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Herbal Wisdom - December 2015 - Santa Fe

Herb Spotlight: Yerba Mansa

By Tomas Enos and Erin Galiger


FAMILY: Saururaceae     


LATIN NAME: Anemopsis californica


SYNONYMS: Yerba del Manso, Bavisa, Swamp Root, Lizard Tail, Shrimp Root


DESCRIPTION:  Yerba mansa is a low growing perennial that most often forms colonies.  The edges of the leaf, and especially the stem is often a reddish-silver hue.  The flowers form white conical spikes with petal-like white bracts at the base of the spike.  The whole plant, usually in September or October, turns a brick-red.  All parts of Yerba Mansa are distinctly aromatic, especially the crustacean-like fleshy root. 


HABITAT:  Yerba Mansa can be found in wet, saline or alkaline marshes and it is often the most successful plant in these saline and alkaline areas.  Most likely the largest stand of Yerba Mansa in the U.S. occurs along the Rio Grande River between Espanola and Las Cruces, New Mexico.


CONSTITUENTS:  Yerba Mansa contains many aromatics, some of which are esdragole, thymol, methylether, linalool, p-cymene, and asarinin.  Also possesses Methyleugenol and tannic acid.


HISTORICAL MEDICINAL USES:  Yerba Mansa has an extensive history of use as a medicinal herb.  The Pima natives of Arizona used a tea made from the fresh or dry roots to cure a cough or itchy throat.  Costanoan, Kawaiisu, Mahuna, and Shoshone natives used the powdered root as a disinfectant for knife wounds and open sores.  The Pauite used a decoction of the leaves as a bath for muscular pain and sore feet.  It was also used by most of the southwestern Native Americans as a venereal medicine, especially for syphilis and gonorrhea.  In Mexico, it sometimes is called Bavisa, and its reputation there as a healing herb is legendary.  It is used for abrasions, burns, sores (on humans and animals), ulcerated gums, athlete’s foot, hemorrhoids, blood purification, digestive upsets, rheumatism, colds, coughs, diarrhea and dysentery.

In New Mexico, Hispanic Americans have long made it part of their herbal tradition.  A teaspoon of the dry ground root and one-half glass of warm water is used as a gargle for inflamed throats and ulcerated or bleeding gums.  They also mix punche (native tobacco) and the dry ground root of Yerba Mansa together along with olive oil and beeswax to make an effective salve for hemorrhoids.  In a traditional manner, children who suffer from stomach trouble and infants affected by colic are given relief by boiling the dry roots until a red liquid develops.  This is given in small doses (1-2 teaspoons at a time), three to four times a day.


MEDICINAL USES TODAY:  Yerba Mansa was used in standard practice medicine in the U.S. up until about 1930.  It can be found in many of the old Homeopathic and Eclectic material medicas and is referred to as an excellent medicine for subacute congestion and inflammation of the mucous membranes.  It is an astringent, antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and tonic.

Yerba Mansa is used for colds and to heal conditions of the mouth, lungs, intestinal and urinary tracts.  It stimulates better fluid transport which helps to remove cellular waste which usually prevents the repair of damaged tissue.

Joint inflammation that is caused by a build-up of nitrogenous acids, like uric acid be helped by Yerba Mansa.  It is a diuretic that helps to stimulate the elimination of nitrogenous wastes from joint issues and the urinary tract. 

Because Yerba Mansa is antibacterial and antifungal, it makes an excellent medicine for open sores and abrasions.  The dry root or recently dried leaf can be used as a Standard Infusion wash or can be made into a salve. A sitz bath for postpartum mothers who suffer from wear and tear of that magical event can find great soothing and praid healing of minor injuries by doing a sitz bath several times a day. 

Both the Native American and Hispanic herbal traditions have used Yerba Mansa for digestive complaints.  It will help soothe inflamed mucous membranes and decrease the acidic nature of the stomach.  Yerba Mansa is also useful for treating fermentation of the Upper GI and in eliminating flatulence from such.


COLLECTING:  Yerba Mansa roots can be collected anytime of the year, but are strongest in fall and winter when the leaves have died back.  

Tomas Enos studied with Michael Moore in 1990 and then created Milagro Herbs. Erin Galiger has worked with herbs for 10 years.  Their philosophy of health and healing is holistic and rooted in the ancient tradition of “Solar Living,” synchronizing our bodies according to the biological time clock, circadian rhythms, and seasonal patterns found on Earth. 419 Orchard Drive (off Paseo de Peralta next to Kakawa    Chocolate House)

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