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ma huang (ephedra) (cont.)

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking ma huang (ephedra) ()?

Ma huang is not recommended for use by people with

  • heart disease; angina (chest pain); irregular heartbeats; high blood pressure; or blood vessel disease;
  • asthma or other lung disease;
  • diabetes;
  • insomnia;
  • eating disorders (such as anorexia or bulimia);
  • glaucoma;
  • kidney disease;
  • liver disease or hepatitis;
  • hyperthyroidism;
  • mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, mania, bipolar disorder or psychosis;
  • prostate problems;
  • urinary retention; or
  • seizures.

The use of ma huang may be dangerous if you have any of the conditions listed above.

Before taking ma huang, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care professional if you have allergies (especially to plants), have any medical condition, or if you take other medicines or other herbal/health supplements. Ma huang may not be recommended in some situations.

Do not take ma huang without first talking to your doctor if you are pregnant or could become pregnant. Ma huang may be harmful to an unborn baby.

Do not take ma huang without first talking to your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. Ma huang may be harmful to a nursing infant.

There is no information available regarding the use of ma huang by children. Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without first talking to the child's doctor.

How should I take ma huang (ephedra) ()?

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.

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.

If you choose to take ma huang, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider.

Standardized extracts, tinctures, and solid formulations of herbal/health supplements may provide a more reliable dose of the product.

Ma huang is usually taken by mouth. Take each dose with a full glass of water.

Taking ma huang with food may decrease stomach upset.

The recommended dose of ma huang is no more than 100 mg per day for no longer than 12 weeks. However, in some people, doses of 100 mg per day may not be safe. Consultation with a healthcare provider is recommended before taking ma huang.

Because ma huang 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 ephedra alkaloids (ma huang) be taken in doses no larger than 8 mg per serving, no more often than every 6 hours, and not to exceed 24 mg per day.

Do not use different formulations of ma huang or other products that contain ma huang or ephedra, caffeine, gotu kola, guarana, pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, or other stimulants at the same time. Using different formulations together increases the risk of an overdose or serious side effects.

Store ma huang as directed on the package.

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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