Yerba santa is Spanish for ‘sacred herb’ which sums up how beneficial this herb can be to those who use it. The sticky leaves are used to make a medicine that can ease respiratory conditions, while it can also be used as a food flavouring and as an additive to herbal concoctions.
The herb was named by Spanish priests who recognised the medicinal value of this shrub’s leaves. They would use them in tea format to help treat coughs, colds and asthma. Historically a poultice of fresh leaves was applied to the skin to treat bruises, while the young leaves were thought to help relieve the pain associated with rheumatism.
Yerba Santa works by relaxing the smooth muscle tissue in the lungs. In addition, it is an expectorant, helping to expel mucous that builds up with respiratory conditions.
Although its main use is to help respiratory conditions, it also contains many strong antioxidants, such as tannins, saponins, phlobatannins, terpenoids, phenols and flavonoids. These can help tackle free radical damage and help stave off disease. One antioxidant, eriodin, can help kill off certain bacteria, helping to treat infections when it’s applied as a poultice.
Did you know that while the initial taste of this plant is bitter, the taste actually gets sweeter further along. Thanks to this ability yerba santa is sometimes used to mask the bitterness of other foods or ingredients.
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