LEMON SCURF PEA (Psorilidium lanceolatum)

By Clare Licher

This beautiful, delicate looking plant is actually a strong survivor.  It grows well in the sandy soils of dry washes and flood plains, and it’s range is throughout the Intermountain West.  In Arizona, it is found on the Colorado Plateau, with strong   populations are near the Utah border and in the Flagstaff area.

The leaves have a lemony aroma and oily feel, which is what inspired us to try the distillation. The distillation lasted about 5 hours, and the yield was quite low (.11%), but this did not deter our enthusiasm, as this is quite possibly the first and only distillation of this plant ever done!  The essential oil has a beautiful, lemony, slightly pungent aroma.  As the aroma dissipates, it gives way to a soft lemony sweetness.

Lemon Scurf Pea appears to have been overlooked in modern herbal usage.  I have not found reference to its current medicinal use in any of the recent herbal books in our library, nor on the internet. It has an edible root, and there was much traditional use of the entire plant.  Native peoples rubbed the fresh leaves on their skin for dryness, and applied lotions and poultices on sores and itchy skin.  The fresh leaves and roots were chewed for sore throat and hoarseness.  Infusions were used for headaches, stomach aches and menstrual pains, and the root was used in compound decoctions for venereal disease.  The Cheyenne and Navajo Ramah also used it as a ceremonial medicine.

There is no specific mention of toxicity for this species, but some members of the Fabaceae (Pea) family can cause photosensitivity in some people.  It is therefore best to use this oil with caution.  We have just begun researching this essential oil and will have more to say regarding it’s chemistry and our experiences in the future.  We have just a few 2 ml. bottles available ($20, includes shipping).  Please call or e-mail us!



Moerman, Daniel E.  Native American Medicinal Plants,
An Ethnobotanical Dictionary  2009 Timber Press
Plants For A Future