"The leaves of Eriodictyon glutinosum, Bentham"—(U. S. P.) (Eriodictyon californicum, Bentham; Wigandia californica, Hooker and Arnott).
COMMON NAMES: Yerba santa, Mountain balm, Consumptive's weed, Bear's weed.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Hooker's Botany, Beech's Survey, Plate 88.
Botanical History and Source.—This plant is generally known as Yerba santa (holy or sacred herb). It is shrubby, from 2 to 4 feet high, and is found growing in clumps, in dry situations throughout California, and northern Mexico, where it is very common in certain localities. The stem is smooth, branched usually from near the ground, and covered with a peculiar glutinous resin, which exudes abundantly from all parts of the plant, excepting the under side of the leaves. The leaves are thick, leathery, and evergreen, their upper surface being coated, somewhat like a varnish, with the aforementioned resin. They are alternate, and attached by short petioles at an acute angle with the branch. In shape they are narrowly elliptical, from 2 to 5 inches long, and from 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in width. They are acute, and taper to a short leaf-stalk at the base. The upper surface is smooth and dark-green in color (sometimes black when dry). The under surface has a large, prominent mid-rib, and a close network of veins, and is covered, between the veins, with a close, white tomentum, which gives the surface a milky color. The margin of the leaf is dentate, with numerous unequal teeth, which are undulate and blunt. The flowers are bluish, and borne in terminal clusters, which consist of from 6 to 10 close, 1-sided racemes, that unroll as the flowers expand. The calyx is hairy, about 1/3 the length of the corolla, and deeply 5-parted, almost to the base. The corolla is broadly tubular, about 1/2 an inch long, and has 5 short, obtuse, spreading lobes. The 5 stamens are included in the corolla tube. The pistil consists of a free, ovate, hairy ovary, and 2 slender, diverging styles, with club-shaped stigmas.
History.—Eriodictyon was mentioned by Prof. Maisch in March, 1875, at the meeting of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, a specimen of the plant being at the same time presented. The October Eclectic Medical Journal (1875) contained an article from Dr. J. H. Bundy, of California, upon "Yerba santa." This was followed by others, all speaking of it as Yerba santa. In February, 1876, Prof. J. M. Scudder received specimens of the leaves from Dr. Bundy, and immediately had them identified botanically by C. G. Lloyd. They proved to be Eriodictyon glutinosum. Prof. Scudder published the botanical name in the Eclectic Medical Journal, March, 1876, since which the plant has been generally recognized. The leaves are employed in medicine. They are fragrant even after long drying and exposure. Doubtless, oxidation or other modifications of the various resinous substances continually develops this fragrant principle, which seems not to be a volatile oil. The taste is aromatic and sweetish, eventually acrid to a slight extent, but not bitter. The after-taste is sweet, resembling dulcamara, and is accompanied by a flow of saliva.
Description.—Eriodictyon is thus described by the U.S. P.: "Oblong-lanceolate, 5 to 10 Cm. (2 to 4 inches) long, acute at the apex, and below narrowed into a short petiole, the margin sinuately toothed to nearly entire; upper surface green, smooth, and covered with a brownish resin; lower surface reticulate and minutely white-tomentose; odor somewhat aromatic; taste balsamic and sweetish"—(U. S. P.).
Chemical Composition.—The first article of interest regarding this plant, from a pharmaceutical point, appeared in the Chicago Pharmacist, February, 1876, from Mr. H. S. Wellcome. He gave a figure of the plant, and reported finding several resinous bodies. Mr. Charles Mohr (Proc. Amer. Pharm. Assoc., 1879, and Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1879, p. 545), upon distilling 10 pounds of the dried leaves with water, found the distillate free from volatile alkaloid, but it contained a small amount of an oily substance, of an aromatic odor and taste. The herb yielded to ether 8 per cent of a bitter, acrid resin, and to alcohol an inert resin; besides, Mr. Mohr found a peculiar, tannin-like glucosid, gum, green coloring matter, sugar, wax, etc. Rich. Thal, in 1883, announced the presence of ericolin (C26H30O3), a glucosid, in this plant. Rother (1887) obtained an acid resin forming soluble compounds with bases; these compounds, by double decomposition, precipitate quinine from solutions of its salts in the form of salts of quinium-resin. The latter compounds are singularly soluble in ammonia (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1887, p. 225). In 1888, Quirini, by extracting the drug with carbon disulphide, obtained, beside a green resin, insoluble in benzol, eriodictyonic acid (C14H18O5., in yellow, deliquescent plates, soluble in benzol, and melting at 86° to 88° C. (186.6° to 190.4° F.). They have a sweetish-acid taste, and are closely related to phloroglucin. Prof. J. U. Lloyd, who has prepared considerable amounts of the fluid extract of this plant (dried), strongly favors alcohol as the best agent for extracting and permanently holding the proximate resinous principles in solution.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Eriodictyon (or Mountain balm) has been recommended in the treatment of laryngeal and bronchial affections, and in chronic pulmonary difficulties generally. It has also been eulogized in the treatment of asthma and hay-fever, in combination with Grindelia robusta. That it possesses some efficiency as a stimulant, in the treatment of chronic mucous affections of the respiratory passages, is undoubtedly true; but that it deserves the high encomiums passed upon it in the treatment of laryngo-bronchial and chronic pulmonary maladies, admits of great doubt; at least, the writer has met with no success with it in any of the above diseases that was superior, or even equal, to the results obtained by some of our old and well-known remedial agents. It has likewise been advised in the treatment of hemorrhoids, and in chronic catarrh of the bladder. Catarrhal gastritis is said to have been successfully treated with it. The article is generally employed in the form of fluid extract and specific yerba santa. The dose of the former varies from 15 minims to 1 fluid drachm; of the latter, 10 to 30 minims, taken in a little syrup, and repeating the dose every 3 or 4 hours.
Specific Indications an Uses.—"Chronic asthma with cough, profuse expectoration, thickening of the bronchial mucous membrane, loss of a petite, impaired digestion, emaciation" (Watkin's Comp. of Ec. Med.). "Cough, with abundant and easy expectoration" (Scudder).
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.