|Yerba Mansa: photo by Cliff Hutson|
Anemopsis californica, is also known as yerba mansa and lizard tail. Yerba, is Spanish for herb. Some say that mansa is the feminine form of the Spanish word manso meaning tame, tranquil or calm. But, as the plant has none of these effects, the best translation is probably “soft herb”. The common name Lizard Tail derives from its family name - Saururaceae. It is the only member of that family native to California.
What looks like a flower is actually a succession of bracts which sit below a petal-less flower with six stamens and an inconspicuous pistil.
The plant flourishes in very wet soil or shallow water. Thus, today, it is much used as an excellent plant for water features in home landscaping. It can be planted in the water or along moist edges and will trail down along rock faces or fountain edges.
However, it may be said that it better known for its medicinal uses. Native peoples from the coastal Chumash to the desert Shoshone have used yerba mansa as an anesthetic and antiseptic for a very long time. Its dried roots, ground into a powder, are used to relieve sore throats Yerba mansa is used as an antimicrobial, an antibacterial, and to treat vaginal candidiasis. It has been used to treat colds, coughs, asthma, kidney problems, and venereal disease.
NOTE: This article is an examination of traditional medicinal use of a plant. It is intended for cultural and environmental education purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.