Chaparral 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 leaves and stems of this ancient plant are used as medicine.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
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1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
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In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs including chaparral have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.
People in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico have long used chaparral tea to help calm upset stomachs.
People in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico have long used chaparral tea to help calm upset stomachs. It is unclear into which of the above categories—if any—chaparral fits. This strong tasting tea was used only in small amounts. Modern research has not confirmed the usefulness of chaparral for indigestion, and there are serious concerns about the safety of improper internal use of this herb. Before taking chaparral, consult with a knowledgeable healthcare professional.
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Chaparral is an herb that directly attack microbes.
Chaparral has been historically used in some cultures as a way to detoxify and eliminate parasites.
In some cultures, it was customary to bathe in chaparral once per year to eliminate skin parasites and to detoxify; however, there is no modern research demonstrating the effectiveness of this use of chaparral.
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Chaparral has anti-inflammatory effects and has a long history of use in treating joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
Southwestern Native American and Hispanic herbalists have long recommended topical use of chaparral on joints affected by RA. The anti-inflammatory effects of chaparral found in test tube research suggests this practice might have value, though clinical trials have not yet investigated chaparral’s usefulness in people with RA. Chaparral should not be used internally for this purpose.
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Chaparral has been used topically to decrease inflammation, and pain, and promote healing of minor wounds.
Chaparral has been used topically to decrease inflammation, and pain, and promote healing of minor wounds.4 For topical use, cloths can be soaked in oil preparations or tea of chaparral and applied several times per day (with heat if helpful) over the affected area. Powdered chaparral can be applied directly to minor wounds, after they have been adequately cleansed.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Chaparral has been used for thousands of years by Native Americans for a variety of purposes. It has been employed primarily in tea form to help with cramping pains, joint pains, and allergic problems, as well as to eliminate parasites.1, 2 Externally it has been applied to reduce inflammation and pain, and to promote healing of minor wounds.3
How It Works
How It Works
The major lignan in chaparral, known as nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) is a potent antioxidant and was thought by some scientists to be a potential cancer treatment. In a rat study, NDGA and a leaf extract of a South American subspecies of chaparral were found to exert an antitumor effect.5 However, one report suggests that NDGA may stimulate further growth of tumors in cancer patients.6 Clinical trials, therefore, are still needed to establish whether chaparral is a safe and effective treatment for people with cancer.
Other reported effects for chaparral include anti-inflammatory properties7, 8 as well as antimicrobial actions in test tubes.9 These actions have note been established in human clinical trials
How to Use It
A tea can be prepared by steeping 1 teaspoon (approximately 5 grams) of leaves and flowers in 1 cup (250 ml) of hot water for ten to fifteen minutes.10 People should drink three cups per day for a maximum of two weeks unless under the care of a physician expert in the use of botanical medicines. Alternatively, 0.5–1 ml of tincture can be taken three times per day.11 Topically, cloths can be soaked in oil preparations or tea of chaparral and applied several times per day (with heat if helpful) over the affected area. Capsules of chaparral should be avoided.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
There have been sporadic reports of people developing liver or kidney problems after taking chaparral, particularly in capsules.12 Almost all of these cases involved either the use of capsules or excessive amounts of tea. Some of these cases were people with established liver disease prior to using the herb. Tea and tincture of chaparral have an extremely strong taste considered disagreeable by most people, which restricts the amount they can tolerate before feeling nauseous. Capsules bypass this protective mechanism and should therefore be avoided. Since human studies have shown that large amounts of chaparral tea and injections of NDGA in people with cancer do not cause liver or kidney problems,13 it is likely the cases of toxicity represented individual reactions.14
1. Brinker F. Larrea tridentata (D.C.) Coville (chaparral or creosote bush). Br J Phytother 1993/1994;3:10-31 [review].
2. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989, 27-9.
3. Kay MA. Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996, 178-81.
4. Kay MA. Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996, 178-81.
5. Birkenfeld S, Zaltsman YA, Krispin M, et al. Antitumor effects of inhibitors of arachadonic acid cascade on experimentally induced intestinal tumors. Dis Colon Rectum 1987;30:43-6.
6. Smart CR, Hogle CR, Vogel H, et al. Clinical experience with nordihydroguaiaretic acid—”chapparel tea” [sic] in the treatment of cancer. Rocky Mtn Med J 1970;67:39-43.
7. Bokoch G, Reed P. Evidence for inhibition of leukotriene A4 synthesis by 5,8,11,14-eicosatetraynoic acid in guinea pig polymorphonuclear leukocytes. J Biol Chem 1981;256:4156.
8. Salari H, Braquet P, Borgeat P. Comparative effects of indomethacin, acetylenic acids, 15-HETE, nordihydroguaiaretic acid and BW755C on the metabolism of arachidonic acid in human leukocytes and platelets. Prostaglan Leukot Med 1984;13:53-60.
9. Calzado-Flores C, Segura-Luna JJ, Guajardo-Touche EM. Effects of chaparrin, nordihydroguaiaretic acid and their structural analogues on Entamoeba histolytica cultures. Proc West Pharmacol Soc 1995;38:105-6.
10. Kay MA. Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996, 178-81.
11. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989, 27-9.
12. Sheikh NM, Philen RM, Love LA. Chaparral-associated hepatotoxicity. Arch Int Med 1997;157:913-9.
13. Smart CR, Hogle CR, Vogel H, et al. Clinical experience with nordihydroguaiaretic acid—”chapparel tea” [sic] in the treatment of cancer. Rocky Mtn Med J 1970;67:39-43.
14. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 67.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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