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What is chaparral? What is it used for?

Chapparal is the name given to a bush that grows in the desert regions of the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The bush consists of long, thin stems with green leaves and yellow flowers. The leaves and flowers are used medicinally.

The major active ingredient in chaparral is nordihydroguaiaretic acid, a potent anti-inflammatory. Chaparral also contains several flavonoids and antioxidants, which help strengthen immunity and reduce cellular damage due to oxidation.

Chaparral has been used for thousands of years for a variety of purposes. Taken internally as a tea, it may relieve intestinal cramps, joint pains and parasites. Externally, it is used to reduce inflammation and pain and heal minor wounds.

How much chaparral should I take?

Many herbalists recommend taking one teaspoon of chaparral flowers and leaves and steeping it in one cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes. People should drink three cups a day for a maximum of two weeks unless otherwise directed. Patients can also take a chaparral tincture (0.5-1.0ml).

What forms of chaparral are available?

Dried chaparral leaves and flowers are available at many specialty food stores. Many nutritional stores also sell chaparral tinctures or powders. Chaparral capsules are also available, but they should be avoided.

What can happen if I take too much chaparral? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

There have been some reports of patients developing liver or kidney problems after taking chaparral; however, most of these cases involved either the use of chaparral capsules or excessive amounts of tea, or use of the herb by patients with pre-existing liver disease.

Chaparral should not be taken internally for more than two week’s unless under the supervision of a health practitioner. It should be avoided by women who are pregnant or lactating. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with chaparral.

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• Brinker F. Larrea tridentata (D.C.) coville (chaparral or creosote bush). Br J Phytother 1993/1994; 3(1):10—31.
• 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.
• Kay MA. Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996, 178—81.
• McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 67.
• Sheikh NM, Philen RM, Love LA. Chaparral-associated hepatotoxicity. Arch Int Med 1997;157:913—9.


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