By Syed Akbar Ephedra or desert tea is a double-edged sword. It has a number of benefits if it isconsumed in minute quantities and for a limited number of days. If it is taken in largequantities and for a longer period, Ephedra may cause severe health complicationsincluding cardiac arrest. Those using Ephedra herbal formulations should take extracaution to derive its health benefits to the fullest. Always use the herb in minute quantities and ensure that the usage does not extend to more than five days. Ephedra is an ancient herb and has been in use in Chinese medicinal system for almost5000 years. It is also used in Ayurveda and Unani systems of medicine. It is, however,popular in Chinese system of medicine. It has a number of health benefits, but Ephedra isprimarily used for treatment of upper respiratory tract diseases like asthma andbronchitis. Other uses include treatment of common cold, nasal blockade, low blood pressure, depression, and alleviation of fever. It purifies blood. It is oftenrecommended in the treatment of syphilis, rheumatic pains and for reduction of weight. Those suffering from heart problems, glaucoma, diabetes, and high blood pressure andthyroid issues should avoid using Ephedra. Others may use it in minute quantities. Theleaves and stem of Ephedra are used in medical formulations. Caution has to be exercisedbecause Ephedra contains a chemical called ephedrine, which is narcotic in nature andacts on the central nervous system. ------------------- Home remedies ------------------- Take two grams of dried Ephedra plant, add a cup of water and boil it. Filter thedecoction and consume it thrice a day for relief from asthma and bronchitis. Ephedra is also used as a general health tonic. Ephedra decoction obtained by boiling twograms of its dried stem or leaves in a glass of water can be used once a day to improveblood circulation. Ephedra opens up the wind pipe and air passages in the lungs enablingthem to take extra oxygen and supply oxygen rich blood to the body. Ephedra is prescribed for treatment of depression as it is a powerful central nervoussystem stimulant. A word of caution, Ephedra should never be combined with coffee, tea oranti-depressant drugs. When on use of Ephedra, avoid coffee, tea and anti-depressantdrugs. A little quantity (two to three ml) of Ephedra tincture is often prescribed tofight depression. A little quantity of decoction of root and stem of Ephedra will provide relief fromrheumatic pains.