Ma Huang – Ephedra – 麻黄
Mahuang is one of the most famous herbs in the Chinese Materia Medica – and with good reason. In a world where medicine is mostly unable to deal with the most common illnesses that people encounter, colds and flus, an herb that can handily address these symptoms has a right to be respected. Unfortunately, some of the popularity of this herb exists for more nefarious reasons. Mahuang has been implicated in a number of exertion related deaths, particularly in young athletes and people seeking to lose weight.
Unfortunately, many people are unable or unwilling to learn the whole story. These deaths did not come from the controlled use of appropriate doses of the whole herb under the supervision of an appropriately trained Chinese medicine practitioner.
In many of these cases, the herb is broken down to isolate the desired alkaloids (for example, L-ephedrine) and often mixed with other stimulating compounds to increase the metabolism of the imbiber. It is not used using the principles of formula science – and thus is dangerous. When mahuang is used in its natural or minimally prepared form, prescribed by a physician within a carefully constructed formula appropriate to the patient’s condition and constitution – it is absolutely safe and quite beneficial.
However, access to mahuang, even for licensed practitioners, is under a shadow in the United States. While it is clear that the federal authorities aren’t targeting practitioners, the consensus seems to be that this is a matter of enforcement priorities only. Regardless of the situation for practitioners, finding it from safe sources is very difficult – for most it is impossible.
That doesn’t mean we should fail to study it, however. We must learn about this critically important herb, and do whatever we can to work for continued access to it for licensed, trained professionals. That’s an article for another day.
[Read more…] about The Qualities and Uses of the Chinese Herb Mahuang / 麻黃 / Ephedra