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What is Ma Huang Tea?

By J. Leach
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ma huang tea is made from the twigs and roots of the ma huang plant, also known as Ephedra sinica. This plant has been used in Chinese herbal pharmacopeia as a treatment for asthma for approximately 5,000 years. Tea made from the twigs has been found to be especially beneficial in cases of hayfever, chills, and chest coughs. The herbal supplement has also become popular as a diet aid and energy booster. The roots and twigs contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which are stimulants that are effective as a decongestant, appetite suppressant, and as a treatment for hypotension.

The active compounds in ma huang tea, the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephdrine, have thermogenic and stimulant properties. Thermogenic chemicals are useful because they stimulate the body’s metabolism and help generate heat — which is why the tea can be so effective in alleviating the symptoms of the common cold or influenza. Stimulants are chemicals that have a psychoactive affect on the body, and give the person who ingested them a sense of greater physical and mental capabilities.

This tea has also been used as a treatment for hypotension. Hypotension means that a person’s blood pressure is abnormally low. If such a patient ingests ma huang tea, the blood vessels will constrict, which can help increase blood pressure. The patient’s heart rate will also increase.

The supplement can also be used as a diaphoretic. Diaphoresis is excessive sweating caused by a drug, medical procedure, or shock. Diaphoretics are often used to induce sweating in a patient, to help the body expel potentially harmful toxins.

The stimulant properties of ma huang tea have made it beneficial for some people who wish to use it as a weight loss supplement. Some find that the tea gives their metabolism a boost, as well as giving them extra energy throughout the day. Studies have shown that ma huang can aid in weight loss, but whether or not it can make for lasting weight loss has not been proven.

For patients suffering from asthma, bronchitis, and other similar conditions, the tea can be very beneficial. It can help improve breathing by expanding the bronchial tubes, or airways, in the lungs. The decongestant properties of this substance may also aid in breathing, by helping clear blocked nasal and sinus passages.

Ma huang tea should only be consumed under the supervision of a healthcare professional, and is more commonly known as ephedra in the United States. Dosage instructions can vary widely on different brands of tea, because ma huang is not standardized. Patients who suffer from hypertension, coronary issues, or glaucoma should avoid any supplements containing ephedra. In 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the sale of supplements containing ephedra, because it can be dangerous when taken without medical supervision.

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Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On Feb 13, 2015

@Laotionne - As the article mentions, ma-huang tea can be good for patients with hypotension, low blood pressure. This should be a warning to you if you have high blood pressure or a history of high blood pressure in your family. When you use these supplements and teas for medicinal purposes you should make sure your doctor is always aware of what you are taking.

People with other medical conditions like diabetes should also be caution about drinking this type of tea. Herbal teas can be really good for maintaining health, but make sure you don't just choose them blindly because someone says they are good for you.

By Feryll — On Feb 13, 2015

@Laotionne - I am just learning about ma-huang tea, but I can tell you that some athletes use it to give them increased energy when they are training and competing. Most athletes are trying to maintain a certain weight. This is another reason they use ma-huang. The plant increases metabolism and this helps them maintain the weight they want to be at so they can perform at the highest level possible.

If athletes are using the plant then there must be some significant benefits associated with it. I am certainly going to learn more about how it might be able to help me.

By Laotionne — On Feb 12, 2015

There are so many supplements and herbs being sold in the stores that it is hard to know which ones are actually worth the price you pay for them. At one time I was taking a long list of herbal supplements. Every time I heard about a new one that was supposed to help me lose weight, keep my blood pressure in check, clean my colon, maintain a healthy blood sugar level or whatever, I would go out and try it.

The problem is that it is hard to know actually how much good the supplements are doing in many cases. I am slowly switching from supplement to teas, and I am wondering if ma-huang tea should be on my list.

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