Yerba santa is an evergreen shrub which is native to the southwestern U.S., the leaves of which are used in homeopathic medicinal recipes. Also known as Holy Herb, Bearsweed, Mountain Balm and Consumptive's Weed, yerba santa's sticky leaves are dried before being used as medicine, and are employed as natural cures for a wide range of bronchial and asthmatic conditions. The medicinal value of yerba santa has been backed by research, such as a 1951 study published in the Archives of Biochemistry confirming the antibacterial qualities of the resin within the leaves. The taste of yerba santa leaves has generally been described as astringent, warm and pleasant. Its oddly comforting medicinal taste and its medicinal properties make yerba santa a common ingredient in herbal cough syrups. Preparing the leaves for use is a simple and straightforward affair, requiring little extra in the way of additional substances.
The most common way yerba santa leaves are used for medicinal purposes is as a tea. To make a yerba santa tea, take three leaves from a yerba santa plant (these can be fresh or dried), and place them in a standard tea cup or small mug. Bring eight ounces of clean water to a boil, and pour the hot water over the leaves, allowing at least 15 minutes to steep in order to release the antibacterial resins within the leaves. To get the full medicinal effect of the yerba santa tea, it's best to avoid putting milk or cream in the tea, though you may wish to sweeten the tea with honey to make it more palatable.
Another way to utilize resinous yerba santa tea leaves for medicinal purposes is to make a concentrated extract with them. For this purpose, grind ten fresh or dried yerba santa leaves with one cup of food grade alcohol in a food processor or blender, and pour the mixture into a mason jar. Screw the jar lid on tightly, and store in a cool, dry place out of the sunlight. Shake the jar twice daily over a period of one month to fully blend. After one month, strain the mixture into individual dropper bottles. The recommended dosage of yerba santa tincture is no more than one dropper per dose, and no more than three doses per day.
An alternate way to make yerba santa concentrate is too make a thick, edible syrup from the leaves. Dried or fresh leaves will work for this task, though fresh leaves are more highly recommended for syrup-making purposes. Boil the yerba santa leaves in hot water, and let the leaves steep for 15 minutes, as you would do when making a tea. Strain the mixture into a jar or other sealable container, and add two parts honey to one part tea to make a sweetened, medicated syrup. This syrup can be used as a medicated sweetener in other teas not containing yerba santa.
Lastly, yerba santa leaves can be inhaled directly into the lungs as steam. This is perhaps one of the oldest ways to take the antibacterial leaf resin into your system, and was the preferred form of dosage among Maidu and Nisenan Indian tribe members wishing to fight off stubborn colds. To make a medicated steam from yerba santa leaves, place as many dried or fresh leaves as you can into a pot of water, and boil the leaves and water on a stovetop. when the water has reached its boiling point, remove the pot from the heat, position your face over the pot, and drape a towel over the back of your head to keep the steam from circumventing your face; inhale deeply and repeatedly.