Ephedra Viridis Uses, Effects, Dangers & Ephedrine Content

Ephedra ViridisEphedra viridis (most commonly known as Mormon Tea, green ephedra or Indian tea) is an herb that has long been used in traditional medicine in North America.

This species of the ephedra plant is indigenous to parts of the Western United States. The stems of this plant are commonly brewed into a tea.

Ephedra viridis extract is a source of ephedrine alkaloids, which is a stimulant drug that is used to improve breathing conditions, boost energy and promote weight loss.

Bodybuilders and athletes also used powdered extracts from this herb to enhance athletic performance and as a pre-workout supplement. Not all species of Ephedra plants are equally effective for fat loss because they contain different amounts of ephedrine content.

Ephedra extract containing ephedrine alkaloids has been banned by the FDA as ingredient in dietary supplements. The sale of synthetic ephedrine HCL or sulfate is also highly restricted in the US. However, the raw Ephedra viridis herb stems, roots, seeds and leaves remain legal to buy in the USA. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.

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Ephedra Viridis

Ephedra viridis is also known as Green Mormon Tea, Brigham Tea, Long Leaf Ephedra, or Mountain Joint Fir.

The plant tends to grow in dry, arid, desert-like environments. The stems of this shrub were used by Mormons as well as other pioneers heading westward as a substitute for coffee.

Ephedra viridis tea was known to have energy-enhancing properties, helping to revitalize early settlers and improving resistance to symptoms of disease or sickness.

A number of myths have surrounded the historical use of Ephedra viridis. In the 1800s, it was known as Whorehouse Tea because it was served in brothels for its ability to increase sexual desire and the unsubstantiated claims that it could protect against gonorrhea and syphilis.

It is commonly believed that Native Americans brewed a concoction using the stems or the leaves of the plant to treat a number of ailments and showed this process to pioneers.

Some research is available suggesting that Native Americans brewed stems of green ephedra for non-medicinal purposes, but also brewed the tea to treat backache. Native Americans also made a form of flour as well as a beverage similar to coffee by brewing the dried seed pods.

This E. Viridis species of the plant is found indigenously throughout the American West, mainly the Great Basin region, growing from southwestern Wyoming down into northwestern New Mexico, throughout Arizona, and along the western coastline of America including California and Oregon.

Historically, ephedra viridis or green ephedra has commonly been used as a food source for large game as well as domestic livestock such as cattle, but is also consumed by smaller mammals and birds.

Note: Green ephedra has been noted to be extremely toxic to domestic cows and sheep, even in low doses, and especially during gestation. Some animals seem to be immune to the toxic effects following birth, including calves and lambs. [1]

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Active Ingredients and Ephedrine Content

Ephedra viridis stems, roots, seeds, fruits and leaves contain a number of alkaloids that include but are not limited to:

  • Ephedrine
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Norephedrine
  • Norpseudoephedrine
  • N-methyl pseudoephedrine
  • Tannins

However, it is noted by the US Food and Drug Administration that this plant species contains very little alkaloid content compared to other species.

In relation to stronger species such as ephedra sinica, otherwise known as Chinese Ma Huang, it is deemed one of the weaker species of the plant when used for weight loss.

The alkaloid content of this plant is similar to that of another American species (ephedra nevadensis). While there may be trace amounts of ephedrine, the dose provided per serving is not high enough to produce many of the benefits or side effects associated with this compound. [2]

Ephedrine is the component found in ephedra that is mainly responsible for its stimulative effects on the body. While there are other alkaloids that can enhance energy and promote fat burning, the results will not be as profound compared to use of pure ephedrine alkaloids.

A number of additional nutrients are found in the ephedra viridis species, including:

  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus

Tannins are also found in ephedra species and give the tea its bitter taste. Rumors suggest that Mormon Tea, despite its popularity with Western travelers, was nearly unpalatable. Tannins are noted today for their antioxidant potential.

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Historical Usage

The primary reason for taking ephedra herbs today is as a Central Nervous System stimulant. While its stimulating properties were recognized in the past, it was also believed to have broad healing abilities.

In the old West, Ephedra Viridis was used, in tea form to treat a variety of ailments from colds to chills, fevers, nasal and chest congestion, to its use as a general tonic.

