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YERBA MANSA - An Important Medicine Plant! (Part One)

Anti-inflammatory Herbal Medicine Lyme's Disease Yerba Mansa



YERBA MANSA ( Some Updated Notes, more will be added - Part One)

Anemopsis californica
Saururaceae (Lizard Tail Family)

Anemopsis californica is also known as, Yerba Mansa, Yerba del Manso, Manso, Bavisa, Lizard Tail, Swamp Root, Raiz del Manso, and Apache beads.

Yerba Mansa, is a perennial, low growing plant, always found in stands. It has many basal leaves, from three to eight inches long, rounded or lobbed, and somewhat fleshy or succulent. The flowers form a conical white spike with distinct white bracts around the base. In the fall, the whole plant turns brick-red in color, and large patches will stand out. 

Yerba Mansa, loves marshy places, edges of swamps, old spring areas where the soil is boggy and damp. It can be found throughout the Western United States living near hot springs, especially if there is a alkaline mire nearby.

The name Yerba Mansa has been debated, but the word “Yerba” in spanish means herb, and the feminine form of the spanish word manso means tame, tranquil or calm.

Perhaps the real meaning of Yerba Mansa, might mean - the herb of the tame or subjugated indian. Because where ever there was a mission or Native American encampment (forced or otherwise) in the Southwest, you found Yerba Mansa and for all the people who ever lived in the Southwest, it was the most relied upon of all herbal medicines for the diseases and illness that afflict human kind.

At these missions and forced encampments, where subjugated native peoples were forced to live, in conditions that were less than favorable, all kinds of illnesses prevailed; bacterial infections, viral infections, colds, influenza, tuberculosis, syphilis, and many others. Yerba Mansa was the most used herb for all these conditions. No wonder it became known as Yerba Mansa or “The herb of the tame indian”.

Yerba Mansa has a rich ethnobotanical history of usage amongst native cultures including the Pima, Mayo, Yaqui, Mexican, Chumash, Shoshone, Apache and basically all native and non-native peoples who lived in close relationship to the land in the Western United States. It is one of the most important of all medicine plants.

Yerba Mansa can be found from Texas, westward to California, up into southern Oregon. It is also been found in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. 

Small stands have been established, in Florida, North Carolina, and in several other states in the Southeast. 

Hundreds of people grow Yerba Mansa in large pots and bring indoors during the winter months, especially in the colder, more northern states.


The medicinal uses of Yerba Mansa are immense.

In Medicinal Plants Of The Desert And Canyon West, the author Michael Moore writes 

“Everybody who has lived where Yerba Mansa grows has used it as a medicine. It was used in standard practice medicine with some frequency up until 1920 or so, especially amongst Eclectic and Homeopathic physicians.” 

Moore continues, “ When inflammation resulting from irritation, injury, or infection continues past a certain point, the engorged capillaries lose some of their cohesiveness. This breaks down the quality of the gelatinous starches (mucopolysaccharides) that hold tissue cells into compact masses, thwarting the healing that the initial irritation made necessary. The tissue go from the “hot” of acute (repairing) inflammation to the “cold” of subacute (nonrepairing) congestion. So, Yerba Mansa is used for slowly healing boggy conditions of the mouth, intestinal and urinary tracts, and lungs. It is astringent to the connective tissues that form the membrane structure, but it stimulates better fluid transport, helping to remove the exudates that prevent repair of the irritation that began the whole mess.”

Here is a list (somewhat overwhelming), of uses compiled from my clinical experience (Michael Cottingham use of Yerba Mansa 1990-2014), Michael Moore, Eclectic references, and others.

ANEMOPSIS CALIFORNICA - Medicinal Uses (continued)

Acute early stages of herpes, topically. Extract, Tea, or diluted essential oil.
Subacute head cold with thick mucus. Extract or Tea
Acute pharyngitis, returning after almost healing.
Chronic pharyngitis with pale, relaxed mucosa.
Chronic or subacute rhinitis.
Acute sinusitis with ulcerations (as a nasal spray). (Tea or Floral Water)
Chronic sinusitis with inflammation, catarrh, stuffy heat.
Chronic sinusitis with edematous turbinates, relaxed and purplish; or with
thick ropy mucous, frontal headache.
Chronic tonsillitis with ulcers (also as a gargle).
Intrinsic humid asthma with moist cough.
Chronic bronchitis with profuse secretions.
Acute cough, moist, persistent.
Acute cystitis/urethritis with mucus in urine; or with inflamed urethral 
Chronic anorexia with colon, rectal catarrh.
Chronic colic with catarrh.
Recuperating from diarrhea.
H Pylori, Acute, subacute, bacterial infection, Leaf Tea
Dysentery, for concurrent mouth sores.
Acute gastritis with catarrh.
Acute gastritis, recuperation.
Gastroenteritis with mucus hypersecretions.
Gastroenteritis, recuperation.
Hemorrhoids, painful, extruding.
Hemorrhoids, painful, extruding, with constant throbbing pain (internal and
Nausea after eating.
Shigellosis, recuperative period.
Gastric or duodenal ulcers, slow healing.
Subacute or chronic ulcers with vomiting or spitting of ropy mucus.
Vomiting, in general.
Abscess, acute, local (topically).
Fissures, general orificial (external).
Rectal fissures (sitz bath).
Anal fissures (sitz bath: 8 fl oz strong decoction in bath at a time).
Skin ulcers, in general (external).
Topical in arthritis.
As a bath for arthritis.
Arthritis, diuretic.
Anti-inflammatory in arthritis.
Muscular pain, in general.
Leukorrhea, supportive to local itching and pain.
Acute prostatitis, with discharge and inflammation.
Acute vaginitis (sitz bath).
Subacute vaginitis, or with Bartholin gland cysts (as sitz baths).
Subacute vulvitis (as a sitz bath).
Infant teething, with cold sores or stomatitis (rubbed on gums).
Nutritional malabsorption in poor absorption in ileum of bile acids, fat 
soluble vitamins, intrinsic factor or B12.
Lyme Disease, adjunct therapy, for chronic inflammation, fluid drainage, 
joint pain, digestive stagnation, specific antibacterial for Borrelia
burgdorferi, and other Borrelia species.

