Manzanita Tree Medicine

Arctostaphylos Manzanita is in the family of the Ericaceae. Various names are Greenleaf manzanita; Big berry plant (Navajo); Big Manzanita, Mariposa Manzanita, Whiteleaf Manzanita; Madroño Borracho, Pinguica. They grow along in California, Nevada and Oregon up to the west slopes of the Sierras into the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains. In some areas they are large trees and some are like shrubs, all have a beautiful smooth, matte-finished red bark and a light to medium sage colored evergreen leaves.

Leaves are smooth, wide, dull green and thick as leather. The flowers bloom in little nodding clusters and are pinkish and urn shaped, maturing into red, tart, mealy berries with from 4-10 seeds. It is hardy to zone 8 and has green leaves all year. Flowers from late February to April. The flowers are hermaphrodite and are pollinated by bees. The
plant is self-fertile.

Harvest the berries when just ripened and not yet mealy, the leaves at any time, although strongest directly after flowering. Left whole and protected from light, the leaves are good for two or three years.

Manzanita Herbal Treatments

  • Poison Oak: Manzanita berries are made into a tea and applied as a lotion for relief from poison oak;
  • Dropsy, Bronchitis and Colds: A mixture of both the leaves and the berries used for relief from dropsy, bronchitis and sever colds. Some herbalists say that this tonic is too strong to be taken internally.
  • Stomach Problems: A tea is made from the leaves of the Manzanita for stomach relief.
  • Rheumatism: A tea is made from the leaves of Manzanita for a bath to aid in Rheumatism (disease marked by inflammation and pain in the joints,  the muscles, or fibrous tissues, especially rheumatoid arthritis);
  • Headache: Manzanita leaves are boiled down into a yellowish-brown extract which is used as a wash to stop certain types of headaches. A tea is also made for the same purpose.
  • Sores: Chewed leaves of Manzanita and then applied as a thick pad produces a poultice on sores.
  • Kidney Inflamation: Teas help with some of the pain from kidney infections or pain.

Manzanita Leaves Flowering.jpg

In the lower Sierra areas, manzanita leaves were used by Native Americans as an antidote for the inflammation of Poison Oak by soaking the leaves and making a paste. The paste is then spread over the affected area and allowed to dry. The Concow tribes used the leaves as a poultice on wounds. The Shoshone tribe of southwestern Nevada called Manzantia Yahhewatum, and boiled the leaves and drank the tea for venereal disease.

Poultice: Stomachic
Medicinal uses are very similar to Uva Ursi as it is useful to work with mild urinary tract infections, bladder gravel, chronic kidney inflammations and water retention. It is specifically used for cystitis and urethritis that occur after food or alcohol (larger) consumption, with resultant alkaline urine.

The leaves also function as a mild vasoconstrictor for the uterus and can be drank as tea for painful and heavy menstruation or even some lower back pain from kidney irritation. The boiled tea is also excellent as a wash for abrasions, infections, contusions and burns and even as a mild soup. A poultice of the chewed leaves is applied to sores and headaches. The leaves are chewed as a treatment for stomach ache and cramps. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat severe colds and diarrhea. A cider made from the fruit is used in the treatment of stomach complaints and as an appetizer to create appetite.

One rounded teaspoon of the chopped leaves as a tea, and drunk two or three times a day. Liquid Tincture: 20-30 drops in water every 3 or 4 hours. A tablespoon in a pint of water makes a useful vaginal douche for vaginitis and can be combined with eucalyptus leaves and comfrey leaves for a douche in cervicitis and vaginitis, or as a sitz bath after childbirth.

Manzanita Tree.jpg
An astringent tea can be made by steeping the dried leaves in boiling water that are sometimes used as a laxative. The Haida Natives of the Pacific Northwest use it as a diuretic for kidney stones, kidney diseases and urinary tract infections.

Flower Essence
For those estranged from the groundedness of the earthly world and always focused on Universal things or things off planets such as new age aversion. Also helps remedy when one feels disgusted or revulsion towards their bodily self, embodiment, and or the pain of the physical world. Manzanita encourages involvement with the physical world, especially the body for people who have self image problems, self hate, anorexia, bulimia; and imparts the teaching that matter is dead or inferior only to the degree that it remains un-embraced by our consciousness or past life karma of suicide or self bondage.

