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Medications and Drugs

Brand Names:

Generic Name: ma huang (ephedra) (Pronunciation: ma huang (ee FED ra))

What is ma huang (ephedra) ()?

Because ma huang (ephedra) has been reported to cause serious, even fatal, side effects such as heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeats, and sudden death, the FDA has recommended that consumers not take ma huang.

The use of ma huang in cultural and traditional settings may differ from concepts accepted by current Western medicine. When considering the use of herbal supplements, consultation with a primary health care professional is advisable. Additionally, consultation with a practitioner trained in the uses of herbal/health supplements may be beneficial, and coordination of treatment among all health care providers involved may be advantageous.

Ma huang is also known as sea ephedrine, ephedra, ephedra alkaloids, sea grape, yellow horse, yellow astringent, joint fir, squaw tea, Mormon tea, popotillo, and teamster's tea.

Ma huang has been used as a stimulant and for weight loss and appetite suppression.

Ma huang has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness, or purity. All potential risks and/or advantages of ma huang may not be known. Additionally, there are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for these compounds. There have been instances where herbal/health supplements have been sold which were contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.

Ma huang may also have uses other than those listed in this medication guide.

What are the possible side effects of ma huang (ephedra) ()?

Serious, even fatal, side effects have been reported with the use of ma huang. Stop taking the product and seek emergency medical attention if you experience:

  • a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives;
  • chest pain or irregular heartbeats;
  • increased blood pressure;
  • agitation, hostility, or personality changes;
  • thoughts of suicide;
  • pain or difficulty passing urine;
  • rapid or troubled breathing;
  • rash;
  • stomach pain;
  • vomiting; or
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes

Other less serious side effects have also been reported. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you experience

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What is the most important information I should know about ma huang (ephedra) ()?

Because ma huang (ephedra) has been reported to cause serious, even fatal, side effects such as heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeats, and sudden death, the FDA has recommended that consumers not take ma huang.

Ma huang is not recommended for use by people with heart disease; angina (chest pain); irregular heartbeats; high blood pressure; blood vessel disease; asthma or other lung disease; diabetes; insomnia; eating disorders (such as anorexia or bulimia); glaucoma; kidney disease; liver disease or hepatitis; mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, mania, bipolar disorder or psychosis; hyperthyroidism; prostate problems; urinary retention; or seizures.

Ma huang has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness, or purity. All potential risks and/or advantages of ma huang may not be known. Additionally, there are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for these compounds. There have been instances where herbal/health supplements have been sold which were contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.



Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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