Herbs In San Diego County

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Economic Plant Photographs #35

Medicinal Herbs In California

Yerba Santa and Yerba Mansa

Waterleaf Family (Hydrophyllaceae)

Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum)

Left: Yerba santa (Eriodictyon trichocalyx), an important medicinal herb used by native Americans and early settlers in southern California. The concentrated herbal extract (right) is made from the northern California species E. californicum. Several species of yerba santa with sticky, resinous leaves were used in California. The importance of this valuable shrub is signified by the Mexican translation of "holy herb." Fresh or dried leaves were boiled to make a bitter tea which was taken for coughs, bronchitis, colds, sore throat and asthma. The tea was also taken for tuberculosis and rheumatism, and as a blood purifier. Fresh leaves were pounded into a poultice that was applied to sores and abrasions. A strong solution of boiled leaves was used as a hot compress to relieve muscular aches and rheumatism.

Another species of yerba santa (Eriodictyon crassifolium) native to the coastal sage scrub east of Palomar College. Unlike the sticky, resinous yerba santas, this species has gray, feltlike foliage covered with a layer of dense, matted, woolly hairs.

Other Members Of Waterleaf Family At Palomar College

Lizard-Tail Family (Saururaceae)

Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica)

Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica), a stoloniferous perennial in marshlands and subalkaline areas of southern California. The white, petal-like bracts surround a conical cluster of many smaller flowers. A medicinal tea was brewed from the roots and taken for indigestion, asthma and to purify the blood. It was also used as a liniment for skin diseases, cuts, bruises and sores. Yerba mansa is still a popular cure-all herbal remedy in Mexico. The leaves are cooked into a poultice to reduce swelling and to relieve muscular pain and sore feet. Aching extremities are also soaked in a hot water bath of yerba mansa.


  1. Balls, E.K. 1970. Early Uses of California Plants. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

  2. Bean, L.J. and K.S. Saubel. 1972. Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage Of Plants. Malki Museum Press, Banning, California.

  3. Weiner, M.A. and J.A. Weiner. 1994. Herbs That Heal. Quantum Books, Mill Valley, California.

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