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Table of Contents > Herbs & Supplements > Yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) Print

Yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum)


Also listed as: Eriodictyoncalifornicum, Mountain balm
Related terms

Related Terms
  • Consumptive's weed, bear's weed, eriodictyol, Eriodictyon californicum, Eriodictyon glutinosum, gum bush, holy herb, mountain balm, sacred herb, tarweed, Wigandia californicum.
  • Note: Not to be confused with other herbs which share the same common name(s). For example, the common name "mountain balm" is also used for Ceanothus velutinus, Satureja chandleri, and Calamintha nepeta. The common name "consumptive's weed" is associated with three different Eriodictyon species. The common name "gum bush" is also associated with several different Eriodictyon species. The common name "bear's weed" is also used for Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. The common name "tarweed" is associated with many species of Hemizonia and Madia. The common name "holy herb" is used for marijuana (Cannabis sativa), hyssop (Sorghum vulgare), basil (Ocimum basilicum), verbena (Verbena officinalis) and aloe (Aloe barbadensis). The common name "Sacred herb" is used for marijuana and tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum).

  • Chumash Indians and other California Indians have used yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) and other related species (Eriodictyon crassifolium, Eriodictyon trichocalyx) for many centuries in the treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions, saliva production, and to stop bleeding of minor cuts and scrapes.
  • In the United States and Britain, Eriodictyon californicum was formally used for conditions including influenza, bacterial pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and tuberculosis starting in the late 1800s until the 1960s (when drug regulations became more stringent around proof of efficacy). Subsequently, the extracts remained GRAS ("generally regarded as safe") as a flavor for foods, beers, and pharmaceuticals (such as to hide the bitterness of quinine). Eriodictyon plant extracts have also been used in cosmetics.
  • Eriodictyon species contain flavones with free radical scavenging (antioxidant) properties, and have therefore been proposed as being beneficial for a number of health conditions. However, there is little scientific study of yerba santa in humans, and effectiveness has not been demonstrated for any specific condition.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

There is an extensive clinical history of use of Eriodictyon extracts in pulmonary conditions such as influenza, bacterial pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. However, additional study is needed to make a firm recommendation.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Allergies, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, antioxidant, antiviral, arthritis, asthma, blood coagulation disorders, cancer, cosmetics, dry mouth, excipient (inactive ingredient) for drug delivery, food flavoring, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure), malaria, saliva production, skin scrapes, smooth muscle relaxant, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections.


Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for yerba santa in adults. Traditionally, 1-2 milliliters of fluid extract has been taken by mouth with a spoon every 3-4 hours for no more than ten days.
  • Poultices have been made by crushing 0.2 kilograms of the leaves in 1,000 milliliters of water. The leaves have been used traditionally as a treatment for pulmonary (lung) congestion by placing the slightly wet leaves on the chest. The poultice is usually used once or twice every day for up to two weeks.

Children (younger than 18 years)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for yerba santa in children. Traditionally, 1 milliliter of the alcohol extract has been used in children. Caution is warranted in children due to the presence of ethanol. Poultices have also been applied on the skin.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to Eriodictyon species.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • There are no published reports of toxicity clearly attributable to yerba santa (Eriodictyoncalifornicum), although this herb has been used for centuries by California Indians with a belief in its safety. However, there are no available scientific evaluations of toxicity or safety.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Yerba santa is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.


Interactions with Drugs

  • The flavonoids homoeriodictyol and eriodictyol found in yerba santa may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood, and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • The flavonoids homoeriodictyol and eriodictyol found in yerba santa may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

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Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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