Salal | Gaultheria shallon

Family: Ericaceae

Parts Used: Fruit & Leaf

Appearance: Salal is a creeping to erect shrub that grows from 0.2 to 3 meters tall. It is an evergreen plant with 2-4 inches long thick and leathery oval leaves that are shiny dark green on top and a rough lighter green underneath, with a pronounced central vein. The leaves are alternate and zigzag off the red-mealy barked stems (although older plants tend to straighten out and lose the zigzag formation). The flowers are pink-white urns that cluster off the sides of the terminal stems and turn into succulent sweet purple-black berries in late summer. Salal can be found growing along the coast and coastal mountains from Santa Cruz to Alaska.

Harvesting Methods: It is best to gather the young, reddish, zigzag branches from late spring to mid-fall. Bundle them and hang them to dry in a dark and well ventilated area. The berries should be collected in early to mid-fall, when fully matured. The leaves are good for several years and the whole berries (dried or in cakes) last until the next season.

Medicinal Uses: The tea is used as an astringent and anti-inflammatory for sore throats and indigestion, and has been shown to reduce inflammation in the urinary tract, sinuses and lungs as well. The tea is helpful for scratchy, irritated coughs from allergies or dusty, dry air that provokes a low-level wheezing in the throat and lungs. The tea is also helpful for colic and gas pains from food hypersensitivities in children and diarrhea and gastritis in adults. The tea and powdered herb can also be used as an effective first aid treatment of scrapes, burns and insect bites. The berries are very high in flavonoids, and can be used as a free, nutritional therapy for strengthening capillaries.

Preparation: Visit the ‘Medicine Making’ page for more details

  • A simple tea of 5 or 6 crushed leaves is the easiest media for medicine

  • Powdered leaves can be applied topically as needed or mixed with water for a short-term poultice

  • he berries can be enjoyed fresh or dried in cakes for their high vitamin content. The dried cakes are made by pouring fresh berries into a cardboard box covered in a layer of salad leaves, mash them semi flat and dry as is.

Cautions: Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure Salal is safe for you.

Make Your Own Natural Medicine

Making your own medicine is a very empowering experience. Learn how to make your own medicinal teas, tinctures, salves, oils, poultices and compresses so you can heal yourself.