Because of the tannin content, large frequent doses can cause intestinal irritation and never use if Pregnant. 

Navajo use the Greenleaf manzanta as an emetic used to treat stomach problems, bug and insect bites. Dinastsoh (greenleaf manzanita) is one of the many plants used as ceremonial emetics. It is also a ceremonial tobacco, smoked by itself or with other plants. Other Ritual Uses: The dried, crushed leaves can be added to herbal smoking mixtures. They taste best if you brown them lightly in a frying pan before adding them to the blend. The leaves have been widely smoked either with tobacco, other herbs or alone (never use with any form of marijuana). Kinnikinnick, is an Algonquin word for many tobacco substitutes, and is most frequently applied to this species of Manzanitta, which also had many medicinal uses.

The dense root crown found in the fire resistant species have been used for carving smoking pipes, much like brier wood. Some bushes or trees have sufficient wood for carving and woodworking. The grain varies from deep yellow to brick red and polishes beautifully. A yellowish-brown dye is obtained from the leaves, it does not require a mordant. The leaves can be boiled and the yellowish-red extract used as a cleansing body wash. The wood makes a fine fuel.

The berries make a pleasant, tart jelly, best when combined with apple juice. The ripe berries were often eaten fresh as well as dried and stored for later use. When dried, the berries were powdered and the small seeds extracted. A drink was to use the berries either fresh in summer or reconstituted with water in the off season. Seeds were often crushed and formed into small thin cakes that were baked in hot ashes or on stones that were heated with fires. The seeds, either whole or powdered, were also eaten raw.


Manzanita Jelly
2 quarts of ripe berries
1 ½ cups sugar per cup of juice
3 oz liquid pectin

Collect 2 quarts of fully ripened berries and wash thoroughly to remove the grime. Place into a saucepan, add 1 cup of cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture through a jelly bag. Recover and measure the juice, add 1 ½ cups of granulated sugar to each cup of fruit juice. Bring to a boil for 1 full minute, add 3 ounces of liquid pectin and boil for 2 full minutes. Skim off the umber colored foam, pour into hot, sterile jelly jars and seal (Wild Preserves)

Manzanita Cider

1 quart ripe berries
1 quart of cold water
Wash and stem 1 quart of fully ripened berries, place into a saucepan, add 1 quart of cold water, bring to a boil and simmer until berries soften. Crush with a potato masher and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain through a jelly bag. Recover the juice adding a little sugar if desired and serve chilled. (Wild Preserves).

Not recommended for children under 12 years old or Pregnant women. 
Vaginitis tea can be used as a douche for up to a week. It is not associated with any hallucinogenic plant or byproduct.  Limit consecutive uses to two weeks or less or if its seems there is irritation, then less than 3 days.

Manzanita Leaves.jpg

Flower Essence Repertory, Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz, The Flower Essence Society, 1994; ISBN: 0-9631306-1-7; Medicine from the Mountains, Kimball
Chatfield, Range of Light Publications, 1997; ISBN: 0-9658001-0-5. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Medicinal Plants Of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, 1st Edition, pages 102-103 (Manzanita), publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press ; copyright 1979 ISBN 0-89013-104-X. Nanise’: A Navajo Herbal, Vernon O Mayes and Barbara Bayless Lacy, Navajo Community College Press, 1989; ISBN: 0-912586-62-1. Wild Preserves, Joe Freitus, Stone Wall Press, 1977; ISBN: 0-913276-22-7. Herbalpedia™ The Herb Growing & Marketing Network, PO Box 245, Silver Spring, PA 17575-0245; 717-393-3295; FAX: 717-393-9261; email: Editor: Maureen Rogers. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Material herein is derived from journals, textbooks, etc. THGMN cannot be held responsible for the validity of the information contained in any reference noted herein, for the misuse of information or any adverse effects by use of any stated material

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Paula Cas says:

    Reblogged this on Paths I Walk and commented:
    I love this tree. It’s an all purpose tree with beautiful wood for woodworking and fragrant in campfires and bar-b-ques.


  2. Caroline says:

    Thank you for posting!


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