Ephedra (Ephedra nevadensis)

Botanical Name:Ephedra nevadensis
Family: Ephedraceae
Kingdom:    Plantae
Division:    Gnetophyta
Class:    Gnetopsida
Order:    Ephedrales
Genus:    Ephedra
Species:    E. nevadensis

Common name: Mormon tea, American Ephedra , Ephedra , Ephedra, American , Mormon Tea , Nevada Joint-fir, Nevada Jointfir.

Other Names: Brigham Tea, Mormon tea, Ephedra, Nevada Joint-fir, American Ma Huang, Mexican tea, Desert Ephedra, Desert tea.
Range: South-western N. America – Arizna, California, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.
Habitat: Dry, rocky slopes and hills, rarely in sandy flat areas, at elevtions of 700 – 1900 metres , Southwestern North 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.

Parts Used: Twigs. Gather stems anytime and dry for later use.

History: Ephedra was found buried in a Middle Eastern neolithic grave, indicating that it was used as a medicine over 60,000 years ago. 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. Ephedra 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 tattooing.

Description: Ephedra is 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.

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Physical Characteristics
An evergreen shrub growing to 1.2m. It is hardy to zone 6. It is in leaf all year. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). The plant not is self-fertile. We rate it 2 out of 5 for usefulness.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Cultivation details:
Requires a well-drained loamy soil and a sunny position. Established plants are drought resistant and are also lime tolerant.

Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Propagation:Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a greenhouse[200]. It can also be sown in spring in a greenhouse in a sandy compost. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on for at least their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in the spring or early summer after the last expected frosts and give some protection in their first winter.
Division in spring or autumn.
Constituents: Alkaloid ephedrine, methylephedrine, methylpseudoephedrine. Other plant constituents in Ephedra are calcium, phosphorus, protein, flavone, saponin, tannins, and volatile oil.
Properties
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.

Medicinal Properties: Anti-viral, antidote, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, blood purifier, diuretic, pectoral, febrifuge, vasodilator, stimulant, and tonic.

Medicinal Uses:Blood purifier; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Poultice; Tonic; VD.
The stems are blood purifier, diuretic, febrifuge and tonic. They are beneficial in the treatment of urogenital complaints. An infusion has been used in the treatment of kidney problems, gonorrhoea and the first stages of syphilis.

A poultice of the powdered stems has been applied to sores.
The stems of most members of this genus contain the alkaloid ephedrine and are valuable in the treatment of asthma and many other complaints of the respiratory system. The whole plant can be used at much lower concentrations than the isolated constituents – unlike using the isolated ephedrine, using the whole plant rarely gives rise to side-effects. Ephedra does not cure asthma but in many cases it is very effective in treating the symptoms and thus making life somewhat easier for the sufferer. The stems can be used fresh or dried and are usually made into a tea, though they can also be eaten raw. The young stems are best if eating them raw, though older stems can be used if a tea is made. The stems can be harvested at any time of the year and are dried for later use.

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. However the bad reputation this herb has received stems from the use or misuse of the synthesized form of its main constituent ephedrine.

Preparations and Dosages:
Standard Infusion, as needed. To 1/2 ounce of dried herb add 1 pint boiling water steep for 20 minutes. Strain and sweeten, drink throughout the day for cold and flu or sinusitis.

Mormon Tea

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.

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Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:

http://www.indianspringherbs.com/American_Ephedra.htm
http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Ephedra+nevadensis

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