Chaparral Herbal Medicine

The herbal medicine Chaparral (scientific name Larrea tridentata) is considered to be an old remedy for treating arthritis, cancer, allergies, stomach pain, wounds and menstrual cramps. It is also known by the names of creosote bush, dwarf evergreen oak, greasewood and jarillo. It takes its name from the area in which it grows the desert regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, known as the chaparral ecosystem. The main ingredient of chaparral is an effective antioxidant, nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA). The curative qualities found in the herb include analgesic, expectorant, emetic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory.

Used by Native Americans since the olden days, it is widely promoted in many health food stores now. For twentieth century herbalists, chaparral worked as an antibiotic and for treating intestinal parasites. But there is very few documented evidence to justify the positive uses of chaparral. In the early 1990s, reports of liver toxicity due to its intake appeared in various scientific documents. It was found the patients used powdered chaparral in the form of capsules thus ingesting its toxic constituents. In 2005 Health Canada warned consumers not to ingest the herb because of the risk of liver and kidney problems.

Again, as per information received from the University of Utah, quite a few people with cancer recovered to a large extent by drinking chaparral tea. Dr. Hugh H. Hogle of the University of Utah presented a paper discussing the use of chaparral tea in the treatment of cancer at a meeting of the Utah Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. Research found almost all of the cases involving liver and kidney problems either used the herb in the form of capsules or drank excessive amounts of tea.

A number of chemicals, gums and resins were isolated from the herb. Studies of its biological activity focused on one of its main components, NDGA, which is used widely in the food industry as a preservative. After various experiments by the National Cancer Institute, a report was published which stated that while chaparral tea was not an effective anti-cancer agent, it had some anti-tumor activity. But the report lacked clinical details and was inconclusive.

It has also been found that chaparral provides protection from the harmful effects of radiation. It has been used for soothing the pain of rheumatism, and as a mouthwash it helps fight cavities. Acne and eczema have been found to be cured by the herb. The herb is also supposed to eliminate the residue of LSD from the bloodstream and it has even been used as tonic for hair growth. However, more research still needs to be done to determine both the positive and negative effects of the herb.

Chaparral has not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs or foods. Medical practitioners suggest one should speak with a qualified doctor before starting the chaparral therapy. Any signs of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, unusual fatigue, loss of appetite, yellow skin or eyes, itching, dark urine, or clay colored stools should be reported to the doctor. Long-term use of chaparral is not recommended by doctors.