Botanical Name: Ephedra sinica, et al. Family: Ephedraceae

Common name(s): Ma Huang (Chinese species), Desert Tea, Joint Fir


  • Perennial herb | Zones 4-9 | 2 feet | Produces male and female flower-like cones (each plant is either male or female) on stems
  • Well-drained lighter to loamy soil | Full sun.
  • Found in the dryer regions of the world.
  • Seedlings need more watering than the mature plant.


  • Harvest young branches in the autumn before the first frost.
  • Can be dried in the sun.


Decoction: Bring 1 – 2 teaspoon dried stems in 1 cup water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Take 3x / day.

Tincture: 1-4 ml 3x / day.


Constituents: Ephedrine alkaloids

Actions: astringent, antirheumatic, diuretic, diaphoretic, decongestant, stimulant

Uses: Asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, hay fever, allergic rashes

Cautions: see my comments, below.


  • Pungent, bitter, warm


Ephedra won’t be a plant for my garden; I don’t have the right growing conditions. It was interesting to learn about it as a plant, though, because I’ve only heard of it as a drug that was taken off the market. In what I read, it seems that the isolated ephedrine constituent can dangerously raise blood pressure but that getting it as part of the whole plant (the herbalism way) does not have that effect. Don’t quote me on that, though.