Mountain Balm

Eriodictyon-californicum_web.jpgCommon name: Bear's Weed, Gum bush, Consumptive Weed, Mountain Balm, Yerba Santa (Holy Herb)

Scientific name: Eriodictyon californicum

Climate: Temperate

Plant description: It is a flowering evergreen aromatic shrub measuring up to 3 meters tall with white, purplish, or lavender bell-shaped flowers. 

The leaves are narrow lance-shaped, dark green, leathery, hairless, and up to 15 centimeters in length.  The leaves are covered with shiny resin with an unpleasant and bitter odor and are often dusted with black fungi, Heterosporium californicum.

The plant has an interesting taste property, starts out bitter, and slowly gets sweeter.

It blooms from mid-spring to early summer.

Yerba santa is native to California, it can be found in Oregon and some parts of Mexico.

Cultivation: It spreads by suckers or sown in a greenhouse in the spring. Transfer the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow the young plants in a greenhouse for their first winter, to then plant out in late spring or early summer. Give some protection from the cold for at least their first couple of winters. It is best grown against a sunny wall. 

It can not grow in the shade, requires full sun. and prefers well-drained sandy soil.

yerba-santa_web.jpgUses: The leaves have been used by Native Americans, Chumash, and Concow tribes to treat asthma, upper respiratory infections and allergic rhinitis, wounds, insect bites, broken bones, and sores. It was also used in a steam bath to treat hemorrhoids. 

The leaves are harvested in the summer and dried for later use. A bitter tea made from the leaves has been much used as a bitter tonic and a stimulating balsamic expectorant that reduces spasms expels phlegm and lowers fevers.

The main active component of Yerba santa is flavonoid sterubin which is considered a  neuroprotective agent against multiple toxicities of the aging brain, including possibly Alzheimer's disease.


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(2019, December 29). Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum): 8 Benefits of this Spiritual Tea. A-Z List of Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses (Healing Herbs).

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Eriodictyon californicum (Yerba Santa) - Practical Plants. (n.d.). Useful Temperate Plants. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

Eriodictyon californicum Yerba Santa, California yerba santa PFAF Plant Database. (n.d.). Plants for a Future. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, July 13). Eriodictyon californicum. Wikipedia.

Eriodictyon californicum - Natural medicine facts. (n.d.). Natural Medicine Facts. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from

En español: Yerba santa