Can Yerba Santa Soothe Cold Symptoms?

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Yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) is a plant used in herbal medicine. Typically sourced from the leaf of the plant, yerba santa extract is said to offer a variety of health benefits. For example, proponents suggest that taking yerba santa in supplement form can help relieve the symptoms of several common respiratory conditions.

Although research on the health effects of yerba santa is very limited, it's said that the herb can help treat respiratory troubles in part by clearing mucus from the respiratory tract and alleviating congestion.

Uses for Yerba Santa

In alternative medicine, yerba santa is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

When applied topically (i.e., directly to the skin), yerba santa is said to promote the healing of bruises, wounds, and insect bites. Topical use of yerba santa is also purported to curb joint pain.

In addition, yerba santa is sometimes used in flower essences. When taken in flower essence form, yerba santa is said to help treat emotional issues like depression and grief.

Benefits of Yerba Santa

Despite the claims for yerba santa's benefits in enhancing respiratory health, there's currently a lack of research to support the herb's effectiveness in treating any health condition.

The most recent research on yerba santa and its potential health benefits includes a preliminary study published in the Journal of Natural Products in 1992. In tests on hamster embryo cells, the study's authors determined that yerba santa extract may offer anti-cancer benefits. The study's findings indicate that antioxidant compounds found in yerba santa may aid in cancer prevention by inhibiting the body's metabolism of certain cancer-causing agents.

While this study suggests that yerba santa may help protect against cancer, it's too soon to recommend the herb in cancer prevention or treatment.


Due to the lack of scientific studies testing yerba santa's effects in humans, very little is known about the safety of taking this herb in supplement form.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

While it's possible that yerba santa may be of some benefit in treatment of minor respiratory problems, using the herb as a substitute for standard care in treatment of a chronic respiratory condition is not recommended.

Learn more about using yerba santa and other dietary supplements safely here, but make sure to consult your physician before taking yerba santa.

Alternatives to Yerba Santa

Several natural remedies may help soothe respiratory symptoms caused by colds and serve as an alternative to yerba santa. For instance, there's some evidence that honey may help reduce cold-related coughing.

You can also use herbs to help decrease the duration and severity of the common cold. Herbs like echinacea and astragalus, for example, may help fight colds when taken as soon as your symptoms start.

Additionally, drinking ginger tea may help ease cold-related congestion. And for help in relieving sinus congestion, consider trying a eucalyptus steam inhalation. Eating herbal chicken soup may also help lessen your symptoms while strengthening your immune system.

To alleviate respiratory symptoms brought on by allergies, you might want to try herbs like butterbur and nettles. Another popular approach to natural allergy relief is nasal irrigation, an alternative treatment that involves clearing out your nasal passages through the use of a neti pot. What's more, increasing your intake of natural substances like quercetin and omega-3 fatty acids may help protect against allergy symptoms.

Both butterbur and omega-3 fatty acids may also provide natural asthma relief. In addition, remedies like bromelain and boswellia may be beneficial to people with asthma.

Where to Find It

Many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in herbal remedies sell yerba santa in dietary supplement form. You can also buy yerba santa supplements online.

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Article Sources
  • Liu YL, Ho DK, Cassady JM, Cook VM, Baird WM. "Isolation of potential cancer chemopreventive agents from Eriodictyon californicum." J Nat Prod. 1992 Mar;55(3):357-63.