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Many of you must have heard about Ephedra (Ma-Huang) diet pills, but what is it? No doubt even the uninitiated knows the meaning of diet pills, but what is Ephedra? The Latin name of Ephedra is Ephedra sinica and the same is a flowering plant of the Ephedraceae group and this plant is commonly found all over China. This plant is also referred to by other names like Mormon tea, Ma Huang, Chinese Ephedra apart from the name Ephedra itself.

This plant is known in the Chinese language as "ma huang". There are two schools of medicine in China, the modern and the traditional and for over 5000 years the traditional school of Chinese medicine has been advocating the use of ma huang. It is generally used for treating hay fever & asthma and also for the treatment of common cold. There are some other species of the generic plant Ephedra and they are used for quite a number of medicinal purposes. Even as far away as America the natives used to drink a tea brewed from this plant and the same was known as Mormon tea.

The diet pills containing ephedrine alkaloids are well known to have a stimulating effect on the human brain and they are also known to increase the heart rate. They are also known to increase the blood pressure by constricting blood vessels and at the same time helps make breathing easier by expanding the bronchial tubes. According to some clinical studies, it has been shown that Ephedra (Ma-Huang) can also be used for weight loss. In some cases this weight loss has been achieved with Ephedra alone, whereas in other cases, the extract of that plant has been used in conjunction with caffeine (a stimulant) and aspirin to bring about the loss in weight. If the combinations of these Ephedra/Caffeine/Aspirin are taken in a regulated way they can reduce weight marginally over a short term period.

There have been worries in certain quarters, especially by the FDA of USA about the safety of these drugs or food supplements, and in instances products containing Ephedra have been banned, but only if the percentage of Ephedra exceeds 8% of the total mixture. The toughness on the part of the FDA was primarily due to the fact, that most of the products being sold were not informing the correct percentage of Ephedra in the same. The FDA also wants the health risks associated with Ephdera to be printed in the labels of the products.