Dimethyl-beta-cyclodextrin (DM-beta-CD) modified capillary electrophoresis has been developed for chiral separation of ephedrine and related compounds, such as (+/-)-norephedrine, (+/-)-N-methylephedrine, (+/-)-ephedrine and (+)-pseudoephedrine. The influence of some crucial parameters such as buffer concentration, pH value, DM-beta-CD concentration, applied voltage and separation temperature on the separation was investigated. Under the optimum conditions, i.e. 40 mM DM-beta-CD in 75 mM Tris (pH 2.5) as the running electrolyte, separation voltage +25 kV and temperature 25 degrees C, a satisfactory separation of the enantiomers was accomplished. The detection limits (S/N = 3) ranged from 65 to 161 ng/mL and the linear range was 0.15 to 101.0 microg/mL for pressure injection. The present method was successfully applied for the analysis of a series of drugs such as anti-tussive, the drug for rheum, the drug for rhinitis and a Chinese traditional herbal medicine, Ephedrae herba (Ma-Huang in Chinese). The recoveries of ephedrine and related compounds in real samples ranged from 97.6 to 103.5%. This method is useful in the simple and rapid analysis of ephedrine derivatives in marketed products.