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Yerba Santa

Scientific Name(s): Eriodictyon californicum (Hook. and Arn.) Torrey.
Common Name(s): Bear's weed, Consumptive's weed, Eriodictyon, Gum plant, Mountain balm, Tarweed, Yerba santa

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 15, 2021.

Clinical Overview


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. There are no clinical studies to evaluate these effects.


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.

Adverse Reactions

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


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

Scientific Family

  • Hydrophyllaceae


The yerba santa plant is an evergreen aromatic shrub with woody rhizomes. It is indigenous to the hills and mountains of California, Oregon, and northern Mexico and is often cultivated as an ornamental shrub. The plant grows to 2.5 m in height at elevations exceeding 1,219 m. The hairy, lance-shaped leaves are glutinous, and its flowers are white to lavender in color. Also known as Eriodictyon glutinosum Benth. and Wigandia californicum Hook. & Arn.Chevalier 2001, Khan 2009, USDA 2016


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.Chevalier 2001 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.Lewis 1977 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.Balls 1962, Sweet 1976 The plant is contained in a number of herbal preparations. Yerba santa has been used as a pharmaceutical flavoring, particularly to mask the flavor of bitter drugs.Khan 2009 The fluid extract is used in foods and beverages.Duke 2003


Yerba 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.Duke 1992, Khan 2009

Spectroscopic analysis and alkaline hydrolysis resulted in the isolation of 12 flavonoids. Eight active flavanones were identified as 3′-methyl-4′-isobutyryleriodictoyol, eriodictyol, homoeriodictyol, 5,4′-dihydroxy-6,7-dimethoxyflavanone, pinocembrin, sakuranetin, 5,7,4′-trihydroxy-6,3′-dimethoxyflavanone, and naringenin 4′-methyl ether.Liu 1992

Four active flavones were also isolated: cirsimaritin, chrysoeriol, hispidulin, and chrysin.Liu 1992

Uses and Pharmacology

Review of the scientific literature reveals no evidence evaluating the effectiveness of yerba santa in humans or animals. Tertiary resources report that eriodictyol exerts an expectorant action.Khan 2009 The plant also has been investigated for treating xerostomia, as a substitute for tobacco use, to reduce skin or mucosal irritation, and as a moisturizer.Coy-Herbert 2002, Lewis 1977, Parnell 1993

Cirsimaritin and chrysoeriol may warrant further investigation in vivo as potential chemopreventive agents.Liu 1992

Anti-inflammatory effects have been suggested for extracts based on screening studies,Mazzio 2016, Walker 2016 and suggest that the chemical constituent eriodictyol can inhibit mast cell degranulation.Yoo 2012

Animal/Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of yerba santa for any condition.


There is no recent clinical evidence to support dose of recommendations for yerba santa. Classical use of the leaf as an expectorant was at 1 g doses.Duke 2003

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactations is lacking. Avoid use.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

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

Allergic contact dermatitis has been reported for a related species Eriodictyon parryi (poodle-dog bush).Czaplicki 2013


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

Index Terms

  • Eriodictyon glutinosum Benth.
  • Wigandia californicum Hook. & Arn.


Balls EK. Early Uses of California Plants. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press; 1962.
Chevalier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley Publishing; 2001.
Coy-Herbert P. Herbal composition as a substitute for tobacco. US patent 6 497 234. 2002.
Czaplicki CD. Contact dermatitis from Eriodictyon parryi: a novel cause of contact dermatitis in California. Wilderness Environ Med. 2013;24(3):253-256.23473793
Duke J. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc.; 1992. Accessed 2017.
Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2003.
Eriodictyon californicum. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (, December 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Khan IA, Abourashed EA. Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 3rd ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley; 2009.
Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical Botany. New York, NY: J. Wiley and Sons; 1977.
Liu YL, Ho DK, Cassady JM, Cook VM, Baird WM. Isolation of potential cancer chemopreventive agents from Eriodictyon californicum. J Nat Prod. 1992;55(3):357-363.1593282
Mazzio EA, Li N, Bauer D, et al. Natural product HTP screening for antibacterial (E.coli 0157:H7) and anti-inflammatory agents in (LPS from E. coli O111:B4) activated macrophages and microglial cells; focus on sepsis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016;16(1):467.27846826
Parnell FW. Drug delivery systems containing Eriodictyon fluid extract as an excipient, and methods, and compositions associated therewith. US patent 5 248 501. 1993.
Sweet M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West. Healdsburg, CA: Naturegraph Publishers; 1976.
Walker J, Reichelt KV, Obst K, et al. Identification of an anti-inflammatory potential of Eriodictyon angustifolium compounds in human gingival fibroblasts. Food Funct. 2016;7(7):3046-3055.27248833
Yoo JM, Kim JH, Park SJ, et al. Inhibitory effect of eriodictyol on IgE/Ag-induced type I hypersensitivity. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2012;76(7):1285-1290.22785465


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This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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