Scientific Name(S): Eriodictyon californicum (Hook. & Arn.) Torrey. Also known as E. glutinosum Benth. and Wigandia californicum Hook. & Arn. Family: Hydrophyllaceae.
Common Name(S): Verba santa, eriodictyon, tarweed, consumptive's weed, bear's weed, mountain balm, gum plant.
The plant is an evergreen aromatic shrub with woody rhizomes. The hairy, lance-shaped leaves are glutinous. Native to the southwestern regions of North America, yerba santa is often cultivated as an ornamental shrub. The plant grows to more than 2 meters in height at elevations exceeding 3500 feet and has white to lavender flowers.
Yerba santa has been used in tea, and medicinally for the management of bruises and rheumatic pain. The plant is also used as an expectorant and in the treatment of respiratory diseases.
There are no reports of significant toxicity associated with the topical or systemic use of yerba santa.
The name yerba santa ("holy weed") was given by the Spanish priests who learned early from the native American Indians of the medicinal value of the shrub. The plant has a long tradition of use in the United States. The thick sticky leaves, used either fresh or dried, were boiled to make a tea or taken as treatment for coughs, colds, asthma, and tuberculosis. The leaves have been powdered and used as a stimulating expectorant. A liniment was applied topically to reduce fever. A poultice of fresh leaves was used to treat bruises and young leaves were applied to relieve rheumatisms. The plant is contained in a number of over-the-counter herbal preparations. Yerba santa has been used as a pharmaceutical flavoring, particularly to mask the flavor of bitter drugs. The fluid extract is used in foods and beverages.
Verba santa contains a volatile oil, up to 6% eriodictyonine, about 0.5% eriodictyol (the aglycone of eriodictin) and several related alcoholic compounds, ericolin and a resin.
Yerba santa is a traditional American plant used widely by Native Americans for the preparation of a tea and medicinally for the management of bruises, inflammations and rheumatic pain. The plant is also used as an expectorant and in the treatment of respiratory diseases. There are no good studies to evaluate these effects.
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