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Common Name: Mexican Tea
Ephedra torreyana is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 1.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
South-western N. America - Arizona and Colorado south to New Mexico, Texas and Mexico.
Dry gravelly or sandy plains, hills and canyons, 900 - 1800 metres in New Mexico. Dry rocky to sandy areas; 500--2000 m[
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it could succeed outdoors at least in the milder parts of this country. It hybridises in the wild with other members of the genus. In particular, it hybridises with E. trifurca to form E . × intermixta. This hybrid occurs in a small area of southwestern New Mexico (near Engle, Sierra County) within the zone of sympatry of the two parental species; it may be fertile (mature seeds are formed). It is intermediate in most characters but can be identified by its combination of the spinelike terminal buds of E . trifurca and the scabrous, light yellow seeds of E . torreyana[
]. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus.
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 in fruit and seed are required.
An excellent tea is made by boiling the stems for a few minutes and allowing the brew to steep[
Fruit - raw or cooked.
This plant has a wide reputation as a cure for syphilis[
]. A decoction of the stems is used, this decoction is also used in treating coughs, bladder and kidney problems and stomach disorders[
A decoction of the leaves and stems has been used as a lotion on itchy skin[
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[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a greenhouse[
]. 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[