"eh-FED-rin, eh-FED-rah, ma WANG"
Common brand names:
Ma huang/ephedra and ephedrine have been used for breathing problems, asthma, and nasal swelling/congestion caused by a cold or allergies.
Ephedrine is available in the US as a nonprescription medication for relief of breathing problems. It is rarely used because there are safer and more effective medications (e.g., albuterol, pseudoephedrine). Ma huang/ephedra is an herbal/dietary supplement that was banned by the US FDA in 2004 because it has an unreasonable risk with little proven benefit. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details.
Ephedrine is the active ingredient in ephedra/ma huang. It belongs to a class of medications called sympathomimetics. It works like a naturally occurring substance (adrenaline) that your body makes when it thinks it is in danger. It is a central nervous system stimulant that increases your heart rate/blood pressure, narrows your blood vessels (vasoconstriction), and opens up the lungs (bronchodilation).
Some herbal/diet supplement products have been found to contain possibly harmful impurities/additives. The amount of medication may be very different between products. Check with your pharmacist for more details about the particular brand you use.
How to Use This Medication
If you are using the nonprescription product/supplement, read all directions on the product package before taking this medication. Take this product by mouth as directed. If you are uncertain about any of the information, consult your doctor or pharmacist. If your doctor has prescribed this medication, take it exactly as directed.
When used in high doses, this medication may cause serious side effects, including heart attack, seizure, and stroke. Do not take more than the recommended dose, and do not use this product for longer than 7 days in a row unless directed by your doctor.
Rarely, abnormal drug-seeking behavior (addiction) is possible with this medication. Do not increase your dose, take it more frequently, or use it for a longer time than directed. Properly stop the medication when so directed.
When used for an extended time, this medication may not work as well. Talk with your doctor if this medication stops working well.
If you are using this medication for breathing problems and your condition does not improve in 1 hour or worsens, or if you think you may have a serious medical problem, seek immediate medical attention. If you have a cough that returns or lasts more than 7 days, or if you have a fever, rash, or severe headache, seek immediate medical attention. These could be signs of a serious medical condition.
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Information expires December 2017.