Herb: Yerba Santa

Latin name: Eriodictyon californicum

Family: Hydrophyllaceae (Waterleaf Family)

Medicinal use of Yerba Santa:

Yerba Santa (the name means Holy weed) is a famous domestic remedy from south-western N. America where it is considered to be especially useful as an expectorant. It is an ingredient of many patent cough medicines. The leaves are an aromatic pleasant tasting tonic herb that reduces spasms, expels phlegm and lowers fevers. They are especially recommended for treating diseases of the chest and respiratory system, including asthma, and are also used in the treatment of hay fever. A bitter tea made from the leaves has been much used as a bitter tonic and a stimulating balsamic expectorant. A steam bath made from the branches and leaves has been used in the treatment of rheumatism. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a wash for sore areas and painful fatigued limbs. A natural mouthwash is prepared by rolling the leaves into balls and allowing them to dry in the sun. These are then chewed and at first have a bitter flavour but this is soon replaced by a sweetness if a drink of water is taken. The leaves are harvested in the summer and dried for later use. The plant has been smoked as a remedy for asthma.

Description of the plant:


2.25 m
(7 1/2 foot)

July to


Habitat of the herb:

Dry mountain slopes at altitudes up to 1,200 metres.

Edible parts of Yerba Santa:

The fresh leaves are chewed for their refreshing taste and to relieve thirst. An aromatic sweet tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. An extract of the leaves is used as a flavouring in baked goods, sweets, ice cream and soft drinks.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves have been woven into skirts and aprons.

Propagation of Yerba Santa:

Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow on the young plants for at least their first winter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer. Give some protection from the cold for at least their first couple of winters outdoors.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry mountain slopes at altitudes up to 1,200 metres.

Known hazards of Eriodictyon californicum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.