Chaparral, Larrea tridentata; (Zygophyllaceae)
Chaparral, Larrea tridentata; (Zygophyllaceae)
THE GOVERNOR'S HERB
Larrea Tridentata is the Latin name used to describe one of the best non-toxic blood purifiers on the face of the earth today, Chaparral. There are also two other forms of the Latin or botanical name, Larrea Mexicans, according to Nickel's Ready Reference, and Larrea Divaricata, according to the label on a bottle of chaparral tablets put out by a local herb company. Chaparral is also called by the common name, “creosote bush”, for the leaves possess a characteristic sticky substance: the gummy resin which covers the face of the leaves. The word “creosote” is derived from the Greek stem words “kres” meaning flesh and “zoto” meaning “I preserve”. Other names for the plant include greasewood, chaparro, and dwarf evergreen. The Mexicans refer to chaparral as gobernadora or “the governess” alluding to its healing powers. There is also another Mexican name, Encinilla.
It is very curious that chaparral is not more universally used because it does grow in great abundance in the and regions of the world and is a remarkable healer. When one looks into European or British herbals, for example, chaparral is notably absent. The main body of evidence for the effectiveness of chaparral comes from the North and South American continents; so it is in these places where we will concentrate. There is also some documentation from UNESCO that chaparral has been recognized in Africa. One of the most interesting stories of chaparral comes from our own home state, Utah. It involves an Indian cure, the American Medical Association at the University of Utah, and an old man who refused to have another surgical operation for cancer because of his age. We will come to that story later. First, lets go into the botanical description of Chaparral so that if you are in the field, you will know to unmistakably recognize the plant. Harvesting and storage instructions will follow the botany.
THE BOTANY OF CHAPARRAL
Chaparral is a dicot belonging to the Caltrop family, Zygophyllaceae. These are woody plants or shrubs with opposite pinnately compound leaves having a single pair of leaflets attached directly to the base of the twig. These evergreen shrubs stand from 3 to 6 or more feet in height. Chaparral possesses solitary, yellow flowers with 5 sepals which fall off prematurely and 5 petals about 6 to 8 mm in length. There are 10 stamens, a 5-celled ovary with an almost globular fruit that separates into 5 nutlets. Chaparral grows extensively in desert areas and is abundant in the Southwestern U.S. After a rain, the desert exudes a distinctive acrid odor from the chaparral plants which is fragrant to some and unpleasant to others. Larrea or chaparral covers thousands of square miles of desertland.
Chaparral has been used for livestock feed (after the resins are removed), as a medicinal herb, as firewood, and in the creation of adobe roofs in Argentina.
Some botanical evidence suggests that the ancestor of the North American Chaparral plant originally came from South America. They claim that the distinctive features of Larrea Tridentata, as it is known in this country today, were probably formed during the transition from the late Wisconsin glacial period to the recent epoch. At that time, a dry climate replaced the woodlands with a desert environment, making it possible for chaparral to flourish. Other paleobotanists say that the North American variety of chaparral originated in North America millions of years ago and was later dispersed to South America where it underwent adaptations to that environment.
HARVESTING AND STORAGE INFORMATION
Chaparral should be harvested in dry weather before the plant has flowered so that the highest concentration of active ingredients will be present in the leaves. It would be advisable to collect chaparral at anytime, however, in the event that you are in chaparral territory after the plant has flowered. Collection is best undertaken at midday, when the chemical activity of the plant is the highest. Chaparral can be dried in a warm, shady place, or in artificial heat under 130 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the simplest methods of drying the herb is to collect the leaves, put them into a large paper sack and then put the sack into a dry place for a few days. Once the herb has dried, it may be placed into a plastic bag and tied with a wire tie. If the herb is to be stored for a longer period of time, you may wish to store it in an airtight glass jar or an airtight can. Always keep the containers in a cool, dark place. If extremely long-term storage is desired, the containers may be sealed with melted paraffin wax around the opening of the lid.
If you would like to store chaparral in a more concentrated form a tincture of the herb is suggested. Unlike many of the other herbs which are tinctured into grain alcohol, chaparral best lends its properties to apple cider vinegar. Simply put one ounce of dried chaparral into one pint of apple cider vinegar.
CHEMISTRY OF CHAPARRAL
Chaparral contains a sticky resin on the leaves which is often called `natural creosote.' Its antiseptic properties are similar to those of turpentine. This substance can penetrate into the walls of muscles and tissues in order to relieve stiffness and pain. There are many people who have suffered arthritis and rheumatism and have been relieved over the centuries through the use of chaparral. Of course, we always recommend the occasional 3-day cleansing procedure and the mucusless diet along with distilled water on any herbal program.
Saponins, with their detergent-like cleansing action are also present in chaparral.
