The fresh or dried up stems of Ephedra nevadensis belonging to the family Ephedraceae are used to prepare Mormon tea. In effect, Ephedra nevadensis is an undersized straight growing shrub that is indigenous to the desert areas of the south-western regions of the United States as well as the neighboring areas of Mexico. The Mexicans call this herb by the name popotillo, while the early European settlers in America called it by several other names, such as Mormon tea, teamster's tea and Brigham tea. There was a time when this herb was an extremely favourite conventional medication for treating sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhoea. However, this herb has a somewhat astringent flavour, but people who have a preference for it or have become habituated to it, like this herb and take it in the form of a pleasingly reinvigorating drink. The herb has probably got its name Mormon tea from its use in the form of a caffeine free beverage that quenches thirst.
From 1552 onwards, people have recommended taking Mormon tea as it is beneficial to our health. In effect, this herb and the tea brewed from it have been extensively used by frontiersmen to cure venereal or sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, Mormon tea has also been prescribed for treating conditions like colds and kidney problems as well as in the form of a ‘spring tonic'. Reputed herbal medicine physician David G. Spoerke has attributed the therapeutic actions of Mormon tea to an uncertain amount of alkaloid ephedrine enclosed by the herb. It may be noted here that this alkaloid ephedrine is a medication that facilitates the narrowing of the blood vessels, invigorating the central nervous system (CNS) as well as widening the bronchioles. On the other hand, Mowed, Gottlieb and Castleman have said that ephedrine is not the active constituent of Mormon tea - but its most active constituent is (+)-norpseudoephedrine, a much more strong stimulant for the central nervous system.
In effect, as many as five different investigation/ research groups have succeeded in identifying the presence of ephedrine (+)-norpseudoephedrine or any different alkaloid in the plant species Ephedra nevadensis and, hence, it may be carefully come to the conclusion that this herb does not contain any alkaloid. This conclusion is taken keeping in view all different species of Ephedra found in North America and that are especially without any alkaloid. However, Mormon tea does enclose large quantities of tannins as well as a resin and a volatile oil.
In laboratory tests, administering a fluid extracted from Ephedra nevadensis plants and an infusion or tea prepared with the herb on humans in the form of a medication resulted in specific, but comparatively gentle diuretic actions. This herbal tea, which encloses relatively more principles that are water-soluble, proved to be more effectual in this aspect in comparison of the alcoholic extract from the plant. At the same time, the scientists noted some constipation owing to the use of the extract, which may possibly be owing to the presence of tannin in Mormon tea. The researchers came to the conclusion that Mormon tea never belonged to the exceptionally active category of therapeutic plants and the characteristics that are more often than not attributed to it are from before appropriately provided by some suitably established medicinal agent.
Here is another comment on Mormon tea. Provided you take delight in the astringent flavour of this beverage and do not bother about the high amount of tannins enclosed by it, you shall definitely be contended drinking this tea, which possesses a number of therapeutic properties. However, if you anticipate that drinking Mormon tea will bring about remarkable remedial effects, you are likely to be disenchanted.
Mormon tea or Ephedra nevadensis plants are basically a dwarfed and weather-beaten shrub. Since the times of the Aztec era, this herb has been providing a stimulating drink for the inhabitants of south-western America and the adjoining regions in Mexico. According to one theory the name Mormon tea has its origin in the initial Mormon settlers in the region, who kept themselves away from drinking the normal tea as well as coffee, but consumed a drink prepared by brewing Ephedra nevadensis plants. In effect, this herbal tea is prepared using the powdered dried up branches of the plant.
It may be noted that Mormon tea is linked to the Chinese herb ma huang (botanical name Ephedra sinica) that enclosed the medicine ephedrine, which works as a decongestant, bronchial dilator and stimulant for the central nervous system and is extensively used in contemporary times. However, it needs to be mentioned that the American Ephedra does not enclose any ephedrine.
