Larrea tridentata, chaparral.

Michael Moore, Oct 1994, afh

Date: Wed, 12 Oct 1994 13:19:54 -0600 (MDT)
From: Michael Moore <hrbmoore.RT66.COM>
Subject: Re: Chaparral
To: Multiple recipients of list HERB <>

> Does anyone have any experience with Chapperal? I have probably spelled that wrong, but I know it is an herb found in desert regions, out west here in the US as my understanding is that Indians did use it. I think it is a bush, more or less. I have read stories of how it works against cancer.

Chaparral (Larrea tridentata) is a madly successful allelopathic shrub from the Southwest part of the U.S., northern Mexico and (in a slightly varied form) western South America. Because of its slow growth, strategies for surviving little or no rainfall and even being moderately freeze-resistant, it has individuals in the Imperial Valley in California that have been carbon-dated to 11,500 years old. That makes it the oldest living organism (outside of a slime mold in Turkistan named Fred...another story) on the planet.

It has a long history of multicultural herb usage, among which is cancer. There HAS been some serious examination and biologic studies done on the plant: it seems to help simple skin cancer and some forms of pre-cancerous oral leucoplakia, but it has also been shown to AGGRAVATE some other neoplasias...I would leave it alone for cancer therapy. It is a physiologically active anti-oxidant, and may inhibit a few types of neoplasias, but it will also, in larger and extensive doses, inhibit the rate of combustion of the hot-burning granulocytes of innate immunity, thereby acting as an immunosuppressant and derailing, at least in early conditions, the wholistic approach of trying to jump-start resistance to rogue cells that seem to have bypassed a compromised immune system.

No advertisement here, but there is a faily lengthy monograph on Larrea in my book MEDICINAL PLANTS OF THE DESERT AND CANYON WEST, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, 1989. Otherwise, here is an outline I pulled from my database:

LARREA (Chaparral, Gobernadora, Creosote Bush)

Plant Part............ Leafing Branches

Tincture........... [1:5, 75% alcohol]
Dosage........... 20-60 drops
Capsules........... #00
Dosage........... 2-4 a day
Strong Decoction
Dosage........... For topical use

Arthritis, allergies and hypersensitive, auto-immune type conditions, where stress, diet aggravate notably.
Is an anti-oxidant (contains NDGA); can cause short term hemolysis-like symptoms from its effects on liver, spleen functions and is not reasonable for overt pathologies.
Chronic biliousness with symptoms of autointoxication, sluggish liver catabolism.
Dyspepsia, aggravated by fats and proteins.
Nausea in morning, after fatty breakfast.
Steatorrhea with ileocecal irritability.
Vomiting, from fats, pastry abuse.
Eczema, with chronic poor fat digestion, dry skin.
As a bath in arthritis.
Leukorrhea, supportive to local itching and pain (with Anemopsis (Yerba Mansa) as a sitz bath).
Blood serum levels: SGOT, SGPT elevations with elevated bilirubin, no active hepatitis.
Nutritional malabsorption in conjunction with lipotropic therapies.
Cancer, supportive in skin cancers (externally).
Hangover, liverish, dark circles under eyes.

As far as it not being available in the health food industry...a bunch of WEANIES! Two cases of liver damage (true...they were VERY bad reactions), that were not directly traced to was only a co-factor) no supportive implications in ANY literature (ours or theirs) to indicate why, no direct request from the FDA to withdraw anything, but the industry did a Duck and Cover drill and "voluntarily" withdrew Larrea (Chaparral) from the shelves ("seee? we's good guys"). Do you think Dr. Kessler gave a shit? There are THOUSANDS of complaints to the FDA every year about Nutrasweet AND Prozac alone, and the tobacco industry attack has gotten LOTS more press and has more clout within the swinging-dick "My bureau is bigger than your bureau" power poltics of Washington. That is not to denigrate the need to accept herbal toxicology; there is little question of the potential liver damage from the high alkaloid content that has emerged from the recent Comfrey hybrids that were developed for warm-weather cultivation to supply increased commercial demands. It's just that several cases of iatrogenesis that related to Chaparral, without any mechanism known or ethnomedical history to implicate, is not enough to warrant the industry's reaction.

Chaparral is actually a term used in botany and range management to describe a plant ecology made of dominant shrubs that are widely spaced, semi-drought resistant, and either aromatic or with sophisticated strategies for preventing evaporation during the day. Why Larrea got this Chaparral name is beyond me, although Dr. John Christopher might have been able to answer, since he knew some of the folks that brought Larrea into the fledgling health-food industry as Chaparral. HIS Larrea cure-all he called Cinema Tablets (marketed between 1965-75 I believe).

Michael Moore