Chaparral contains no alkaloids. It is completely non-toxic. It additionally contains gums, resins, esters, acids, alcohol, sterol, sucrose, and volatile oils. Chaparral herb contains nearly as much protein as alfalfa, according to the New Mexico Agricultural Experimental Station. Sodium and potassium are also present in the herb in a considerable amount.
We analyzed a sample of chaparral for its chemical contents. The sample was taken from the stock of The Herb Shop. Here is a list of our findings:
Carbohydrate 2 7.2%
Manganese 12.0 mg/lb
Copper 2.0 mg/lb
Nor-dihydro-xyguaiaretic acid 6.8%
Volatile oils 0.37%
2, methyl 1, 4 naphthoquinone
Chaparral contains a phenolic compound, nordihydroguariaretic acid (known as NDGA for short). It is found on the external surfaces of the leaves and stems in all the species of Larrea. NDGA has many uses in industry. It is an antioxidant for foods, especially fats, oils and vitamin A. It stabilizes polymers, lubricants, rubber, perfumery oils and olive husks. It is useful in photography as a developer. NDGA prevents metals from rusting.
NDGA is effective against molds, salmonella and penicillium. There is documentation that NDGA inhibits tumor cell activity in mice and men. This includes leukemia type of tumors. In the mice experiments, NDGA combined with Vitamin C was more successful than when used alone. NDGA has been shown to have analgesic (pain relieving) and vasodepressant properties. Experiments on hamsters demonstrated that NDGA somehow inhibited tooth decay and increased the life span of the animals. NDGA is used also in alcoholism treatment, liver disorders and geriatrics.
Following the results of a recent rat study, NDGA was removed from the FDA'S GRAS(generally recognized as safe) list. Drs. Smart, Hogle, and others cite evidence that “NDGA has been administered intramuscularly to humans in doses up to 400 mg/kg of body weight daily for periods as long as 5-6 months with little evidence of toxicity.” The rat study concluded that when rats were fed NDGA as 3% of their diet, they developed multiple cysts in the kidneys. Here is another example of not using NDGA in its wholesome state in the chaparral plant. It is completely invalid to compare a synthesized version of NDGA to chaparral in its wholesome state. One of the most amazing discoveries about chaparral we noted is that it contains a tremendous amount of Manganese, copper, and zinc. These are organic, living, readily assimilable minerals---not the deadly inorganic type that you can purchase in tablets at the local vitamin store. While the inorganic minerals may have an immediate reaction on the human system, they only serve to mask the problem while temporarily alleviating the symptoms. These inorganics are only a crutch which will lead to greater problems later as organs are weakened from the deadly residue they leave behind. The organic forms of minerals found in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds (this list includes the herbs) are the only type of minerals we need in our bodies. It is true that we have repeated this principle many times. We wish to get the point across that people can use organic minerals while only plant life can utilize the inorganics. Even though we have presented the facts again and again, we still see folks eating rock tablets for calcium supplements and heavy metals for the rest of their minerals. Once they understand the truth of the matter, they will stop doing damage to their bodies.
We mentioned that chaparral contains manganese, copper and zinc in considerable amounts. The mineral manganese is necessary for the strength of the tissues, muscles, bones, heart lining, blood vessels, urinary tract, nerves, brain cells and eyes, helping iron to carry oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body. Manganese is functional in aiding weight loss. It is also good for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Manganese is essential in blood and urea formation. A severe deficiency results in growth failure, bone deformities, poor balance, myasthenia gravis and lupus. Other symptoms include laziness, sterility, marital weakness, undulant fever, anemia, asthma, bronchitis, colds, sinus troubles, excess mucus, brittle nails, goiter, sciatica, prostate enlargement, T.B., and reproductive problems.
Copper is found in all the tissues of the human body. It works together with iron to form hemoglobin. The body can use Vitamin C more easily if copper is present, and copper, along with Vitamin C helps to form elastin, the main component of elastic muscle fiber.
The growth and restoration of the nerve sheath is due in part to copper. Respiration in tissues is increased by copper. If you don't have enough copper in the diet, you may suffer from poor respiration. A copper deficiency manifests as general weakness, slow healing, greying hair, loss of hair, low blood pressure, disorders of the liver and gall bladder, splenic weakness, acne, eczema, anemia, bronchitis, colds, sinus trouble, nervousness, excessive mucus, rheumatism, neuritis, neuralgia, prostate enlargement and other reproductive difficulties, TB, heart damage, porous bones and other skeletal defects, poor iron utilization, and retarded growth.
