Yerba Santa is a low-lying, evergreen plant found on dry hillsides in Southern California, Arizona, and Northern Mexico in the Hydrophyllaceae family. Sometimes Eriodictyon californicum is found referenced as Eriodictyon glutinosum. The leaves are serrate, thick, sticky, fragrant, dark green and leathery. Their upper sides are shiny and almost varnished, and the underside of the leaf is yellowish and tomentose with a prominent midrib and short petioles. They grow alternate each other, whorled around the smooth branches, and have pinnate veins. It has woody stems, rhizomonous roots, and pale lavender funnel shaped flowers flowers that grow in small clusters and are butterfly pollinated. Yerba Santa prefers well drained, drier soils, and full sun.
Yerba Santa is useful for treating congestion of the lungs and bronchitis, as it’s an expectorant, tonic, astringent, and stimulant. It dilates the bronchial tubes, allowing air back into constricted airways, and helps expel mucus. It stimulates salivation and other digestive secretions, balancing mucus and congestion from the stomach, often the source of congestion. It is a warming and astringent qualities help dry, heat, and clear out the lungs. It combines well with Grindelia robusta for hayfever and asthma, and can be taken as a tea, tincture, or a prepared as a syrup. If prepared as a tea, it must be infused for at least 30 minutes to gain full benefits from this healing herb. It is also useful for impaired digestion, hemorrhoids, and chronic bladder catarrh. Eriodictyon species also contain flavones with antioxidant properties.
The Chumash and other California Indigenous peoples used Yerba Santa to treat lung conditions, increase saliva, and stop minor bleeding. In the late 1800s to the 1960’s, Yerba santa was used in the UK and United States for the flu, pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and tuberculosis, and was a popular herb to disguise the flavor of quinine. The leaves were once smoked for asthma, but now is preferred in tincture or tea form. It is also said that Yerba Santa aids in the release of stored emotions and depression.
As a tincture, 1-3ml three times daily, or as a tea, 1-2 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of water, infused for 30 minutes, taken three times daily.