Single Herb Glossary

Glossary Home


Má Huáng 麻黃

Pharmaceutical name Ephedrae Herba
Category Warm, Acrid, Release the Exterior
Key Properties Induce sweating
Calms wheezing
Promote urination
Properties Acrid
Sl. Bitter
Tropism LU, UB
Actions & Indications 1) Induce sweating, Release Exterior (Wind-Cold Excess, Chills/Fever, Headache)
2) Disseminates LU Qi, calm wheezing, stop cough
3) Promote urination, reduce edema
4) Warm & disperse Cold pathogen (sores without heads)
Dosages 2-9 g
Contraindications (TCM) CI: End of spring to early fall; Caution with wheezing (KD fail to grasp), hypertension, heart failure medicine; Toxic Sx: palpitations, insomnia, restlessness, *diaphoresis, elevated temp, tremor
Contraindications (Western) Stimulates sympathetic nervous system, be cautious with patients with convulsions, epilepsy & seizure disorders, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, prostatic enlargement; use with caution during pregnancy, stimulates uterus
Chemical Composition Ephedrine alkaloids 0.481-2.47% (l-ephedrine, d-pseudoephedrine, l-norephedrine, d-norpseudoephedrine, l-methylephedrine, d-methylpseudoephedrine), essential oil 0.25% (1-α-terpineol)
Pharmacological Effects • Diaphoresis: only with elevated body temperature
• Antipyretic: essential oil associated with antipyretic effect in rabbits and mice
• Respiratory: ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are mild bronchodilators; more rapid onset in ephedrine
• Diuresis: pseudoephedrine
• Cardiovascular: increases systolic and diastolic blood pressures; ephedrine has mild but prolonged effect to constrict vessels and raise blood pressure
• CNS stimulant: stimulates CNS, cardiovascular & respiratory system; may cause Side Effect of irritability, insomnia, restlessness and tremor
• Antibiotic: decoction has inhibitory effect in vitro against S. aureus, α-streptococcus, β-streptococcus, Bacillus anthracis, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Salmonella typhi; essential oils inhibit E. coli, Candida albicans and various types of influenza virus
Herb-Drug Interactions • General effect: ephedrine alkaloids stimulate CNS and cardiovascular system; combining Ma Huang with cardiac glycosides may cause arrhythmia; should not be combined with other sympathomimetic drugs such as ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, theophylline, caffeine, MAOI, or substances with similar properties
• Beta blockers: effect of these drugs may be reduced because of increased levels of norepinephrine caused by Ma Huang
• Diuretics: use with diuretic drugs may lead to increased elimination of water and/or electrolytes
Classical Formula(s)

Yang He Tang(Balmy yang Decoction) 養和湯

Ding Chuan Tang (Arrest Wheezing Decoction) 定喘汤

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang (Cinnamon Twig, Peony, and Anemarrhena Decoction) 桂枝芍藥知母湯

Ma Huang Tang (Ephedra Decoction) 麻黃湯

Ma Xing Shi Gan tang (Ephedra, Apricot Kernel and Lucorice Decoction) 麻杏石甘湯

Mu Li San (Oyster Shell Powder) 牡蠣散 (牡蛎散)

Shi Gao Tang (Gypsum Decoction) 石膏湯

Shi Shen Tang (Ten-Miracle Decoction) 十神湯

Da Qing Long Tang (Major Bluegreen Dragon Decoction) 大青龍湯

Fang Feng Tong Sheng San (Saposhnikovia powder that sagely unblocks) 防風通聖散

Ge Gen Tang (Kudzu Decoction) 葛根湯

Wu Ji San (Five-accumula-tion powder) 五积散

Xiao Qing Long Tang (Minor Bluegreen Dragon Decoction) 小青龍湯 (小青龙汤)

Xiao Xu Ming Tang (Minor Prolong Life Decoction) 小續命湯


This information is a reference tool for Chinese herbal studies. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Please consult a primary health professional if you require health advisory.