Medicinal Uses of Native Plants: San Diego Region

November 10th, 2011

Medicinal Uses of Native Plants:  San Diego Region

 Sambucus Nigra (Blue Elderberry, Black Elderberry, American Elderberry)

 This is a shrub or small tree that prefers sunny locations in a moist environment

 Parts used: Flowers and berries


•   Hot tea made from flowers promotes sweating

•   Excellent for colds, fever, infections such as eye infections, sore throats, tonsillitis

•   When drank as a cold tea, it is a diuretic

•   Nourishing and slow acting; supports liver function which is gently tonified

•   Useful for breaking up mucous and eliminating excess phlegm from the nose or lungs

•   Anti-spasmodic; helpful in asthma, and for dry, irritated coughs

•   Decreases congestion in the sinuses, but should not be used long term (more than 3 months)


•   High in Vitamin C and Anthocyanidins

•   Used as a treatment in joint disease; Anthocyanidins decrease joint pain by decreasing inflammation and are also anti-inflammatory

•   Protects collagen from being destroyed

•   Excellent for colds and coughs due to high source of Vitamin C

•   Vitamin C potentiates effects of other antioxidants on collagen.

 Leaves, Roots and bark:

•   Unsafe to eat, but can be used topically for; hemorrhoids, eczema, boils, splinters, abscesses, sore joints, bruises, sprains       


•   Flowers: Tea: mix 2-4 tablespoons of flowers/ cup of water.  Drink 1 cup 3x/day

•   Berries: Juice: Cover fresh berries with water and boil for 3 minutes, then press the juice.  Add 1 part honey to 10 parts of juice and boil the combination for 10 minutes to preserve the juice.  Drink 1 glass with hot water 2x/day.

 Eriodictyon Californica (Yerba santa)

 This is a low shrubby evergreen plant that grows in California, Oregon and Mexico

 Parts used: Leaves


•   Contains flavonoids and resins

•   Used for chronic, persistent, hacking coughs that are productive

•   Resins in the leaves soothes the lungs and promotes expectoration of mucous at the same time

•   Often used for chronic lung issues such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, laryngitis

•   Acts as a lung tonic

•   Flavonoids in the leaves are anti-inflammatory


•   Typically used as a tincture, 1:5 strength; 2-4 mL 3x/day

 Oenothera Biennis (Evening primrose)

 This is a biennial plant that grows 2-5 feet high.  The flowers are pale-yellow and bloom at night, for one day only. The flowers contain numerous seeds.

 Parts used: Oil from the seed, Historically leaves


•   Oil extracted from seeds contain a high amount of GLA; Gamma-Linoleic acid; an Omega 6 fatty acid

•   Supports female hormonal cycle and decreases PMS symptoms including mood changes, breast tenderness, bloating and digestive distress

•   Has anti-inflammatory effects

•   Effective for eczema and can be used in children or adults


•   Leaves have been used historically by herbal medicine doctors, but these uses have not been proven or disproven by research.


Oil: 250-750 mg/ day

 Equisteum spp. (Common Horsetail)

 In the spring, this plant produces stems with brown cones on the end containing spores.

 Parts used: Entire plant

 •   Entire plant is used as a diuretic and connective tissue tonifier.

•   Contains silica, that supports strength of bones and teeth

•   Effective as a diuretic to decrease swollen feet and ankles, but should not be used if there is any compromised heart or kidney function

•   Silica stabilizes collagen and supports connective tissue, but should not be used more than 1 month, after which periodic breaks are important

•   Has an affinity for the pelvic region, therefore helpful in recurrent bladder infections and bladder prolapse.

•   Concentrates minerals from the soil, so the locale where it is grown and soil quality is important

•   Young shoots contain a nutritious sap that is anti-inflammatory and anti-septic.  North American Indians used this sap for inflamed or tired eyes and by applying it directly to the eyes.

•   Older plants harvested in late summer or fall should not be used as they are too high in Silica


 Herbal Tea: 2-4 teaspoons/ cup of water; boil roots and stems for 5 minutes, then infuse leaves and cones for 15 minutes; strain and drink 1 cup 2-3x/day

 Tincture (1:5): take 5 ml 2-3 x/day, not to exceed 100 ml in a week.

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