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Ma Huang (Herbae Ephedra): Setting the Record Straight

This paper entitled “Ma Huang (Herbae Ephedra): Setting the Record Straight” appeared in the Journal of Chinese Medicine, February 2016 issue. The article presents the Western biochemistry of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine (the pharmacologically active ingredients in Ephedra), and the Chinese medicine application of the whole herb, Ephedra. The paper reviews the proper uses of the Chinese herb in anti-asthmatic formulas, and the improper applications of the herb in combination with caffeine for weight loss. Ephedra was banned in the United States in 2004 and it is important to understand what went wrong when it was combined with caffeine, a combination never used in Chinese medicine. It is also very important to understand how it is being safely used in China and Japan today. The question posed is, should the abuse of an herb weigh against its right or proper use?