Yerba del manzo is a plant that grows throughout the southwestern United States in swamps and flood plains. The flowers resemble those of the unrelated coneflowers, such as Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera), and the foliage turns rust-red in the fall.
English: Swamp root, lizard tail
Spanish: Yerba del manzo, yerba mansa
Family: Saururaceae (lizard tail family)
Genus and species: Anemopsis californica
Yerba del manzo is a plant that grows throughout the southwestern United States in swamps and flood plains. The flowers resemble those of the unrelated coneflowers, such as Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera), and the foliage turns rust-red in the fall. Yerba del manzo forms stands due to spreading both by root division and by the formation of nodes on the leaves that will take root. The entire plant, but especially the root, is highly aromatic, smelling something like a combination of camphor and earthy swampiness.
This is an amazing medicinal herb with many properties that has been dubbed "goldenseal of the Southwest" because it has many similar uses as the expensive and endangered Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal). First of all, it is an astringent; astringents have the effect of binding proteins. In common terms this mean that astringents cool and tighten the tissues they contact and are useful for sore throats, blisters, sunburns, hemorrhoids and diaper rash (to name just a few).
But yerba del manzo does so much more. It is effective for irritated bowel and inflammation of the urinary bladder. Perhaps the most outstanding effect is that it reduces the "bogginess" that is present in conditions like sinusitis and soft tissue infections that are slow to resolve. It helps get fluids moving in tissues that are "swamped" and congested, so that the swelling is reduced, while supporting recovery from infection.
Yerba del manzo is my favorite herb to use for sinus problems and works especially well when combined with Coleus forskohlii and cubeb berries.
One teaspoon of the root of yerba del manzo can be boiled for tea and drunk for internal conditions or applied as a compress for external use.
Consult your health care practitioner about the use of herbs or supplements, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
Rob Hawley is an herbalist and co-owner of Taos Herb Company. For information, call (575) 758-1991 or go to taosherb.com.
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