Ephedra is a genus of gymnosperm shrubs, the only genus in its family, Ephedraceae, and order, Ephedrales. The various species of Ephedra are widespread in many lands, native to southwestern North America, southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwest and central Asia, northern China, and western South America.
Common names in English include joint-pine, jointfir, Mormon-tea or Brigham tea.
The dried branches are boiled in water to make the tea. People use it as a beverage and as a medicine.
Be careful not to confuse Mormon tea (Ephedra nevadensis) with ephedra (Ephedra sinica and other ephedra species). Unlike these other plants, Mormon tea does not contain ephedrine, an unsafe stimulant.
As a medicine, people take Mormon tea for sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea. It is also used for colds, kidney disorders, and as a “spring” tonic.