[Dixielandjazz] Thoughts on Yerba Buena

Stan Brager sbrager at socal.rr.com
Thu Oct 14 12:29:29 PDT 2004

The association of Yerba Buena as Marijuana came later in the 20th century.
However, it was only a slang term. On the other hand, when someone does use
the term... what are they really saying? Are they referring to the
historical plant, Lu Watters band, or marijuana? If they're tapping their
feet or humming a tune, perhaps thoughts of Lu Watters' great band is on
their mind. If they're dressed in a period costume, maybe it's the plant you
describe. Otherwise, take a look for redness in the whites of their eyes.

Stan Brager

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dan Augustine" <ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu>
To: "DJML" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2004 9:34 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Thoughts on Yerba Buena

> DJML and others--
>      Regarding the tribute ('tea') concert to Lu Watters in San
> Francisco on October 23rd, i started thinking again about the name of
> the band, Yerba Buena Jazz Band, so i did a little research.  I had
> always, in the back of my mind, suspected that 'yerba buena' was a
> reference to marijuana, but that is apparently not the case.
> However, one should not put it past some musicians to make such an
> inference, especially since marijuana is also referred to sometimes
> as 'tea'.
>     "In 1835, the first dwelling on the present site of San Francisco
>      was erected by Captain W. A. Richardson, an American who had been
>      appointed harbour-master by the then Mexican government.  It was
>      a modest canvas tent, a ship's foresail supported by four redwood
>      posts.  Captain Richardson named the settlement Yerba Buena,
>      meaning 'good herb or wild mint', the popular name of a fragrant
>      mint that grew in great profusion throughout the Bay region, and
>      from which Californians brewed tea.  Surrounded as it was on three
>      sides by water, swept each morning by the salt breezes and the
>      mists from the sea and covered in sunshine from the largely rain-
>      free skies, the settlement must have had something of the tang and
>      freshness of the wild mint which gave it its earliest name.  The
>      name of the settlement was changed to San Francisco in 1847."
>          (_Emperor Norton's Hunch_ by John Buchanan, Hambledon
>           Productions, Middle Dural, New South Wales, Australia, 1996)
>     "Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii, Lamiaceae) is a sprawling
>      aromatic herb of the western and northwestern United States,
>      western Canada and Alaska. Another local name for this plant is
>      Oregon tea, referring to its use as both a medicinal and
>      refreshing tea. Its name, an alternate form of hierba buena,
>      which means "good herb" was given it by the Spanish priests of
>      California.  San Francisco, California was named Nova Albion by
>      Sir Francis Drake, around 1780. On July 9, 1846, Captain John B.
>      Montgomery renamed it Yerba Buena after this plant. It was finally
>      renamed San Francisco, after Saint Francis of Assisi, on January 30,
>      1847."  "Synonyms: Satureja douglasii, Micromeria douglasii"
>          (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
>           http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerba_Buena)
> (It is interesting that both Captain W. A. Richardson and Captain
> John B. Montgomery are both given credit for naming the settlement
> Yerba Buena.)
>     "Described by Linnaeus in 1831 from collections made in the
>      Presidio by Chamisso around 1816, yerba buena is common and
>      widespread, being usually found in shady, moist places from
>      coastal bluffs to foothill woodlands."
>     "Yerba buena is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and one
>      of a group of plants commonly known as savory. The savories have
>      long been considered to have healing powers. Leaves of this
>      aromatic herb were used by native Americans and early settlers to
>      brew a pleasant tea to cure stomach ailments, for reducing fevers,
>      and for treating eye infections and colds. It is widely believed
>      to be an effective tonic for the digestive tract, as are many of
>      the mints, and to have antiseptic properties. Branches of the herb
>      were tossed on the fire to create an aromatic disinfectant.
>      Indigenous peoples wrapped the stems and leaves around their
>      heads to treat headache, and used it in skin washes to treat
>      rashes and prickly heat. Even today, because of its pungent
>      oils, it is commonly used in toothpaste and soaps.
>         Savories also have a reputation as aphrodisiacs. In the first
>      century A.D., the Roman naturalist and writer Pliny the Elder
>      gave the herb its name "Satureja," a derivative of the word
>      "satyr," the character from Greek mythology who was half-man,
>      half-goat, with an insatiable sexual appetite. According to lore,
>      the satyrs lived in meadows of savory, thus implying that it was
>      the herb that made them passionate. In more recent times, the
>      noted French herbalist Messeque claimed savory was an essential
>      ingredient in the love potions he made for couples."
>         (YERBA BUENA (Satureja douglasii) by Mike Wood,
>          http://www.cnps-yerbabuena.org/rare_yerba_buena.html
>      Buchanan also notes (page 59) that "Bob Helm had come up with the
> name Yerba Buena Jazz Band....".  And perhaps Helm knew that San
> Francisco was once named Yerba Buena, so that the band's name refers
> to the old name for the city, not to the plant.
>      Wouldn't it be nice, and appropriate, if the Lu Watters tribute
> included some Yerba Buena tea?
>      Dan
> -- 
> **--------------------------------------------------------------------**
> **  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
> **        "Luck is the residue of design."  --  Branch Rickey         **
> **--------------------------------------------------------------------**

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