Eriodictyon californisum

Other Names: Bear’s Weed, Consumptive’s Weed, Eriodictyon, Gum Bush, Holy Herb, Mountain Balm, Sacred Herb, Tarweed, Mountain Balm

Yerba santa is a sticky-leafed evergreen native to the southwestern United States. Spanish missionary priests impressed with usefulness in treating coughs, colds, asthma, pleurisy, tuberculosis, and pneumonia gave it the name “holy weed,” or yerba santa.

Yerba Santa as an Herb for Medicinal

yerba santaThe medicinal parts are the dried leaves. The taste is balsamic and the odor, pleasant and aromatic.

Unlike many other astringent herbs, yerba santa actually has a pleasant taste. It is used as a food flavoring and as an additive to herbal cough syrups to disguise the taste of other ingredients.

Folk medicine: The herb is used as a constituent of anti-asthmatic treatments and application by brush (painted on) to counteract bitter tastes.

Yerba Santa is an expectorant used to treat coughs and congestion, as well as aiding in loosening and expelling phlegm. It works to dilate bronchial tubes, so it is useful to drink a cup of the tea to ease asthma and allergy attacks. A poultice of the mashed leaves is used for sores and wounds.

A recipe for Yerba santa cough medicine is as follows: Wash and boil 3 leaves of Yerba santa combined with a cup of water, strain, and add one half teaspoon sugar. Take one teaspoon every four hours (Bean 71).

Can be used as a tea, but must be allowed to steep for at least half an hour to dissolve the resins. More often used as an alcohol tincture. The leaves and flowers were made into a bitter tasting tea that was drunk to relieve headaches and other symptoms of tuberculosis.

The Kawaiisu drank Yerba Santa tea instead of water for a month to treat gonorrhea.

Yerba Santa Decoction

To make a decoction of Yerba santa leaf combine 30 grams of dried leaf or 60 grams of fresh leaf and 3 cups of water in a glass or enamel pan, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes then let steep for another 10 minutes and strain. Drink the resulting liquid in small amounts frequently in one day. Use 9-12 grams of dried leaf if adding to a formula that contains other herbs.


Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded.

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