Mormon tea is a common name for the Ephedra viridis plant that grows in arid, desert regions of the United States.
The plant is also known as joint-pine, jointfir, Brigham tea, Cowboy tea, Whorehouse tea, Squaw tea, Desert tea, Miners’ tea, Mexican tea, popotillo and Canyon tea.
Mormon tea became popular as an alternative to coffee among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Mormons cannot drink caffeine and used this herb instead due to its stimulating effects.
This species of ephedra has been used medicinally for thousands of years in the treatment of asthma, hay fever, coughs, arthritis, influenza and more. It was also believed to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhea.
Mormon tea contains small amounts of ephedra alkaloids and is less potent than the Chinese Ephedra Sinica species. Some sources claim that it contains ephedrine, while others say it contains only pseudoephedrine.
The ephedra plant is more commonly recognized today as a banned ingredient in weight loss and energy-boosting supplements. However, E. Viridis or Mormon Tea extract is legal to use in supplements so long as it does not contain ephedrine alkaloids. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Mormon tea is the name for a tea made from the Ephedra Viridis plant. This tea may also be brewed using the related Ephedra Nevadensis species, which is sometimes called Green Mormon Tea.
E. Viridis is a shrub from the Ephedraceae family that grows in certain areas of southwestern North America. It is typically found in low elevation regions with dry climates throughout Utah, Colorado, and parts of Mexico.
The shrub can grow up to four feet fall and features slender, green jointed stems. This plant requires direct sunlight and can be found in deserts and areas with sandy soil along dry mountainsides
There are over 60 different species of ephedra that have been identified. This plant family also grows in China, North Africa, Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, parts of the Middle East and South America.
Mormon tea is unique among other species because it contains only trace amounts of ephedrine alkaloids. This is the primary active constituent responsible for many of the stimulant effects of the plant.
According to online sources, Native Americans prepared Ephedra Viridis as a tea to treat stomach problems, colds, fever and headache. It was also used as a topical poultice in powder form and prepared into a decoction to stop bleeding.
This species gained the nickname Mormon tea because it was used by early Mormon pioneers traveling through the US to the West. Native Americans are believed to have introduced their version of the drink to early settlers.
Mormons consumed the tea while venturing west toward Salt Lake City in Utah to join Brigham Young and his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The Mormon religion restricts the use of caffeine, so coffee was not allowed. Mormon tea provided a similar stimulating effect and was taken as an alternative. Dried stems and leaves would be boiled in water and sweeteners would be added to mask the bitter taste.
Several different ephedra species have been used historically to prepare a medicinal tea.
Chinese Ma Huang (Ephedra Sinica) has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine.
This plant was used to improve breathing conditions, relieve excessive buildup of mucus in the throat and nose, and to release heat from the body. In Chinese medicine, it is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs with a wide range of purported benefits.
A number of species of the ephedra plant also grow in the United States. A partial list is included below:
- Ephedra viridis (Green ephedra)
- Ephedra vulgaris
- Ephedra nevadensis
- Ephedra linnaeus
- Ephedra americana
- Ephedra helvetica
Different species may have different alkaloid profiles. The Chinese ephedra species have higher levels of ephedrine compared to those versions that grow in the United States.
Ephedrine is the primary active constituent in this plant and the reason it is widely used for weight loss. This alkaloid is a central nervous system stimulant, but is present in only small amounts (or not at all) in the Mormon tea species.
Mormon Tea Benefits
There are several mentions of the Mormon tea plant in historical documents, family diaries, healing dialogs, and in records of North American flora and native American culture.
Mormon tea recipes were prepared by stripping the leaves and stems from the shrub and allowing them to dry. The green stems were cut into smaller pieces and steeped in boiling water for approximately twenty minutes.
According to some records, this tea was so bitter and distasteful that many could not swallow it and spit it out. To improve the flavor, sugars, honey or jams would be added.
According to an account of early Mormon settlers printed in the Salt Lake Tribune in 2012, the pioneers were willing to try anything to make teas on their westward journey. After going without tea for some time, they tried making it out of the desert shrub.
Other versions of early Mormon history claim that the Native Americans showed the pioneers how to brew the tea and taught them about its medicinal use. It was called Squaw tea by some.
At the time, Mormon tea was claimed to have near miraculous effects for a number of ailments such as:
- General aches and pains
- Joint pain
- Bad blood
- Fevers, chills, aches, etc.
The tea was also used to relieve symptoms of venereal disease and was given the nickname “Whorehouse tea”.  According to some references, it was commonly distributed in the waiting rooms of brothels in Nevada and California.
The tea was reportedly used to prevent syphilis and gonorrhea, although no research ever supported this claim. This practice was apparently made popular by a whorehouse in Elko, Nevada during the minimum rush.
