From T. R. Hastrup:
Ephedra contains ephedrine which is a drug very similar to adrenaline but with a longer halflife. It acts on exactly the same receptors as adrenaline does and has exactly the same side effects and dangers. It does not induce hallucinations and it's stimulative effect is not very far from caffeine. Even when taken in extreme doses with constant use, it is questionable if ephedrine can cause a psychosis. It has nowhere the power to push the body to the limits. I know some people out there love to spread scare but ephedrine is a very safe and natural drug. The only dangers from ephedrine is because it can cause high blood pressure and vaso-constriction, exactly like adrenaline. People with high blood pressure or heart problems should naturally be careful with this herb.
Also, ephedrine is chemically related to the amphetamines but everybody should know that similarity in molecular structures does not mean the action of the drugs are similar. Ephedrine acts purely on adrenergic receptors, unlike the amphetamines which have powerful CNS stimulative effects.
The problem with Ephedra sinica (and other Eurasian species of Ephedra - there is no ephedrine to speak of in the American species) is that we as are a culture are -used- to 4- or 5-hour drugs. Take coffee, or aspirin, and it'll be out of your system in 4-5 hours. Ephedrine will let you stay jittery for 8 hours - but because you're used to dosing yourself every 3-4 hours you overdose -very- easily on ephedrine. Especially if you abuse the plant (ie. you use it to keep awake), or worse, mix it with things like caffeine and aspirin to -really- get that weight down.
That way lays your first (and perhaps last) heart attack, a -lot- of jittery nervous overstrung adrenergic problems, and that way lays madness.
Chinese Ephedra (Ma Huang) is not -used- by the great unwashed masses in the US, it's -abused-. That's a big difference, even if it only looks like two letters.
As an herb Ma Huang has its uses in TCM, and in western herbalism it's used in small discrete doses for things like bronchial spasms. NOT long-term, nor for frivolous things like "but I have to keep awake". Herbalists try to keep you -in- balance, not get you -out- of balance. If you value your health you should do the same.
On Ma Huang and drug tests:
From "Michael M. Zanoni" <zanoni.netcom.com>:
Ma Huang (the Chinese variety Ephedra sinensis, not the American Ephedra plant) can produce a positive urine test for amphetamine metabolites that will also be read by the mass spec as being meth metabolites. It is because of the combination of both l- and d- forms of ephedrine. Things such as Ephedra nevadensis have only the non-psychoactive form of ephedra.
If someone were to take a moderate amount of Ma Huang for a few days it is possible that the serum titer could go high enough to be beyond the threshold level of detection used by most labs for gas chromatograph screening.
Pseudophedrine found in OTC drugs will not test as a meth metabolite.