Ephedra: NNFA recommends Ma huang warning label

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 04-30-94 6(1): 2

The National Nutritional Foods Association’s committee for Product & Label Integrity has endorsed the recommendation of the American Herbal Products AssoCiation (AHPA) with respect to the labeling of ma huang products.

When sold as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, label warnings are required on ephedrine-containing products. The NNFA move is a recommendation for herbal products that do not have OTC status, but contain ma huang. It applies to Ma Huang (Ephedra sinica), but not to Mormon tea (Ephedra nevadensis, Ephedra trifurca, and other species):

“Seek advice from a health care practitioner prior to use if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have high blood pressure, heart or thyroid disease, diabetes, difficulty in urination due to prostate enlargement, or if taking a MAO inhibitor or any other prescription drug. Reduce or discontinue use if nervousness, tremor, sleeplessness, loss of appetite or nausea occur. Not for children under 13. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.”

Ephedra is a genus of plants, widespread around the globe, mostly as desert shrubs, and important in folk medicine. Some members of this genus contain components which are also important In western medicine. These are the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are widely used in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, nasal congestion and related disorders. Ephedrine was originally isolated from the Chinese herb Ma Huang in the 1880s and was first synthesized in 1927. The effects of ephedrine are similar to those of epinephrine (adrenaline).

Ma Huang is open to abuse when used in weight loss products or stimulant formulas. Its action resembles that of amphetamines, and it invariably leads to “burnout” if taken for long periods. It is particularly contraindicated, from an energetic point of view, in people with a deficient yin syndrome, characterized by low energy, easy sweating, insomnia, and redness of the face and hands Although it may make a person feel energetic or “high” temporarily, it will aggravate all these symptoms.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner

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