Does Ma Huang Tea REALLY Work for Weight Loss?!? [Science]

Ma Huang tea is a popular Chinese herbal remedy containing ephedra sinica extract. It is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat breathing or lung issues.

Today, Ma huang extract is more commonly taken to promote weight loss due to the ephedrine content of this plant. But it is not without health dangers, especially if overused or taken by people with heart problems.

Thanks to its stimulating properties, this ancient Chinese tea can increase energy levels, enhance your metabolism and support weight loss goals. It also suppresses hunger cravings and makes users feel more alert and motivated.

Drinking Ma Huang tea for weight loss or using this herbal extract in powder or capsule form does pose a risk of side effects, however. Ephedrine has now been banned in the United States as an ingredient in diet pills and fat burners.

Herbal concoctions containing Ma Huang tea are still legal for use in many parts of the world. Other species of the ephedra plant can also be used in tea recipes or purchased in dietary supplements. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.

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Ma Huang Tea Usage

Ma Huang Tea

The reputation of numerous traditional Chinese herbs native to Indonesia reached the U.S. decades ago. Ma Huang is a Chinese name for the Ephedra sinica species of the plant.

The herb has been used for thousands of years by Asian cultures for the treatment of a variety of ailments. It’s still used today in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and in various formulas in Ayurvedic approaches to medicine.

Today, at least for most consumers, it’s mainly associated with its weight loss and energy boosting potential. Before using Ma Huang (ephedra), research not only its historical and contemporary uses, but its benefits, how to use it correctly, and its potential side effects.

It’s available in a variety of forms and is found in numerous supplements.

Ma Huang has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia, and when used properly, the herb does provide a number of benefits for overall health and wellness.

When used improperly by those with little understanding of its herbal properties, as is unfortunately common today, the side effects associated with misuse or abuse can outweigh its benefits.

In historical usage, Ma Huang, also known as Hemp Yellow, has been used to promote the Yin Yang balances in the body. Some of its more common usages include drinking as a tea or taken in another form to treat:

  • Fevers
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Asthma

Ma Huang (ephedra) is also found in a number of Chinese treatment formulas [1] that include:

  • Die da wan – used to stimulate blood production and flow following a traumatic injury
  • Ding chaun tang – anti-wheezing concoction often used in the treatment of asthma
  • Xiao xu ming tang – as an overall internal organ cleanser
  • Ma xing shi gan tang – for the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections, numerous forms of asthma, and pneumonia

Ma Huang formulas, composition of remedies, tinctures, and teas depend on the condition being treated, symptoms, and overall goals following treatment.

Dosages can also vary widely depending on the part of the Chinese herb used, such as the twigs or the stems or the leaves. Sometimes, Ma Huang was used in its raw form, and other times it was cooked first.

While the herb was familiar to typically the Indo-Asian countries, it wasn’t particularly popular in the U.S. or other Western countries until around the 1970s, when it gained the reputation of not only providing potential accelerated weight loss, but also – due to its stimulant properties – promoting energy.

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Ma Huang Tea Use in the USA

Another species of the Ephedra herb is found in the American southwest and was commonly used to brew a tea that had the same invigorating properties. The species, Ephedra viridis, is less potent than the Asian species.

In historical uses, other common names given to various forms of the ephedra plant include its scientific names:

  • Ephedra nevandensis L.
  • Ephedra sinica (the focus of this article)
  • Ephedracaceae
  • Gnetacae

It’s common American names include but are not limited to:

  • Brigham Young weed (Mormon tea)
  • Desert herb
  • Desert tea
  • Squaw tea
  • Teamsters tea

Ma Huang Tea for Sale Today

By 2004, over-the-counter, nutritional and sports products containing ephedrine alkaloids were banned due to increasing reports of toxicity, adverse side effects such as premature cardiovascular events, as well as central nervous system diseases [2].

In some cases, death was associated with its usage. However, in its original form, the ephedra herb is not banned, and products containing ephedra are still legal to purchase and are available through over-the-counter selling practices.

