Friday, July 3, 2009

California Native Medicinal Plants

So two weeks ago I took a class on California Native Medicinal plants at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek taught by Tellur Fenner. An interesting class, just some bare bone basics, but we did learn how to use a few things.

One of the most surprising for me was making a cold infusion out of Fremontodendron californicum, also known as flannelbush.
Cold infusions are made by soaking something suspended in cheese cloth or muslin overnight, usually 1oz of an herb in 32oz of water.

Fremontodendron forms a mucous-like substance when soaked in cold water, which is good for coating the throat or esophagus, in other words for sore throats. We used the flowers, leaves and outer bark all dried and crushed or cut very small. You can use all three parts in combination or any of them individually. He said it was used similarly to slippery elm for those in other parts of the country.

I have to say as a gardener I don't really like this plant. Don't get me wrong, the plant is really beautiful, but I'm pretty sensitive to the little hairs on the leaves which make my skin itch and burn. It's very popular here in the Bay Area and people always seem to want me to prune one, or take it out or otherwise put myself in the middle of it. Fair enough, I suppose since they're paying me. And now that I know it can be used practically for sore throats I can appreciate again. If you are sensitive Tellur Fenner recommended straining it well, or I figure I can just use the flowers and bark.


  1. I've never really has a problem with the hairs. The only one I ever planted is kept pruned by the deer. Maybe the have soar throats.
    I have respect for the first person who ever tried the tea. "I wonder how this rash-inducing plant would taste..."

  2. Interesting info! I planted a Fremontia early this year and am not particularly sensitive to the hairs. It's a long way from the house (not in the "defensible zone" - and I'm not going to manicure it! I just hope it grows.

  3. Thanks for the info. I planted 3 that I got at the end of a CNPS - SG Mts. Chapter plant sale for a very good price. They are quite large now and I really like them. I keep preparing myself and my husband for their rapid demise since I have loamy soil and they are not that far from a patch of lawn.

    Next time I get a sore throat I am going to give them a try.