Herbal Focus: Yerba Santa
Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum) is my number one “go to” herb to dry up mucus fast, and I always have it at the ready during cold season and allergy season for symptom relief.
Basic Identification: Yerba Santa grows 3 to 8 feet high, with many straight, protruding branches. It has long, lance-shaped dark-green leaves that grow from a short stem. Mature leaves often feel sticky to the touch and may even appear sooty in color due to a common fungal growth that forms on mature Yerba Santa shrubs. Its pink and purple flowers bloom in the spring (see photo!).
Where Does It Grow? Yerba Santa is an evergreen shrub that grows natively in Northern California and in Oregon on ridges and dry rocky hillsides in coastal chaparral regions.
Edible Uses: I don’t eat the bitter Yerba Santa leaves, but I do use it as a taste-enhancer to mask unpleasant flavors (it really works!), especially in tea.
Medicinal Uses: I use the leaves for medicine.
Here are my 3 most common uses for Yerba Santa:
- Mucus, Asthma, Allergies, Sinus, and Respiratory Infections: Yerba Santa contains chemical components that loosen mucus in the chest and sinus due to infection, colds, allergies, etc. I make a leaf tincture to dry up mucus as I find it to be the most easy-to-use method but you can also apply the plant as a poultice by crushing the steeped leaves and rubbing it on the chest. Note this is for symptom relief. Other herbs (such as yarrow) are used for the actual infection. Note it is also used as a fever reducer.
- Mouthwash: You can make a natural mouth freshener by balling up washed leaves and letting them dry in the sun. Once dried, chew these balls (yes, really!). The initial taste is bitter, but after chewing briefly, spit out the leaf ball and drink some water. The taste gives way to a pleasant, natural sweetness.
- Topical Skin and Pain Relief: Yerba Santa leaves can relieve arthritis and muscle spasms by applying the leaves directly on the afflicted area. Mature leaves should stick naturally to the skin thanks to their sticky residue.
Safety: Yerba Santa can negatively affect the body’s ability to take in iron and other important minerals, so it is not advised for women who are nursing or pregnant.
Do you DIY?
Are you interested in making your own herbal remedies at home and learning about the many plants, lichens, and mushrooms you can find out your own back door? If so please pick up a copy of my book: “The Lost Book Of Herbal Remedies: The Healing Power of Plant Medicine” today!