Yerba santa, also known as mountain balm and bear weed among many other names, is a shrubby evergreen that grows in areas of Northern Mexico and California.1 Spanish settlers learned of its herbal properties from Native Americans and named it yerba santa, which means holy weed.2 The plant grows about two to four feet high and features a smooth stem that branches near the ground.1 The leaves are thick and leathery with a yellowish tint, and the bluish flowers sit in clusters of six to ten.1 The dried yerba santa leaves can be taken orally.1 The plant features a balsamic and sweet taste with an acrid aftertaste.1
Yerba santa benefits many body processes. It’s said to help treat throat problems and chronic pulmonary affections as well as hay fever and asthma.1 For asthma, it’s common to smoke the leaves to ease symptoms, but the leaves can also be chewed as an asthma home remedy.1,2 Chewing on the leaves can also help ease thirst.2 In traditional medicine, yerba santa leaves were also made into an infusion that was used as a wash to help ease fever.2 It can also be used as a tonic to increase appetite and stimulate the digestive system.2
Other yerba santa uses include for:
Like with any herb, it’s best to heed caution when taking yerba santa for medicinal purposes. Yerba santa side effects may include an effect on iron absorption and other minerals, so do not take it if you are using other drugs or supplements for mineral absorption. Do not start a yerba santa diet if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.2 Talk to your doctor about yerba santa benefits if you have a serious medical condition like asthma. Yerba santa should not be used to replace prescription medications without a recommendation from your doctor. Talk to your care provider about other medications or herbs you’re taking to ensure they won’t interact with a yerba santa diet.