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This plant,Ephedra nevadensis, commonly known as Mormon Tea, is a member of the Ephedra family. This website states this:
"Mormon tea is prepared from the fresh or dried stems of Ephedra nevadensis Wats., family Ephedraceae, a small erect shrub native to the desert regions of the southwestern United States and adjacent parts of Mexico. Called popotillo by the Mexicans, and Mormon tea, Brigham tea, teamster's tea, or squaw tea by the early American settlers, it was once a very popular folk remedy for syphilis and especially, gonorrhea. Although its taste is quite astringent, those who become accustomed to it like it as a pleasantly refreshing beverage. The name Mormon tea probably derives from its use as a caffeine-free thirst quencher.
Since 1552, the plant yielding Mormon tea has been recommended as being beneficial to health. Widely used by frontiersmen as a cure for venereal disease, Mormon tea is also described as a remedy for colds and kidney disorders, and as a "spring tonic." Spoerke attributes its activity to the presence of an undetermined amount of the alkaloid ephedrine, a medication which constricts the blood vessels, dilates the bronchioles, and stimulates the central nervous system. Gottlieb, Mowed, and Castleman state that Mormon tea's active constituent is not ephedrine but (+ )-norpseudoephedrine, an even more potent central nervous system stimulant."
Actually, this was a pretty different and interesting plant and now that I see the background and history, I will appreciate it more when I see it in the Utah desert.
Image ID: 402147