The Mormon church did not officially recognize the use of this plant among its members until after leader Brigham Young died. References published by the Latter-Day Saints contain no mention of “Mormon tea”.
There is some doubt about its actual historical usage among Mormons. Researchers have argued that the ephedra plant could not grow in the northern Utah region around Salt Lake City, nor was it typically found along the routes taken by the religious pioneers headed for Salt Lake City – known as the Mormon trail.
How to Make Mormon Tea
There are several variations on Mormon tea recipes available online. The recipe used will depend on which form of the plant you have available, whether it be the raw herb, ground powder, liquid tincture or other form.
The most common way of consuming this herb is to steep the dried or fresh green twigs in boiling water until it turns a pinkish color. Some find the taste unpleasant and may want to add flavoring agents to make it more palatable.
When made from a fine powder, the extract would be sprinkled directly into a cup of hot tea – approximately one quarter (¼) teaspoon per cup. This tea was used to relieve sinus or asthma issues.
One recipe posted online described the following steps: 
- Harvest the plant in autumn
- Sun-dry the stems, leaves and roots of the plant
- Boil all parts of the plant, sometimes in a mixture of honey and water, and then “roast” until all the water has evaporated
- Brew the dried stems into a concentrated tea. Expect a bitter taste, mainly consumed for treatments of coughs, colds, and aches and pains.
Another Mormon tea recipe for preparing two cups of tea calls for the following:
- Use 10 g of the ephedra herb, boiled for 10 minutes. Filter out the herb using a coffee filter or tea sieve.
- Sweeten with sugar or honey is desired for taste.
When sprinkled into hot water, a hot beverage, or food, many simply (equating to approximately one-half (½) gram) into food or drink of choice.
In addition to being used to brew tea, components of the raw plant as well as Mormon tea seeds can be ground into a powdered form and sprinkled into foods. One quarter (¼) to one half (½) teaspoon of the powder can be mixed into food or drink of choice.
Benefits and Uses
Traditionally, Mormon tea was used as an invigorating drink to alleviate stomach and bowel disorders, treat colds, fevers, headaches, bronchospasms, bronchitis, and nasal congestion. It has stimulating effects, although is not as potent as Ma Huang tea.
One of the primary effects of ephedra viridis is bronchodilation. It causes airways in the lungs to expand or relax, relieving vasoconstriction that can occur during an asthma attack. Drining this tea could improve air intake and help to clear mucus buildup from the bronchioles.
Alkaloids in this plant also reduce swelling in the sinuses and nasal passages and promotes dilation of smooth muscle tissues lining the bronchial airways. This plant contains pseudoephedrine, an alkaloid now used as the active ingredient in Sudafed – a cough and cold remedy.
Mormon tea is also a source of tannins, which exert an astringent effect on mucosal tissue. This helps to reduce mucus secretions by drying out or dehydrating the tissue.
Ephedra viridis extract may produce similar mechanisms of action as phenylpropanolamines, which may be linked to its norephedrine content. It appears to have an appetite suppressant effect when consumed.
Mormon tea contains smaller amounts of ephedrine compared to the Chinese ephedra sinica species. Ephedrine is the sympathomimetic alkaloid that stimulates the nervous system and promotes dilation of peripheral blood vessels.
This alkaloid produces similar effects as amphetamines. It is this alkaloid that is responsible for ephedra’s reputation as a weight loss aid and energy booster.
Even though Mormon tea extract is not a good source of this alkaloid, the herb is commonly used as an ingredient in diet pills and fat burners.
Mormon Tea for Weight Loss
Two American ephedra species referred to as “Mormon tea” are sometimes found in dietary supplements designed to enhance weight loss results. Both E. nevadensis and E. viridis extracts can currently be purchased in energy pills and fat loss products.
Historically, this plant was not consumed to lose weight. It was only after the 1970’s that this use was recognized. While Ephedra viridis may contain some alkaloids that can support weight reduction goals, it is not the “real ephedra” species that most people think of when contemplating the now-banned ephedra diet pills of the 1990’s.
The positive effects of ephedra alkaloids on weight loss are well-established. Ephedrine has been shown to increase energy expenditure and contribute to statistically significant increases in fat loss.
However, this alkaloid also caused adverse reactions in thousands of users, which led the FDA to conclude it was too dangerous to be used in dietary supplements. The FDA banned the ephedrine alkaloid from weight loss products in 2004, citing an unreasonable risk of negative effects when not used properly.
Mormon tea does have some stimulating effects and may moderately boost metabolism and reduce hunger cravings. However, it does not provide high ephedrine content and is less thermogenic compared to Chinese varieties of this plant.
