Cao Ma Huang
A small, shrubby plant from the family Ephedraceae (gymnosperms, widely related to conifers and cycads), native to northern China and Mongolia, where it grows in a cold, dry climate between 700 and 1600 m (2300 and 5200 ft.). Its thin, green branches appear leafless, the actual leaves reduced to small scales. It is an important medicinal plant and, along with other species of Ephedra, the source of an alkaloid called ephedrine, a stimulant, appetite suppressant, concentration aid and decongestant, which is exported from China in huge quantities every year. In cultivation is is suitable for USDA hardiness zones 4 to 7.