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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Cutting Edge Modern Ideas FREE

patio-with-water-feature-and-lighting-landscaping-network_1762 I was so excited to discover a wealth of MODERN patio and garden ideas by clicking on “photos” in the top title bar of go to the categories and peruse hundreds of incredible examples of work by top designers. Lots of other styles there too, of course, but you’ll find outstanding built projects in both mid-century modern and Bauhaus modern all at within this one convenient location.

The Season of Gardening Catalogs


The beautiful, full color Seeds of Change catalog arrived this week, so now begins planning of next year’s garden. It’s one of the few catalogs I enjoy in print form because there is so much food gardening how-to information that it’s nearly a gardening book itself. This non-profit is America’s most famous organic heirloom seed source, and they keep many of these old varieties in cultivation through their efforts. On cold winter days I will be spending a great deal of time perusing the pages, but you can get started online right now at or call for a catalog of your own 888 762-7333

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:

Wabi Sabi Pottery For Garden Succulents

Hand made and imperfect in the wabi sabi style has reached the American potter’s world. This odd philosophy derived from Japanese culture celebrates imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. It can be considered a rebellion against the widespread perfection of mass market manufacturing. With so many excellent ceramics coming out of China, we are overwhelmed with them. So when a pot is created in wabi sabi rustic, it becomes a one of a kind, stand-out item. Match that with the perfect cactus or succulent and you have something truly unique that reflects your own personal style. In the past I might have passed up this pot but now its look, much like that of a child’s project or a beginner’s odd piece, makes it incredibly appealing. We’re not talking fancy glazes and symmetry here. This pot with its texture made by rope impressions offers a beautiful contrast to the symmetry of succulent plants. Those hand made pinch pots on the top row are now hot stuff in the pottery world and surprisingly expensive. Though they may seem easy to make, this is far more difficult than you think. However, for everyone new to making pottery, finally there is a demand for all your weird, funky early work that is far from perfect. And all those starter pots that show up at yard sales are suddenly Wabi Sabi cool. Learn more about wabi sabi at Wickipedia