logo designer, and write a check to the FDA to come visit your kitchen and see if they approve that the place is indeed up the whatever standard.

    and if not: sell your product and way but DO NOT MARKET IT AS ANY TYPE OF SUPPLEMENT (and better yet, not even for any research.) if you want a stamp on your package that may leave a subtle hint to potential buyers that it may be what they are actually looking for then add one of those that looks official but says approximately “generally accepted as safe” or similar.

    TLDR >>> skip to below the ——-‘s…

    two examples…
    >>>1):about two years ago at a local smoke shop I would visit, I noticed a period of time when there was a steady flow coming in and whoever they were was looking specifically for one thing: in one of the glass counters in a side of the store an employee must walk out from behind the main counters and then into a different part of the store when a customer needs help was a trendy looking little shelf of short and plastic jar-type bottles containing various catchy named ROOM ODORIZERS!
    it took some time and there was literally nothing online on message boards and obviously no websites for the companies behind the products but it turns out this product was actually the closest chemical analogue having the closest target effects that matched BATH SALTS! and from a source that was also an employee at that store confirmed at one point that at least one of the SCENTS of ROOM ODORIZERS the store owners where selling (even if they didn’t KNOW) WAS THE ACTUAL ORIGINAL CHEMICAL IN WHAT WAS COMMONLY CALLED BATH SALTS!
    so this was after all bath salts (or chemicals being sold as such at least) were banned by FDA then subsequently a few of the most commonly sold in those products was then scheduled by DEA.

    once everybody was over that craze and then room odorizers hit shelves, the cheaply obtained and harmless-looking way to freshen a room or vehicle was actually being used by local dealers to “FLUFF” their “stuff” but not necessarily “step” on it or cut it because this time the filler DID INDEED HAVE AN EFFECT OF ITS OWN possibly enhancing the product sold even but definitely having a much stronger ability to cause “fiending” customers to be much more frequent return customers….

    >>>example 2): KRATOM.

    I have 5 metal bars and 26 screws in my face. if it weren’t for kratom I could have easily been almost a decade into who knows how long being dependent on opiates. and I’m still only 33 and with the exception of the liquid oxycodone they gave me right after surgery (hey I was young and it was almost a half gallon of the good stuff) I hage not touched them at all thanks to kratom.

    the few years after being assaulted and having surgery, efforts to ban kratom really started ramping up in just about every state. and one day they announced an emergency ban for it georgia in which they would be using the ruling to come out of the courthouse in atlanta to leverage a full schedule 1 status for the tea leaf (not just the alkaloids)

    my fiance and I were not going to miss the hearing. so we got ready for the few days needed to get to and then spend such a day in the city with more vehicles on the road per square mile that anywhere on earth. fun.

    expecting to show up and see people around our age… and possibly a decent percent might be what people would say is some kind of junkie looking type…. we arrived to find a group of business men and women, senior professionals, retired detectives, soccer moms, and even a doctor that ran a pain management clinic in california who said he only prescribed kratom at that point and that he was in his 80s.

    I guess because of the giant X-ray of all the metal in my face on the ends of my 2½ foot long pickets, i was elected by the group to be the spokesperson for the group when about 12 or more news cameras and reporters showed up and wanted to speak to one of us. well, it turned into more of an interview.

    but I digress, kratom was saved that day. then fast forward a few years and they want to ban it worldwide. i suggested to the American kratom association to have their attorneys file a RESTRAINING ORDER on the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (the entity pushing for the ban) and it worked – even though it is just a TEMPORARY restraining order, it hasnt been picked back up (even though W.H.O. is a legal person they are not a LIVING INDIVIDUAL).


    so the trick the FDA has figured out that is an evolution of what they attempted with ephedra, is that they have leveraged the DEA’s urgency in calling for emergency schedule 1 banning of kratom and I’m sure all these still ongoing state-level battles and propaganda content but DEFINITELY the attempted worldwide ban by the W.H.O. to issue statements of their own regarding kratom being sold as a (surprise) dietary supplement.

    since they emergency ban by DEA failed along with worldwide ban, combined with the fact the literally have no authority to approve or not approve anything as a dietary supplement… well… the FDA has decided to just flat out lie in the form of a public statement and GET EVERYONE TO THINK THEY HEARD WHAT THEY JUST THINK THEY SAID.

    FDA basically used all these factors as reasoning to state something along the lines of (paraphrasing, in other words): “oh well kratom is an opiate anyway and because we are labeling kratom an opiate then that also means certain things about it being sold as a dietary supplement when we just told you its an opiate…)

    which it is not. it is a leaf with alkaloids in it. same family as coffee. low dose gives you energy but 😮 does not raise your heart rate! larger dose helps with pain 🤕 but does not cause respiratory depression.

    has a blocking effect on ACTUAL opiates as it does not BIND to the μ (morphine) opioid-receptors but still has an effect on them along with the κ (kappa) and δ (delta) receptors (typical opiate meds only bind to the μ receptors)…

    but I digress… again. I tend to ramble. and this got way on our there but I suppose this may be an ok spot to leave all of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *