The spectacular yellow blooms which turn canyon shelves from red to golden yellow are unmistakably those of Incienso, Encelia farinose, the Brittlebush. In Grand Canyon, it grows on rocky slopes below 3,000 feet, from river mile 40 to Lake Mead. It is quite common and abundant in both the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. A member of the Sunflower family, it has gray-green leaves and flower stems which rise above the low growing branches.
One of the amazing parts of this plant is the gum, which was highly prized as an incense by the Catholic priests in Mexico, and is still used to this day in Northern Mexico. No wonder the Spanish name for this plant is Incienso. It is also widely used as a tea for arthritis pain.
The leaves and gum both have a numbing effect which explains its use for tooth, gum and throat pain by Native Americans. A salve from the gum has been used to relieve body aches and lung congestion as well.
Modern-day tribes use the whole plant as a dye for baskets and fabric. They also chew the fresh leaves and apply the pulp to insect bites for relief of itching and inflammation. The tea will help break a fever in colds and flus.
DeeAnn Tracy