BRIGHAM TEA, Ephedra nevadensis

Brigham Tea

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to stay with an Indian family on a reservation near the Corners area. I had hopes of learning some of their wonderful ways with herbs.

A story was told about a mother who was bothered by a lung problem or asthma. At times, the breathing was free and unobstructed, but there were times when breathing was very difficult and even walking any distance was almost impossible. She had been given many different drugs and medicines from reservation dispensary but nothing seemed to help her breath better.

One evening, a medicine man stopped by with a handful of Brigham tea, some mullein and some other herbs. He said, “White man’s medicine no good.” Then he told her how she should prepare the herbs. She brewed up the tea and took it for awhile. Pretty soon she could walk or run and the asthma didn’t seem to bother her. Ephedra , or Brighan tea, as it is most generally called, is a desert plant that grows from two to three feet tall. It is a green brush with no leaves, only jointed little sticks that seem to all grow in the same direction. In the late winter or early spring most of the sticks will sprout a little cone-like blossom.

Brighan tea is an exceptional tonic. It tones up many parts of the body. It is said to be a decongestant and bronchial dilator. It has a reputation of being good for arthritis, rheumatism, cancer, bursitis, painful muscles and joints, relieving toxic conditions, purifying the blood, an aid to kidney and bladder problems, a help in curing venereal diseases, a big help to allergies and a relief to hay-fever sufferers. Sounds like a miracle drug to me.

Ephedra, or Brigham tea, is also known as miner’s tea, squaw tea, teamster’s tea, Mormon tea, joint fir and others. Brigham Young had a very good knowledge of herbs and advised many remedies for the sick. He recommended this herb to almost anyone, to be used as a tonic to heal and tune up the body. Most herbalist and botanist call this herb by its botanical the same herb; however, the Chinese specie of this herb contains much more of the alkaloid, ephedra. The Chinese have used this herb for thousands of years. It also stimulates the adrenals. It is the ephedrine that, like many other drugs, can cause serious side effects.

A good way to make Brigham tea in the winter is to put a couple of handfuls of the short cut twigs in a pan of water and steep it on the back of an old cook stove or on a heater for a few a hours. The tea will turn red. If you split a twig open, you will find the center core is a deep red. They say this is because ephedra is so high in copper.

Brigham tea is a good tasting tea and you can use the same twigs twice for the second batch of tea. It is very helpful if you feel a cold coming on. We had some neighbors, and if anyone felt a cold coming on. They brewed up some Brigham tea and everyone had a goodly amount. Susan, my neighbor, said, “it was almost like you could feel the cold go out of your system, leaving you with a good warm feeling.”

Michael Moore, author and professor of herbology, tells of a man who had “a scourge of long-standing pollen allergies.” The man agreed to drink Brigham tea as a beverage instead of coffee. He found if he drank the tea, he could get by on one-tenth the little allergy pills for that season. When you harvest this herb be sure it is in a dry spell, when it hasn’t rained for some time. Ephedra is more prevalent in the outer layers of the bark and is affected by rain and moisture. Anyone for some Brigham tea? It’s a great tonic.

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