Monday, July 13, 2009
“Howdy Charlie, Reno. Come on in,” Kate said. She held the door open and the two dusty cowboys walked in. Reno fingered the brim of his hat and Charlie looked around the large appointed room finally holding his gaze on the chandelier. “Would you fellers like some tea, while you wait?” Kate asked. “Tea?” Charlie asked. “Yes, tea, Jack Tea, Jack Mormon’s tea."
The Mormon Tea plant, also known as Pocotillo, Cowboy Tea, Tuttumpin, Ephedra and scientifically as Ephedra Viridis is a perennial shrub that is common in the Trans Pecos. Growing up to four feet tall, the branched broom like plant flowers in March and April. It is a vascular plant meaning that it has lignified tissues allowing the conduction of water, minerals and photosynthetic products to circulate within the plant tissue. These basic minerals and nutrients remain in the plant while the water is transpired through the stomata and into the atmosphere. Circulating resources allows the plant to grow larger than most non-vascular plants. Trees, ferns, moss and flowering plants are vascular.
Natives of the Trans-Pecos used the dried and powdered twigs in poultices for burns and ointment for sores. The tea was used for stomach and bowel disorders.
The plant contains ephedrine a stimulant and has an effect on the body similar to adrenaline. Ephedrine has been found in other plants related to Mormon Tea around the world and the chemical has been used in modern pharmacology as a diuretic, decongestant, appetite suppressant and to treat hypotension associated with anesthesia.
In 1885 a Japanese chemist was the first to isolate ephedrine. It has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for centuries and may have been the substance known as Soma as mentioned in the Hindu sacred text Rig Veda.
Early white settlers in our country used the plant to treat venereal disease and was sometimes served in houses of ill repute.