Native Ephedra Natural Medicine

Is the dreaded flu breaks out in your house, there is a natural home remedy growing all over the desert. You’ll find it in botanical reference books between cypress and pines, but this scrubby native of our desert foothills is nothing like those big coniferous trees. Yet it is a conifer nonetheless, which gives Ephedra californica and its closely related species a unique place in the natural world. Also known as joint fir, this plant’s foliage is easy to spot due to its long, segmented needle-like leaves. Our native Ephedra is related to, but not the same as Ephedra sinica, the Chinese native known as ma-huang, a stimulant antihistamine used there for centuries. California ephedra lacks the stimulant ephedrin, so it is not part of the pharmacopeia. However, it was in the Cahuilla materia medica, prepared as a medicinal tea. Barrows, a turn of the century ethnobotanist claims bundles of this stuff were “almost universally found tucked away among the thatching of every jacal, or packed away in basket and olla.” He also notes that the plant was harvested in the late summer and fall when considered the most potent. This may indicate there are other components in this plant with antihistamine qualities that have yet to be discovered. According to one source, it’s prepared by boiling fresh or dried twigs in water until a “wine-colored” brew was achieved. However, among early tribal interviews it was never used long term, suggesting a potential for side effects when consumed in large quantities. Another use for our ephedra was as a treatment for venereal diseases, and was named early on as Ephedra antisyphilitica. Other common names, teamster’s tea and Mormon tea, suggest this plant was in widespread use among settlers too. Ephedra tea was served in brothels throughout the west. One source claims its common name was the result of a frequent visitor to one house of ill repute named John Mormon, while other groups claim it was popular among Mormon settlers who did not drink caffeinated drinks. Local ephedra plants have just begun the process of blooming. Remember, this is a true gymnosperm so its flowers are tiny cones. It is diecious, a Latin name for “two houses”, meaning that ovary and pollen are carried on different plants. On hikes early in the year you’ll notice the difference between male and female plants with very different looking reproductive structures. Often ephedra is the only evergreen plant to make it through the dry season without defoliating. This makes it a great choice for larger desert landscapes that are looking for shrubs that bear unique, fine textured foliage that won’t wither with extremes of heat or cold. The stems grow very thick and gnarled, and over time they may resemble an aged grapevine. When creatively pruned to reveal the most twisted parts of trunk and branches via “windows” through the foliage, you’ll better appreciate its growth habit. The fine textured appearance of the foliage makes a great contrast against the large masses of
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Small Budget Gardening Pin of the Day

Small Budget Gardening Pin of the Day

Grow Sweet Bay for Pantry Pesticide

sweet bay

The contents of a bin of flour does not move. Small black bugs should not gather at the bottom of a box of cereal. And though they are nearly identical to rice grains, small maggots may not take up residence in that bag either. Ditto crackers and dog food. The genesis of pantry moths and flour weevils are microscopic eggs that arrive in your kitchen inside all of these foods sealed into air-tight wrappers. Once you open the bag, oxygen and heat enter to make microscopic eggs hatch into larvae. These tiny maggots spoil the food, then move on to pupate into an adult moth or beetle to infest the rest of your kitchen.   All over America, flour bins are coming alive with the heat. It starts in early summer when the house itself heats up to the perfect hatching temperature. What grows in your flour may be any one of a dozen different insects that roughly follow this same life cycle. They were once pernicious residents of old grist mills, spread far and wide in the bags of flour. Such pests infested hard tack rations of every war, and a century ago they were so ubiquitous soldiers ate this rare protein source on the battlefield.   But all of this is a thing of the past because there is a simple, cheap plant remedy that will keep your grain bins free of such infestations without chemicals. It is the ancient bay laurel tree of the Mediterranean, favored for crafting victor’s crowns and bachelor’s laurels. This is the same bay leaf you purchase in the store when it’s old and dry and most of its oils have evaporated.   In front of my office were old bay laurel street trees the city clipped to keep from encroaching onto the sidewalk. Every year I’d watch for Public Works to start pruning, and then I’d go out to gather the cuttings. These were my first adventure in the world of bay leaf pest control.   Into every box, bag and bin I’d stuff a good sized sprig or bundle of rubber banded fresh leaves. The oils are potent enough to give you a headache if freshly crushed foliage is inhaled. The evaporation of the oil from leaves is enough to kill off pantry pests and discourage new ones. Not once did any residual flavor of bay tinge my baked goods.   If you grow a bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) tree in the yard, you’ll have an endless supply of this highly effective natural pesticide in its most potent state. Hardy to Zone 8, this tree grows easily outdoors and is tolerant of both heat and drought. If you live further north, bay trees adapt nicely to a large pot so you can bring it indoors for the winter.   When I lived in a cabin in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, I discovered a close relative called the California bay tree, (Umbellularia californica). It grew prodigiously in the cool hollows of the
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Visit Mo’s Gallery

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Check out Mo’s galleries.
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A Backyard Wedding Saves Money


Tying the knot in a beautifully landscaped backyard is the perfect way to avoid being overwhelmed with costs. It’s January and time to start thinking how to revamp spaces you have into the perfect tableau for a May or June wedding. Our FREE eBook details your step by step backyard makeover from space planning to coordinating the planting to work with your wedding color palette. Choose to marry in the backyard and you’ll save many thousands of dollars to use on a fabulous honeymoon or the down pa
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Free Sustainable Christmas Decorations From Your Garden


Rather than spend money, take a walk in your dormant garden or wayside places to gather natural decorations. The pioneers did the very same thing in the early American Christmas celebrations – and you can do it too. The trick is to rethink what you find. Dry weeds can be wired into a naturalistic wreath studded with fruit or berries. Dormant honeysuckle or grape vines can be decorated into swags with fresh greens and cones. These decorations are organic, and may be given to the compost pile at the end of the season. Compare this sustainable approach to the millions of plastic and mylar decor items bought for use just a few days a year, then thrown into the trash come January. Click on our FREE eBooks tab above to download your color copy of organic Holiday Gifts & Decorating Ideas by Maureen Gilmer.

Feliz El Dia De Los Muertos – Day of the Dead


This is my very favorite shot from El Dia De Los Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is one of the many altars at home and business where the dead are remembered with offerings and flowers. It is an extraordinary blending of my Catholic roots with preColumbian Aztec rites of the afterworld that are not only beautiful, they help us remember our ancestors and mourn the dead. It spans October 31 to Novemer 2 over the feast days known as All Saints and All Souls, which were once called All Hallows in the Old World. It is believed that on these nights the veil between the living and the dead is temporarily drawn aside so that all may come together again for a brief interlude. The traditions have spread across the American Southwest as Mexican immigrants brought their traditions to El Norte. More on the marigolds of this Mexican tradition at Chicago Sun Times online:,marigolds-day-of-dead1027.article