Although Mormon tea has been traditionally used to treat a number of health conditions, till date there has been no research that corroborates the remedial uses of this herb in folk medicine. An herbal tea prepared from the branches of the Ephedra nevadensis plant is still used as a favourite beverage to quench thirst. While not even a trace of ephedrine is present in the American ephedras, advocates of Mormon tea claim that, very similar to ma huang, its Chinese relative has rich ephedrine content, this beverage works in the form of a medication for asthma as well as decongestant. In the desert regions, where this herb is found growing naturally, people chew a small piece of the herb's twig to alleviate the pain caused by sunburned lips.
The stems of Mormon tea or Ephedra nevadensis plants possess diuretic, tonic, blood purifying as well as febrifuge (any medication that helps to reduce fever) properties. In addition, Mormon tea is also useful for treating urogenital problems. In folk medicine, an infusion prepared with the herb has been used to cure kidney disorders, gonorrhea as well as the primary stages of syphilis. A poultice prepared with the powdered stem of Ephedra nevadensis is applied externally to heal sores. It may be noted that the stems of majority of the plants belonging to this genus enclose alkaloid ephedrine and are considered to be valuable in treating conditions like asthma as well as several problems related to the respiratory tract. Instead of using the isolated elements of this herb or different from using isolated ephedrine, using low concentrations of the whole Ephedra nevadensis plant are unlikely to result in any adverse side effects.
It needs to be underlined here that the herb Ephedra does not heal asthma, but in several instances it may prove to be extremely effectual in curing the symptoms related to asthma and thereby making life rather more comfortable for the patients. The stems of this plant may be used either fresh or dried and are generally brewed to prepare a tea. However, these stems may also be consumed raw. It is best if you consume the tender stems of Ephedra nevadensis, while the older stems may be brewed into a tea. The stems of Ephedra nevadensis can be harvested throughout the year and dried up for use when necessary.
There was a time when the indigenous people of America used Mormon tea in the form of a food as well as a remedy. In fact, it was the Mormons who used this beverage simply in the form of an herbal tea. In present times, the major use of Ephedra nevadensis or Mormon tea is in the form of forage for cattle and sheep, although it is not beneficial for horses. In addition, this herb is also used to restore habitation. Occasionally, Mormon tea or Ephedra nevadensis is also cultivated for decorative purposes.
Habitat and cultivation
Mormon tea is indigenous to the south western regions of the United States and adjoining areas of Mexico. This herb requires a loamy soil with perfect drainage and a sunlit position to thrive well. Once the plants are established they can endure drought and also tolerate limey soil conditions. If you desire to obtain the seeds of this herb, you need to grow the male and female plants together and close to each other.
Mormon tea or Ephedra nevadensis is primarily propagated by its seeds, which ought to be ideally sown in a greenhouse immediately when they are ripe. Alternately, the seeds may also be sown in sandy compost in a greenhouse during spring. As soon as they have grown big enough to be handled, the young seedlings should be pricked individually and planted in separate pots and allow to grow in the greenhouse for a minimum duration till their first winter is over. The young plants may be transplanted in their permanent positions outdoors following the last expected date of frost in your region has passed. In addition, the young plants require some shielding from the cold and frost during their first winter outdoors. Mormon tea may also be propagated by means of root division either during spring or in autumn.
Side effects and cautions
Very little information is available regarding whether drinking Mormon tea is safe when used therapeutically. However, people using this herb or intend to use it ought to be aware of its probable side effects. Drinking Mormon tea may result in stomach disorders, liver damage, augmented urination, constipation and even throat and nose cancer. Women should never use Mormon tea during pregnancy or when they are breast feeding.
How it works in the body
Mormon tea encloses tannins that give it an astringent flavour as well as effect, thereby enabling to lessen the secretions of the body, for instance mucus. However, as of now, there is very little information regarding the manner in which Mormon tea may possibly work in curing health conditions, such as kidney disorders as well as the sexually transmitted diseases - syphilis and gonorrhea.