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.