Ocotillo: Desert Jewel - emsherbals

Ocotillo: Desert Jewel

October 02, 2020

ocotillo in habitat

Ocotillo: Desert Jewel

We’re always excited to learn about less common plant medicines, and to offer quality wild harvested herbs. And while our main focus continues to be herbs grown in or sourced from our zone, the Pacific Northwest region, valuable remedies can be found everywhere, naturally. We’ve highlighted harvests of Chaparral and Yerba Mansa in recent months, and recently we received a shipment of Ocotillo Bark link from the same experienced collector based in southern New Mexico.

Folks who live in or visit the US Southwest or Northern Mexico desert areas, especially the Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan Deserts, will surely have noticed the Ocotillo plant! In dry times (much of the year) it looks like a cluster of thorny dried-up sticks, reaching around nine feet in height, occasionally as much as thirty. When the miraculous spring and early summer rains come through, its spines sprout leaves, and bright red flowers may bloom.

Ocotillo flowers, flower nectar, and seeds have been part of the diet of native groups living in its habitat, and its bark, roots, and flowers have been used as medicine. Ocotillo Bark is used by herbalists to boost immunity for colds and sore throats, and as an expectorant for dry coughs. It has also been found helpful for stimulating lymph flow in a great many conditions where swelling and congestion are present, especially in and around the abdominal and pelvic areas: cardiovascular edema, hepatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis, PMS, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, cervical varicosities, prostate enlargement and BPH, orchitis, recurrent bladder infections, chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, impaired fat absorption, deficient libido, varicose leg veins, mononucleosis, and psoriasis. The bark is most often extracted as a tincture.

Reducing lymphatic congestion is a key element of effective detoxification and optimizing immune function. Fatigue, stress, infection, inactivity, trauma, and chronic dehydration can all lead to clogged lymph vessels, which in turn may result in a buildup of protein and fluids, impairing cellular function and overall energy and health. Ocotillo Bark is sometimes paired with Cleavers or Astragalus in formulas addressing these issues. Some herbalists also prescribe Ocotillo Bark as an emotional remedy for wounded or broken hearts.

The PubMed database—where a surprising amount of peer-reviewed research about many herbs can be found—offers nothing about Ocotillo, but searching there uncovers a number of studies that reference one of its constituents, a saponin called ocotillol. This compound was first extracted from Ocotillo, and closely related compounds, found in certain ginseng species, exert neuroprotective, anti-myocardial ischemia, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-tumor effects.

We’re pleased to be able to provide this safe, valuable, and hard-to-find herb for use in your healing practice or family wellness care, while supplies last!