Brigham Tea, Mormon tea, American Ephedra, Nevada
Joint-fir, American Ma Huang, Mexican tea, Desert Ephedra, Desert tea
Southwestern N. America, found growing
on dry slopes and hills, sandy plains, canyons, sandy and rocky places, deserts.
Ephedra may be found further east in dry areas where it has escaped cultivation.
Cultivation requires some effort, prefers light (sandy) dry, acid, soil in sunny
position, cannot grow in the shade and not self-fertile, both male and female
plants must be grown if seed is desired. An evergreen shrub growing 2 to 3 feet
high with no leaves. Stems are green, smooth, woody, branching, and very
jointed. Small yellow-green buds appear in the joints when in bloom. Gather
stems anytime and dry for later use.
Used extensively for food and medicine
by Native Americans of the Southwest, especially in dry desert areas. The fruit
or buds are eaten raw and have a very mild sweet taste. The seed is roasted and
used as coffee or ground into a meal for bread. The stems of most Ephedra
species contain the alkaloid ephedrine which is very valuable in the treatment
of asthma and many other respiratory complaints. The stems are anti-viral,
antidote, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, blood purifier, diuretic, pectoral,
febrifuge, vasodilator, stimulant, and tonic. The young stems are best if eaten
raw, though older stems can be used to make a medicinal tea. The plant has
antiviral effects, particularly against influenza. Unlike using the isolated or
synthesized ephedrine, using the whole plant in alternative medicine is much
more effective and rarely gives rise to serious side-effects. This is true with
most herbs, but especially with Ephedra, since other plant constituents can help
buffer or improve the actions of the main constituents. Other plant constituents
in Ephedra are Calcium, Phosphorus, Protein, Flavone, Saponin, Tannins, and
Volatile oil. Ephedrine acts quickly to reduce swellings of the mucous
membranes, dilates the bronchial vessels and has antispasmodic properties.
Because of this scientifically proven action on the respiratory system it is
known to have saved many lives, while Ephedra does not cure asthma it is very
effective in treating the symptoms and making life somewhat easier for the
sufferer. Used for centuries in Chinese medicine Ma Huang or Chinese Ephedra is
well known and exported all over the world for use in pharmaceuticals to treat
asthma, hay fever, allergic complaints, stimulating the heart and central
nervous system, and kidney problems. While the chemical constituents in the
American Ephedra plant is said to be less concentrated, it is still used for the
same medicinal purposes and said to have fewer side effects.
Caution is advised as an overdose can be fatal, causing high blood
pressure, racing of the heart, confusion, nervous stupor, twitching, convolutions and
death. Ephedrine is seen as a performance-boosting herb and is a forbidden substance in
many sporting events such as athletics. This herb should not be used by people who are
taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or suffering from high blood pressure,
hyperthyroidism or glaucoma.
Ephedra was found buried in a Middle Eastern
neolithic grave, indicating that it was used as a medicine over 60,000 years ago (TRUE).
It is believed that the roots of the plant have the opposite effect of the stems, this is
unproven. An infusion of the dried stems has been used in the treatment of venereal
diseases. The pulverized or boiled stems were also used for delayed or difficult
menstruation or applied externally as a poultice on syphilitic and other sores by some
native North American Indians. It was also used as a ceremonial drug to improve the
alertness of the hunter and the wood of the plant is considered the best charcoal for
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen
Next > Evening Primrose