Known interactions

No interactions found.

Information about Wigandia californicum

Scientific Name: Yerba Santa

Other Names: Bear's Weed, Consumptive's Weed, Eriodictyon californicum, Eriodictyon glutinosum, Gum Bush, Mountain Balm, Tarweed, Wigandia californicum

Who is this for?

Typically, yerba santa is used as a treatment for respiratory conditions. Because it has some expectorant properties, it may be used to relieve coughs from respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis and colds. An expectorant helps to loosen and remove mucus from breathing passages.

A poultice made from fresh yerba santa leaves may be applied topically to relieve the soreness of bruises and sprains. A poultice is usually a soft cloth that has been soaked in a medication, possibly heated, and applied to an aching or injured area of skin surface. Historically, the sticky coating of yerba santa leaves was used to seal skin wounds before sterile bandages were widely available.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not evaluate herbal products, but it has recognized yerba santa as a flavoring agent for beverages, foods, and pharmaceuticals.

When should I be careful taking it?

Very little information is available on how yerba santa might affect a developing fetus or an infant. Therefore, its use is not recommended during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

What side effects should I watch for?

No side effects have been reported from the use of yerba santa. However, because few reliable studies of yerba santa have been conducted, its possible side effects may not be known. If you take yerba santa and you experience unexpected effects, stop taking it and contact your doctor.

What interactions should I watch for?

No interactions have been reported between yerba santa and prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, other herbal supplements, or foods. However, because few reliable studies of yerba santa have been conducted, its possible interactions with drugs, foods, and other dietary supplements are not understood completely. Be sure that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of all the prescription and non-prescription medicines you take before you begin to use yerba santa or any other herbal supplement.

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.

Should I take it?

Yerba santa plants are usually less than 4 feet tall, but they can reach a height of 6 feet to 8 feet when they grow in the mountains. Evergreen shrubs that are native to the dry areas of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, they are used frequently as ornamental shrubs along the Pacific coast and into the coastal mountains. The leaves of yerba santa are shiny on the top surfaces and hairy on the bottoms. Like the stems of the plant, the leaves produce a sticky resin with a pleasant smell similar to pine resin. In the early summer, clusters of white, lavender, or blue-colored flowers bloom on central stalks.

The natives of the American Southwest have used yerba santa for generations, introducing it to the Spanish who came to the area in the late 18th century. For medicine, yerba santa leaves are gathered after the plant blooms. Leaves are used either fresh or dried and either by mouth or applied to the skin. Yerba santa?s pleasant taste is often used to disguise bitter-tasting medicines.

Dosage and Administration

A tea may be made from yerba santa by chopping or crushing about one teaspoonful of fresh or dried leaves, pouring about 8 ounces of boiling water over them, and letting then soak for 30 minutes. The solid particles are strained out before drinking the tea, which may be taken up to three times a day. Due to its pleasant taste, yerba santa tea may be added to other herbal teas to improve the flavor.

The resinous parts of yerba santa do not dissolve well in water, however, so extracts and tinctures of yerba santa are commonly made with alcohol as a base. Extracts are concentrated liquid preparations usually made by soaking chopped or mashed plant parts in a liquid, and then straining out the solid parts. Tinctures are less concentrated than extracts, but they are prepared in similar ways. If you decide to use a yerba santa extract or tincture, follow the directions on the label of the package you purchase.


Yerba santa is taken by mouth to treat coughing from a variety of respiratory ailments. It may also be applied to the skin to relieve soreness.


Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised to avoid taking yerba santa.

Side Effects

No side effects have been reported after taking or applying yerba santa.


No interactions have been reported between yerba santa and prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, other herbal products, or foods.

Last Reviewed: February 9, 2004


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Liu YL, Ho DK, Cassady JM, Cook VM, Baird WM. Isolation of potential cancer chemopreventive agents from Eriodictyon californicum. Journal of Natural Products. 1992;55(3):3573-3563.

Peirce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: Stonesong Press; 1999.

Plants for a Future Database. Eriodictyon californicum. No date given. Available at: Accessed June 6, 2003.

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(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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