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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Pin of the day! Rethinking Cone Wreaths


                  This great new idea reinvents the old pine cone door wreath into a beautiful alternative.  The snow flake design wired together is cheap and easy if you have a cone bearing conifer in your yard.  Or maybe you’ll find it along the road where cones are too often lost to being run over by cars!  Save the cones and get started today. For 1400 other cheap or free ideas for holiday decor visit the Small Budget Gardening Pinterest board and join the fun with 2200 other dedicated followers.  

Supermarket Indian Corn for the Garden


With Thanksgiving comes Indian corn, the Small Budget Gardener’s secret seed source. Large ears may be all one color, they may be a mixture of wide ranging hues or just lightly speckled. Small strawberry popcorn with its flint hard ruby red kernels resemble a fat strawberry fruit. Slender miniature popcorn are jewel tone decorations. All of these are two-for-one purchases because they may be enjoyed as decor, then saved over winter and planted in the summer garden to grow your own next year. This is loads of fun for the kids and teaches so much when you complete the whole cycle. So pick your ears at the market with care and be sure to plant the colors separately to prevent cross pollination so your next crop is identical to its predecessor.

Free eBook: Green Holiday Decorating From The Garden


Save your money by decorating naturally with my free eBook. It’s an age old practice that’s been replaced by tinsel and plastic and paint. Yet all over America are gardens and homesites filled with plants that offer aromatic evergreen foliage, bright berries and dried seed pods. It’s easy to get started.  Just download this full color PDF to learn how to gather from your garden as well as those of neighbors, friends, and relatives. Click here for the holiday eBook:

Tibetan Prayer Flags for Asian Style


For those who love Asian design and spirituality, Tibetan prayer flags are a fun and affordable way to add meaning and bright color to gardens. They can be seen draped in villages and base camps on documentaries featuring Mount Everest. A string of them is a beautiful and thoughtful way to add color and festive looks to off season gardens when flowers are limited. At well under $20 for a string of them, it’s a great solution for renters that comes with you if you move. Prayer flags may be printed in the original Tibetan or in English to make them more meaningful to the west. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the lovely spirituality behind prayer flags: Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to ‘gods,’ a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all. By hanging flags in high places the “Wind Horse” will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.

Dramatic and Free: Garden Decor


At the end of the season there are always stalks and branches to be had. And when these are used in the right setting they become a valuable tool for exploiting color, form and contrast. Nowhere is this more doable than in the southwest when the agaves send up their enormous stalks to flower. Some types of yucca do the same and dasilirion, also known as the desert spoon is another contender. All too often these architectural byproducts of plants are chipped, crushed and thrown into the garbage, but if dried and preserved they make outstanding free outdoor decorations. This beautiful example of repurposed agave stalks illustrates how leftover paint can be put to good use. Note the turquoise window trim on the upper right of this photo. The paint left over was used to create a “wash” over well dried agave stalks. A wash is created with ordinary latex paint thinned down with water to create a more semitransparent stain-like application. If the stalk was simply painted, it would be far too uniform. The aged look shown here allows the original surface with its flakes and peels to show through. That is an artificial patina that can be created on any kind of twig, in this case to lend the Santa Fe look when set against a solid colored wall. This high contrast approach is the perfect way to add interest to nooks and crannies of architecture.

Garden Gifts and Decorating Ideas eBook


Download this free, full color eBook for “green” budget holiday decorations created from your garden. You’ll also be inspired to create gifts that help you save big in the coming months. This year, prepare for the holidays outdoors in the garden or on hikes in the country. Avoid overspending by exchanging shopping trips for long walks where you’ll find sticks and seeds and cones to create everything you’ll need to decorate your home. Get the kids involved and teach them the value of what Mother Nature provides and the plants that the pioneers depended on for their own Spartan holidays.