Despite this, it is commonly used in supplements as a legal form of ephedra extract. Because it contains little to no ephedrine alkaloids, it can be included on the ingredients list without raising legal concerns.
Ephedra viridis diet pills will typically contain other stimulants to promote similar effects to the banned ephedrine alkaloids. Alternatives can include caffeine, Bitter Orange (Citrus aurantium, which contains p-Synephrine), green tea extract, yohimbe, forskolin and more.
There is limited research available on the efficacy of Mormon tea for fat loss. Most of the research has examined the effects of herbal Ephedra Sinica or pure ephedrine HCL. Some studies on Ephedra viridis have been conducted on animals.
In human research studies, ephedra is typically administered alongside caffeine in an EC stack. Results show that this combination can promote additional weight loss of two pounds per month over those on a placebo. 
However, most of these results are attributed to the presence of ephedrine in ephedra supplements. It is not known how effective this plant is without the ephedrine content.
Where to Buy Mormon Tea
There are several sources from which you can buy Mormon tea seeds, stems, powders liquid tinctures or extracts online. Ephedra viridis products can be found on Amazon, eBay and domestic nutritional supplement stores.
When purchasing Mormon tea, pay attention to how the plant is packaged. Some recipes will call for loose tea leaves or portions of the stem, while others call for concentrated ground powder. This plant is also sold as “Brigham Tea” on some websites.
One popular Mormon Tea extract product on Amazon sold by Sunflower Botanicals advertises itself as “an herbal supplement for a variety of mild health problems and urinary tract and/or kidney ailments. The natural effect of the tea reduces mucous membrane secretions which is a benefit for mild illnesses that may cause an increased level of secretion.”
It is also possible to purchase bulk Mormon tea seeds to grow your own plants at home. This plant requires warm, arid climates to grow and can take several years to reach full maturity.
Note: Ephedra viridis and nevadensis are toxic to livestock and should not be grown around domestic animals. While some websites advertise the plant as being used to create forage for cattle and sheep, it may produce negative effects if consumed by horses.
Is Mormon Tea Safe to Drink?
According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Ephedra Viridis is Likely Safe when consumed in amounts commonly used for food and drink. It states that there is insufficient reliable information available to determine whether this herb is safe when used medicinally.
Other sources provide similar information, claiming that when the whole ephedra herb is prepared traditionally, there is a low risk of side effects.
Furthermore, because of its low alkaloid content, Mormon Tea does not cause the same side effects associated with other species of ephedra. The primary active ingredient in this plant is tannins and not ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
When using diet pills that contain Ephedra Nevadensis or E. Viridis extract, there is potential for adverse effects. These weight loss supplements typically combine the Mormon Tea extract with other stimulating substances such as caffeine, synephrine, yohimbine or phenylethylamine.
Use of ephedra extract supplements can cause nausea, vomiting, mood swings, anxiety, hyperactivity, as well as heart palpitations. Individual sensitivity to caffeine and other stimulants will determine results as well as risk of side effects. Some commonly reported adverse effects include:
- Jitters and restlessness
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Dry mouth
- Sense of unease or nervousness
- Euphoric moods
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Heart palpitations
- Faster than normal heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Irregular (faster/lower, or intermittent) heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
Individuals diagnosed with cardiovascular issues should avoid use or consult with their physician prior to taking any ephedra product.
There have been rare reports of cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction with use of ephedra products. This risk is greatest with supplements containing the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
While Mormon Tea extract may not itself contribute to greater risk of heart attacks, it is sometimes combined in supplements with other stimulants that could increase strain on the heart.
Use of ephedra supplements is contraindicated among pregnant or breast-feeding women.
Individuals taking any prescription drug or over-the-counter medications should consult with a doctor before using.
Mormon Tea has a long history of use in traditional medicine and is believed to be safe when consumed as an herbal tea or prepared in food.
Ephedra viridis and E. nevadensis are sometimes used as ingredients in weight loss supplements, but they lack high amounts of the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine alkaloids.
This plant may have some energy-boosting and appetite suppressing effects, but it will not boost fat loss in the same way as the Chinese ephedra sinica species. This species contains the highest amount of ephedrine alkaloids.
Use caution with any supplement containing ephedra. Always start at the lowest dosage possible to gauge how you react to it. You can buy Mormon tea plant extracts in a number of forms online, including as a bulk powder liquid extract, seeds or as raw stems.
- Bagley Pat. The Salt Lake Tribune. Living History: Mormon Tea, good for what ails you?
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment. Number 76. Ephedra and Ephedrine for Weight Loss and Athletic Performance Enhancement: Clinical Efficacy and Side Effects
- Texas A&M University. How to make Mormon Tea