Cervical and Uterine Cancer, a steam distilled essential oil of the roots, in
salve, and oil. Also drinking the tea or using the fresh root extract
(See National Institute of Health Report,  
Phytochemistry, Feb 2008: 69(4): 919-927)


The entire plant of Yerba Mansa, can be used as a medicine. In general, the roots are stronger than the leaf, and the roots contain more of an array of essential oils, at least a larger percentage of oils.

Yerba Mansa is used as a fresh leaf extract, fresh root extract, dry leaf extract, dry root extract. (Alcohol extracts)

Yerba Mansa, dry leaf or dry root is used in teas, salves, oils, baths, etc.

Dry root powder is used to cover wounds, and has been used as a root powder paste and applied to skin cancers.

The essential oil of the root, virtually unavailable and little used because of its scarcity in commerce, and is a concentrated aspect of this plant.

A National Institute of Health Report - Phytochemistry, Feb 2008: 69(4): 919-927, concluded a number of significant findings:

“Anemopsis essential oil was studied extensively from the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s (Horton and Paul, 1957; Childs, 1962; Acharya and Chaubal, 1968; Sanvordeker and Chaubal, 1969; Tutupalli and Chaubal, 1971). The collective result of these works was the identification of 12 volatiles isolated from the roots and rhizomes of Anemopsis including methyleugenol (57%), thymol (13.8%) and piperitone (8%), and the isolation and identification of crystalline (+) asarinin. We have recently described the isolation and characterization of Anemopsis leaf volatiles (Medina et al., 2005). Thirty-eight compounds isolated by steam distillation or solid phase microextraction (SPME) were detected by GC/MS. Readily detectable compounds included α-pinene (1.9%), β-phellandrene (1.6%), 1,8-cineole (2.5%), piperitone (11.5%), methyleugenol (6.9%), (E)-caryophyllene (4.6%) and elemicin (53%).

Ethnographic information on yerba mansa is consistent. A variety of people from different cultural backgrounds and geographical areas have been interviewed and researchers report similar or related uses again and again: treatment of wounds, cold and flu symptoms, pain and inflammation, as well as lung, circulatory, urinary, and digestive tract ailments (Swank, 1932; Wyman and Harris, 1947; Bean and Saubel, 1972; Bocek, 1984; Moore, 1989; Artschwager-Kay, 1996; Davidow, 1999). Both aerial and root/rhizome tissues are used medicinally; Hippocratic screening of Anemopsis tissues demonstrates that root/rhizome, with a minimum lethal dose of 316 mg/kg, is more potent than aerial parts which showed no lethality even at the maximum dose administered 1 g/kg (Tutupalli et al., 1975). Tea made from A. californica leaves and roots is used to treat uterine cancer, ease menstrual cramps, induce conception, and staunch excessive bleeding after childbirth (Bocek, 1984; Artschwager-Kay, 1996); as a treatment for other gynecological conditions including yeast infection, and vaginitis (Moore, 1989; Davidow, 1999); or to treat venereal sores and ulcers (Bean and Saubel, 1972).

Three distinct chemotypes based on the essential oil composition of roots and rhizome extracts of Anemopsis califormica were identified. Specific bioactivity against uterine and cervical cancer cell lines was demonstrated with steam-distilled oil of Anemopsis root tissue. These results support the traditional, cultural use of Anemopsis extracts to treat uterine cancer.”
It was also concluded that a synergistic effect might be present between the thymol, piperitone and methyleugenol oil compounds. 
Since this study was published, I pursued the learning of how to make my own Yerba Mansa essential oil. I have expanded my uses of Yerba Mansa to now include working with the essential oil.


Applying oil to the feet, decreases throughout the entire body, chronic inflammation. 

The essential oil of Yerba Mansa Root, when applied to the base of the neck, will be absorbed directly into the blood stream, allowing the crossing of the blood brain barrier. This oil becomes a useful and safe tool as a powerful antibacterial, especially in the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. 

Diluted amounts of the essential oil are used. Meaning, I usually recommend, 1 to 2 drops of the oil, to 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of almond or olive oil. This should be enough for most people to get a significant therapeutic dose. This is a standard topical dose/treatment.

Applying the diluted essential oil to parts of the body, that are experiencing severe gout conditions, and painful building up of uric acid crystals in those joints tissues, provides almost immediate relief. I have my clients drink Yerba Mansa leaf tea and apply the oil externally to the painful and burning parts. Gout inflammation is gone in a matter of hours. The Yerba Mansa leaf tea has always been a standard and effective remedy for gout, but with the use of the essential oil, the healing effects are profound and sped up beyond belief. 

The diluted essential oil, applied to arthritic joints in general brings about real significant pain reduction and accumulated waste in those joints being better removed.

Rubbing some of the diluted essential oil directly on the chest, will break up a congestion in the lungs, and applying some of this dilute oil to any surface lymph nodes will decrease lymphatic swelling by half, in just a few hours.

Using the pure essential oil in a humidifier, will improve both the upper and lower respiratory system significantly. If you combine this therapy with drinking the Yerba Mansa leaf tea or Yerba Mansa fresh root extract, you can treat stubborn sinus infections, and allergy type conditions.

To be continued ....

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