Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ma what?

I saw the word, ma huang and at first I had no idea what it was, beyond guessing it was some type of an oriental herb. I then discovered Ma huang (Ephedra sinica) is a cone-bearing shrub, 30 to 50 cm in height, which is native to China but now found also in the Mediterranean region, India, Persia, and the western portion of South America.

Ten species of Ephedra are known to exist in North America, and many were popular in folk medicine and as a daily beverage. After the Mormons had arrived in Utah, the native tribe introduced them to a species of Ephedra, and they used the stems as a substitute for coffee and tea. However, this was considered to be a bitter-tasting tonic beverage. In the Old West, the same species used by the Mormons gained a reputation as a cure for syphilis and gonorrhea, though there doesn't seem to be any evidence that it worked to cure those...

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