Two major components of ephedra – the ephedrine and pseudoephedrine alkaloids – are the components that continue to be banned in the United States and in other countries around the world.

As with many traditional herbs used by cultures around the world, Ma Huang continues to be misunderstood in regard to its benefits, its legalities, as well as its potential safety.

In traditional and historic Chinese and Indian practices, and in modern usage today, one of the most common forms of consuming ephedra from the herb is to drink it in tea form.

According to some sources, Chinese scientists began extracting the alkaloid ephedrine from the ephedra plant in the early 1920s. A couple of years following that, the globally known pharmaceutical company Merck manufactured a synthetic version of ephedra to treat asthma.

A number of over-the-counter allergy as well as cold medicines today are derived from the ephedra plant.

How to Make Ma Huang Tea

In the old days, the parts of the ephedra plant typically used to make teas included the portions of the herb that grew above ground, although the root is the origin of the Ma Huang sinica plant as mainly used by Chinese traditional medicine.

The ephedra root, in its original form, contains the alkaloids pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, as well as a variety of tannins, flavones, saponin, and essential oils.

Before learning how to make Ma Huang tea, be aware of the difference between the American plant and the Oriental form of ephedra, as well as the source of the tea sold to make your tea.

The Chinese Ma Huang tea preparations contain a more powerfully stimulating tea because of its root source. This plant contains a different alkaloid profile than the Norm American species, which means it produces different psychoactive effects.

Before learning how to make Ma Huang tea, it is recommended that individuals opt for the traditional Chinese formulas, although a number of homemade recipe options are also found throughout the Internet.

When it comes to benefits as well as safety, quality counts. Ma Huang tea in herbal form, as a “loose tea” or in pre-manufactured and contemporary teabag options, are available. One of the most common tea recipes is quite simple in regards to ingredients:

  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon (tsp.) Ma Huang tea herb (dried)
  • 8 ounces boiling water

Simply steep the Ma Huang in 8 ounces of the boiling water for 10 minutes.

While certainly beneficial for weight loss and as an energy booster, caution is advised with any Ma Huang tea concoction or that you might find online.

Following is a comparison of the number of grams to use when making Ma Huang tea:

  • Western ephedra: 4 to 12 g
  • Chinese Ma Huang: 2 to 6 g
  • Western ephedra root: 6 to 15 g

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Ephedra Tea Recipes

Ma Huang tea is not the only form of ephedra used to make teas. Green Mormon tea is another option that is less stimulating because it does not contain any ephedrine extract.

The recipe for this variety is similar to the traditional Chinese version, but uses 1 teaspoon of either very finely chopped dried Ma Huang stems or powder. Infuse the teaspoon of the Ma Huang into hot water and allow to steep for approximately 10 minutes.

At this dosage, it is not recommended to drink any more than two cups daily. If any symptoms such as nausea, jitteriness, headaches, or anxiety occur, discontinue usage.

A variety of Ma Huang tea recipe ideas are found online, some of the mixed with other herbs. Other Chinese formulas utilizing Ma Huang can also include herbs such as:

  • Ginseng
  • Astragalus
  • Codonopsis (often used as a ginseng substitute)
  • Fo-ti (energy and vitality tonic)

Such combinations may promote weight loss and an energy boost, but have also been used to treat:

  • lack of appetite
  • stress
  • insomnia
  • diarrhea
  • high blood pressure
  • graying hair

Again, proceed with caution in regard to the efficacy of Ma Huang tea to provide a “fix all” to numerous ailments, as scientific research has not unequivocally verified its efficacy for such purposes.

Another recipe for making Mormon tea is similar to those above: pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried ephedra stems and steep for five minutes.

If using fresh ephedra stems, a more generous serving of the ephedra will be required as it’s not concentrated. Most find the taste extremely bitter and will sweeten with honey following straining.

