Yerba santa is a sticky-leafed evergreen native to the southwestern United States. Unlike many other astringent herbs, yerba santa actually has a pleasant taste. It is used as a food flavoring and as an additive to herbal cough syrups to disguise the taste of other ingredients. It was given its name (“holy weed”) by Spanish priests impressed with its medicinal properties.
Can be used as a tea, but must be allowed to steep for at least half an hour to dissolve the resins. More often used as an alcohol tincture.
The shrub-like plant grows to a height of from 2 feet up to 8 feet. Its white to deep blue, five-petal fluted flowers top a smooth stem in clusters. The thick yellowish leaves are covered lightly with a black resin. They are gathered in the spring and early summer and dried for medicinal preparations. They can be smoked or tinctured in alcohol, or made into an infusion. It makes a good syrup for coughs.
Taken internally, it supports healthy mucosal lining and respiratory function. In Chinese meridian medicine, it is good for the lungs and spleen. Containing flavones, it is also known as an antioxidant, boosting the whole system and counteracting fatigue. It cleanses the blood, tones the nervous system, and stimulates the mind. It works well in combination with Grindelia.
Yerba Santa is, also, used for gastrointestinal issues. It is a digestive aid, improving appetite and overall digestion.
Externally, as a poultice, the leaves can be crushed in a loose weave cloth, like gauze, placed in a shallow dish, and steeped in boiling water for ten minutes. Placed on the chest, it soothes tight and congested breathing. Then, the water can be drunk as an infusion. Native Americans used an infusion as a wash to help with fever.
It has also been used externally to soothe mosquito bites, rashes, bruises, wounds, and sprains, the sticky leaves being used for bandages.
Traditionally used as a smudge or incense for protection and setting boundaries, Yerba Santa has also been used for love, purification, growth, empowerment and beauty, and the release of emotional pain stored in the heart chakra. Uplifting scent. When burned in sacred ceremony, Yerba Santa nourishes and protects that which is wild in one’s self. It can be burned when in need of encouragement and courage.
It is in the Hydrophyllaceae, or water leaf , family and regulates the water element in the body. As such, it is excellent for emotional and soul blockages and helps to release grief, despair and melancholy, which can be held in the heart and lungs.