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Ephedra is one of the oldest medicinal herbs known to man. A member of the family Ephedraceae, Ephedra sinica—or ma huang in Chinese—has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for over 5,000 years. Over 50 species of ephedra have been found in Greece, Russia, India, and the Americas. This desert-dwelling shrub was historically brewed into a tea used to treat a variety of illnesses.

In recent decades, dietary supplements containing ephedra have been developed for promoting weight loss or enhancing sports performance. The medical community has questioned the safety of the plant as a result of reports demonstrating severe side effects and ephedra-related deaths. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of supplements containing ephedra in 2004. The ban was challenged in ...

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