Ma Huang Tea for Weight Loss

Because of its reputation to trigger metabolism and promote lipolysis, turning to Ma Huang tea for weight loss is a common and popular option over prescription strength drugs, severe and non-sustainable diet plans, and those looking for a more natural approach as far as ingredients go.

However, before relying on Ma Huang tea to lose weight, potential users should know that most weight-loss remedies promoting accelerated fat loss and drastic drops in weight are a myth. Adequate nutrition and exercise is required for optimal benefits.

Ma Huang tea can provide a number of benefits in weight loss efforts that include:

  • Appetite suppression
  • Stimulation and increased metabolism
  • Boost fat burning potential

Using Ma Huang tea for fat loss is effective, but only short term. The effects of ephedra last a few hours at best. As a stimulant, it doesn’t have a long-term effect on the body.

It will kick up metabolism for a short time, but after its efficacy has worn off, metabolism will return to normal – unless changes in lifestyle, nutrition, and dietary habits change.

Gains in weight loss are not sustainable until lifestyle changes have also been attempted. The immediate effects of Ma Huang tea will include an accelerated heart rate, rise in blood pressure, and an increase in thermogenesis or heat production.

These effects, which many state give them a jittery, yet exhilarating burst of energy, may prove beneficial, but not without risk.

The tachycardia (accelerated heart rate) and intense surge of thermogenesis can put a strain on the body.

Ma Huang Tea for Sale

Raw Ma Huang tea is available to buy online from a number of natural supplement, sports supplement, and of course, traditional Chinese medicine apothecaries and practitioners. In tea form, it’s typically sold in loose tea bags.

It is recommended that before you buy any form of Ma Huang tea, turn to Chinese herb suppliers or nutritional stores that have a good reputation for selling high-quality products. Supplies of bulk tea or herbs are plentiful online, and enable the purchaser to find it in small to larger quantities.

Chinese Ephedra tea is sold in a number of health food stores as well as herbal stores, online and in brick-and-mortar locations.

For those who don’t necessarily want or like tea, Ma Huang is also available in powdered or capsule form.

Ma Huang side effects

While Ma Huang can and does provide some benefits to users when used appropriately, it can and does come with a risk of a number of adverse side effects.

When using a Ma Huang product that still contains its alkaloids, it can trigger increased blood pressure. Many previous users of ephedra products complain about a racing heartbeat, jitteriness, and increased excitedly. This is due to the effect of Ma Huang on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Any individual diagnosed with hypertension or any cardiovascular, metabolic, or central nervous system disorder is cautioned against use, especially for individuals entering middle age and above.

According to a study commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration at the University of California San Francisco in 1999, approximately 140 complaints between 1997 and 1999 were analyzed. The percentage of claims or those “probably” related to Ma Huang usage resulted in the following [3]:

An adverse effect Percentage of claims “definitely” or “probably” related to Ma Huang usage
Death 7%
Permanent impairment 16%
Ongoing treatment for adverse effect 9%
Full recovery from adverse effect 67%

A number of situations are contraindicated with use of Ma Huang, and include but are not limited to:

  • Anyone diagnosed with a type of cardiovascular disease, arrhythmia, or high blood pressure
  • Those who are “high strung” or have anxiety issues
  • Individuals who have difficulty sleeping or are dealing with insomnia

The most common side effects associated with Ma Huang tea include but are not limited to:

  • Increased anxiety – for some, even small amounts of Ma Huang tea can trigger anxiety attacks
  • Allergic reactions – not typically common, but possible
  • Mild to severe tremors

It should be noted that most of an oral dose of ephedra (88%) is typically excreted in urine within 24 hours, and the bulk of it (97%) after 48 hours. [4]


Those interested in giving Ma Huang tea a try should accompany use with a diet plan for optimal benefits, but always be aware of potential side effects. Ma Huang tea is not intended to act as a miracle weight loss option. Even if weight loss is achieved, it will be short term if appropriate diet, exercise, and adaptations to lifestyle are not achieved.

When using Ma Huang tea for weight loss, follow instructions and resist the urge to increase the dosage or consumption for faster results.

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