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Ephedra nevadensis

Caution Potentially Dangerous

Other Names: Brigham Tea, Mormon tea, American Ephedra, Nevada Joint-fir, American Ma Huang, Mexican tea, Desert Ephedra, Desert tea

Ephedra Habitat 

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.

Photo by Deb Jackson Copyright 2000

Photo by Deb Jackson Copyright 2000


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.

Folklore 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 tattooing.

Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron 

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