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Yerba Santa

What is Yerba Santa?

The yerba santa plant is an evergreen aromatic shrub that is indigenous to the hills and mountains of California, Oregon, and northern Mexico. It often is cultivated as an ornamental shrub. The hairy, lance-shaped leaves are glutinous, and its flowers are white to lavender in color.

Scientific Name(s)

Eriodictyon californicum, E. glutinosum, Wigandia californicum

Common Name(s)

Yerba santa also is known as eriodictyon, tarweed, consumptive's weed, bear's weed, mountain balm, and gum plant.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The name yerba santa ("holy weed") was given by the Spanish priests who learned of the medicinal value of the shrub from the American Indians. 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 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 rheumatism. Historical evidence documents that yerba santa has been used in tea and medicinally for the management of bruises and rheumatic pain. The plant also has been used as an expectorant and in the treatment of respiratory diseases. Review of the scientific literature reveals no evidence evaluating the effectiveness of yerba santa for any condition in humans or animals.

Miscellaneous uses

The plant is contained in a number of OTC 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.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no recent clinical evidence to support dose recommendations for yerba santa. Classical use of the leaf as an expectorant was at 1 g doses.


Contraindications have not yet been determined.


Avoid use during pregnancy and lactation because of the lack of clinical studies.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Review of the scientific literature reveals little to no evidence evaluating the toxicity of yerba santa in humans or animals.


There are no reports of significant toxicity associated with the topical or systemic use of yerba santa.


1. Yerba Santa. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2006. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 23, 2007.

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