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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  YERBA SANTA  (Eriodictyon spp; Hydrophyllaceae); (Eriodictyon californisum)

Other Names:    bear’s weed, consumptive’s weed, eriodictyon, gum bush, holy herb, mountain balm, sacred herb, tarweed.

Bearsweed, consumptive’s weed, holy herb, mountain balm,  tarweed   (13)

Eriodictyon, mountain balm, bearsweed.    (57)

Character/Energetics:    spicy, warm   (6) 

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:   lungs, spleen  (6); lungs and stomach   (14)      

Part(s) used:   leaves    (6)

Identification & Harvesting:    Plant is an 8′ high, sticky, evergreen shrub with woody rhizomes.  Trunk is smooth and usually branched near the ground and completely covered in sticky resin.  Leaves are 6″ long and 1″ wide, thick, leathery, smooth, greenish white, lanceolate, irregularly dentate at the margins.  Upper surface appears to be varnished with resin.  A pleasant odor.  Flowers are tubular to funnel-shaped, lavender or white and clustered at the top of the plant.  Fruit is small, oval, greyish-brown seed capsule containing shriveled black seeds.  Grows in California, Oregon, and parts of Mexico.    (2)

Native to the western U.S., yerba santa is an aromatic, sticky evergreen shrub, 2 to 7 feet high, found in dry, rocky, mountainous areas below 5,500 feet, mainly in Oregon and California. Its woody, running rootstock sends up a smooth stem with shredding bark and glabrous to sparsely haired branches. Oblong to lanceolate in shape, the alternate, dark green, leathery leaves are pinnately veined and usually serrate. On the upper surface, the leaves are sticky; underneath, they are covered with fine, white, wooly hair and are prominently veined. Blooming from May to July, the tubular-funnelform, lavender to white flowers are clustered at the top of the plant. The fruit is a small oval, grayish-brown seed capsule containing shrivelled, nearly black seeds.  (13)

Grown in California.  Leaves are elliptic-lanceolate, about 2-4 inches long and 3/4 inch broad, irregularly dentate at the margins.  The upper surface is green and more or less varnished with resin, the lower surface reticulated and white with hairs.  Taste is balsamic;  odor, aromatic and agreeable.    (57)

Active Constituents:    Flavonoids incl. eriodictyonin, eriodictyol, chrysoeriodictyol, xanthoeriodictyol;  trace volatile oils;  resinous substances made up of flavonone and flavone aglycones;  tannins.    (2)

Eriodictyol, homoeriodictyol, chrysocriol, zanthoeridol and eridonel. Also free formic and other acids, glycerides of fatty acids, a yellow volatile oil, a phytosterol, resin and glucose.  (6)                                                                                                                                                              Actions:    mild diuretic;  masks bitter tastes.    (2)     expectorant, carminative, alterative   (6)   expectorant, astringent, stimulant   (14);

antispasmodic, expectorant, febrifuge, tonic (13); Aromatic, tonic, expectorant.    (57)

Conditions & Uses:    Used as a constituent of antiasthmatic treatments.    (2)

Yerba santa counteracts both hot and cold phlegm, and is an excellent

expectorant, especially when combined with grindelia. It also promotes salivation and aids digestion. Externally it is used to treat rashes, especially poison oak or ivy rashes.  (6)                         Yerba santa is an excellent expectorant, valuable for colds, chronic laryngitis, bronchitis, lung problems, and asthma. In the 19th century, it was considered a “blood purifier” and a remedy for rheumatism and tuberculosis. It is also useful for reducing fever. Externally, it can be applied as a poultice for bruises, sprains, wounds, and insect bites. American Indians smoked or chewed the leaves as a cure for asthma. They also used the leaves as a tea for colds and a mouthwash preparation.   (13)

          Yerba santa is a specific for all forms of bronchial congestion. At times bronchial and lung congestion is caused by digestive problemswhere excess mucus builds up in the intestinal tract. Yerba santa will stimulate the digestive juices, improving digestion, thus correcting the lung congestion. Thus, yerba santa is an excellent remedy for all respiratory problems to help remove mucus. It is a good remedy for dysentery and diarrhea also. Yerba santa dilates the bronchial tubes which makes it excellent for asthma and hay fever. The leaves can be smoked for mild bronchial spasms.

       Internal: Asthma: smoke the leaves, Infusion*, Powder*

                                    Bronchitis: Infusion*, Powder*

                                    Colds:  Infusion

                                    Dry Coughs: Infusion, Syrup

                                    Fevers: Infusion

                                    Headache: Infusion

                                    Tuberculosis: Infusion*, Syrup*

       External:             Insect Bites: Fomentation

                                    Mouthwash: Gargle                      (14)

Highly recommended for bronchitis, asthma, consumption, and all similar catarrhal affections.    (57)

Combinations:   Yerba santa counteracts both hot and cold phlegm, and is an excellent

expectorant, especially when combined with grindelia.   (6) 

See * notations in “Conditions and Uses” section–indicates that yerba santa is usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the specific problem.  (14)

To increase its effects in asthmatic complaints it is generally combined with grindelia.    (57)

Precautions:    No recorded health risks or side effects with designated dosages.    (2)                                                                                                                                     

Tincturing Process:



Dosage: standard infusion or 3‑9 gms.; tincture, 10‑30 drops     (6)

    Infusion: Use 1 tsp. Leaves to 1 cup water. Take ½ cup at night or in mouthful doses 3x daily. Take only 1 to 2 cups total. T may be taked hot or cold.  

                Tincture: A dose is from 10 to 30 drops (13)

    Infusion: Steep 30 minutes. 2 to 3 oz. 3x daily

    Tincture: 10 to 30 drops, 3 to 4 times daily

    Fluid Extract:   ½ to 1 tsp. 3 to 4 times daily

                 Powder: 2 to 10  #0 capsules (15 to 60 grains) 3 to 4 times daily    (14)

Liquid extract dose 1/2-1 drachm.  Powder dose 1/4-1 drachm.    (57)

General Notes: An aromatic syrup of yerba santa is used to mask the taste of quinine.    (57)



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 832

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 382

(13) The Herb Book by John Lust, pg. 513

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pg. 198

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 384-85


PHOTO: Wikipedia