Mormon tea, a plant in the Southwest

I went to Mesa Verde with the family this week, and there we encountered this description of a certain southwestern plant.

So, if you google “Mormon tea,” you find out it has had all kinds of interesting uses:

The Indians prepared Ephedra as a tea for stomach and bowel disorders, for colds, fever, and headache. The dried and powdered twigs were used in poultices for burns and ointments for sores. One tribe made a decoction of the entire plant and drank it to help stop bleeding.


According to GoldBee, early Mormon settlers, who abstained from regular tea and coffee, drank the beverage made from this plant. A handful of green or dry stems and leaves were placed in boiling water for each cup of tea desired. It was removed from the fire and allowed to steep for twenty minutes or more. To bring out the full flavor, a spoon of sugar or some strawberry jam was added depending on individual taste.

Other white settlers used a very strong tea of the plant for the treatment of syphilis and other venereal disease, and as a tonic. It was standard fare in the waiting rooms of whorehouses in early Nevada and California. It was said to have been introduced by a Jack Mormon who frequented Katie’s Place in Elko, Nevada during the mining rush of the last century.

In addition, the plant is the source of ephedra, which has been banned by the FDA.

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

8 thoughts on “Mormon tea, a plant in the Southwest

  1. It is also called Brigham Tea. When my daughter was a baby she had uncontollable diarrhea. My grandmother gave me some Brigham Tea which cured my daughter.

  2. As an herbalist, I can tell you that a supplement containing a substance is wildly different than an original botanical source. Plants have sometimes 1000s of individual constituents, many of which provide balancing action to the primary active ingredient. Isolating active ingredients is a sometimes foolish tendency of modern westerns. It’s also important to differentiate between species, as the common foundation plant (I’ve used ephedra in my landscape plantings) is from a different species than the FDA-banned substance.
    The banned substance is a Chinese herb called Ma Huang.

  3. Just for fun I tried making and consuming a cup of Mormon Tea once (the plant grows all over in western Utah). Tastes horrible- even with the sugar and jam. I don’t think it cured anything either:)

  4. Anything that tastes that awful has got to be good for you. That cup you drank probably prevented a heart attack.

Comments are closed.