Mormon Tea was used to reduce mucus build-up in sinus tissues, providing relief from asthma and symptoms of the common cold. The related ephedra Sinica species was reported prepared into a tea by Zen monks to promote focus while meditating.

Some historical sources refer to use of Mormon Tea (E. viridis or E. nevadensis species) to cure and treat sexually transmitted diseases including gonorrhea. While these claims are not backed up by science, the practice appeared to be widespread in the 1800s.

Ephedrine was not considered one of the active components of Mormon Tea, but rather norpseudoephedrine. This alkaloid has different pharmacological properties compared to ephedrine, but also acts as a psychostimulant and promotes the release of norepinephrine.

While this alkaloid may increase mental alertness, concentration, arousal and some Central Nervous System stimulation, there is less research available into its use for weight loss. It does appear to have appetite-suppressing properties.

How do You Make Mormon Tea?

Recipes for Mormon Tea are widely circulated on the Internet. Packages of dried forms of ephedra viridis are commonly found on online websites including Amazon and eBay.

These raw herbal forms of ephedra are legal to buy and sell in the United States and do not require a prescription. Some harvest the plant wild while others will cultivate it.

One of the most common methods for brewing Ephedra Viridis tea at home is to boil the stems, broken down into smaller pieces. The stems are washed and then boiled in water for eight to 12 minutes.

The liquid is then strained, and more water is added until it looks like “regular” tea. Due to its bitter taste, most drink it with an artificial sweetener or sugar. It is common to mix this plant with other herbal ingredients to make a tea.

The tea can also be made by using liquid Mormon Tea extract, found in dropper top glass bottles, which can be purchased on Amazon or some natural health food stores. Fine powdered “Brigham Young Tea” can also be purchased online, sold in amounts averaging 50 g.

The term “Mormon Tea” applies to usage of ephedra viridis and ephedra nevadensis species of the plant. Check which version of the plant the tea is made from before purchasing.

Instructions for brewing are typically available on product labels. Follow dosage guidelines provided to reduce the risk of adverse effects. Note that different strengths of E. viridis extract are available and higher potency products will require smaller amounts to be used in order to experience beneficial effects.

Sellers are required to state that their product has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended for the treatment or prevention of diseases.

Safety Review

In 2004, the FDA banned the use of some types of ephedra dietary supplements, stating that they posed a significant risk of dangerous side effects. The FDA reported that these products could cause cardiac arrest, irregular heartbeat, seizure, stroke and more.

While ephedra extract is not safe for everyone, there is a difference between the risk of adverse effects when using the whole ephedra herb compared to synthetic preparations of the active ingredient ephedrine.

Almost all of the side effects caused by ephedra fat burning supplements were linked to the presence of ephedrine alkaloids. This ingredient can cause insomnia, anxiety, muscle weakness, tremors, restlessness, tachycardia, excessive thirst, dry mouth, sweating, headache, nausea, diarrhea, mood disruption and more.

Side effects were particularly prevalent among bodybuilders and competitive athletes who took megadoses of this product, combined multiple stimulants together and who subsequently engaged in very intense workouts (especially in hot weather).

As a result, the FDA decided that ephedra diet pills that contained any ephedrine or pseudoephedrine alkaloids would be banned from the marketplace. However, they did not completely ban the sale of all species of ephedra, recognizing that some species are safer because they have little to no ephedrine content.

Ephedra viridis is one such species that is perceived of as safer because it lacks the high amounts of ephedrine that are found in other version of the plant. Some analyses suggest it has no ephedrine content while others suggest it contains only trace amounts.

E. viridis extract is safer to use (if taken appropriately by healthy individuals) and is a legal ingredient in dietary supplements that promote fat loss. While this product is not believed to be dangerous when used in herbal form, there are potential side effects.

Ephedra is not recommended for use by pregnant or nursing women. There is insufficient research available to determine safety for this group of people. You should also consult with a doctor before taking Ephedra Viridis or Mormon Tea if you are currently on any medication or have been diagnosed with a medical condition.

Do not use high dosages of this product and do not take it for long periods of time. Combining ephedra extracts with other stimulants can increase the potential for negative effects.

Before using any form of ephedra viridis, do your homework and always weigh benefits against possible side effects. Using this herb to promote weight loss may help you achieve your goals faster, but diet and exercise are important for long-term weight management.

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