The element zinc is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of the reproductive system. Although zinc is found in most organs of the body, the highest concentrations are found in the liver, pancreas, kidneys, sperm, the reproductive organs, and the thyroid gland. Zinc is essential for tissue respiration (transporting carbon dioxide from tissues to the blood), and insulin formation. Zinc intake should be increased if there is a high intake of calcium and phytic acid (a substance found in certain grains), because the aforementioned two elements somewhat prevent the absorption of zinc by the body. Zinc helps maintain the body's acid-alkaline balance. It aids digestion, including the absorption of B Vitamins. The normal activity of the entire hormonal system depends on the presence of enough zinc in the diet. We also need zinc to metabolize phosphorus and synthesize protein and nucleic acid. In a youngster, normal growth and sexual maturity cannot proceed without sufficient zinc. If you are having muscle cramps, slow healing of wounds, poor absorption in the small intestine, or prostate gland disorders, you may have a zinc deficiency.
Chaparral is a great way to obtain manganese, copper and zinc in a concentrated form. When the Creator ordained herbs for the use of man, it was to eliminate unnecessary guesswork and laboratory work with regard to the needs of the human body.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE USE OF CHAPARRAL AS A MEDICINAL PLANT
The Indians and early settlers of the American West used the flowering tops of the creosote bush for a palatable drink. Some people thought of chaparral as a good coffee substitute.
The Piutes had many uses for the creosote bush. They used an infusion of the leaves externally as an anti-rheumatic. They made a salve out of a decoction of the leaves and other ingredients as a burn dressing. A simple decoction of the leaves was used as a cold remedy, a dermatological aid, and bowel cramps. Dried, powdered chaparral leaves were sprinkled on sores. An infusion of the leaves was used as an external wash for chicken pox. The plant was also a very valuable venereal aid.
THE NATIVE'S CHOICE
The Shoshone of the Great Basin used the decoction of the herb as a cold remedy, a diuretic, and a venereal aid.
The Papago Indians used a decoction of the leaves as an emetic, a gynecological aid (a decoction of the leaves was rubbed on the breasts to start the flow of milk in nursing mothers.) They often took the dried and powdered leaves and put them on a newborn infant's navel to promote healing. The Papagos also considered chaparral a universal remedy for stiff limbs, sores, bites and menstrual cramps.
Here is the Papago version of the Noah's Ark story as told by Douglas Rigby:
This bush has also been an indispensable aid to the Indian gods, wherefore Heaven as well as the desert exalt the creosote.
Once, for example, when the world was young, creosote bush stood by to save the life of Itoy, most beloved deity of Papagoland. When the great Flood was about to engulf the earth, the old Papagos gravely say, not even the gods were immune to the dangers, but they had been forewarned. Itoy, known to the Papagos as Elder Brother, realized that the waters would rise above the highest mountains, on one of which was his home. This knowing disturbed him not, for after all his land was also the land of the creosote bush. He had only to make a floating cask from its thick, black gum, climb into it, and all would be well.
Itoy built his cask and added a lid also of creosote gum for extra protection, in case of rough weather. Then he climbed in. The flood came, and before the waters receded, four times around the world Itoy sailed in his wonderful creosote gum boat. At last the faithful bark deposited him upon one of the two peaks of Pinacate mountain, and Elder Brother was none the worse for wear, just a little hungry, and a trifle thin.~~
The Pima relied on chaparral when they needed an emetic to cleanse the stomach. The resourceful Pima sometimes heated creosote bush branch tips to obtain the healing sap which they dropped into the cavity of an aching tooth.
The Coahuilla Indians of the area which is now Palm Springs, California, called chaparral a-tu-kul and drank the steeped leaves for bowel complaints and consumption. It is well to note that the scope of native pathology included bowel and stomach complaints, coughs, colds, milk fevers, sore eyes from the smoke and the sweat house, sprains, muscular soreness, injury and occasional rheumatism. After white contact they added more diseases to the short list. Tuberculosis served to remove the entire families of children from the native population. Measles, whooping cough, and smallpox were also introduced. Venereal disease was unknown to the Coahuilla population because they did not trust white men enough to get close enough to them to contract the vile disease. The Coahuilla people also gave chaparral to their horses that were suffering from distemper, colds, and running at the nose.
Chaparral was an official medicament in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1842 through 1942 and was listed as an expectorant and a pulmonary antiseptic.
J. Heironymus' writings about the plants of Argentina in 1882 stated that Chaparral was used as a medicinal plant. Another botanist concerned with Argentina's flora mentioned medicinal properties for chaparral in 1903. In Chile and Argentina, chaparral is still used as an excitant, vulnerary, emmenagogue, and digestive aid. Crushed or cooked chaparral leaves are put on tumors.
Chaparral is a blood purifier, anti-arthritic, intestinal cleanser, liver stimulant, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant and tonic.
The herb is used in rheumatism, venereal nodes and canker sores (when combined with sarsaparilla). It aids in reducing the size of and eliminating growths and malignant tumors, malignant melanomas, acne, and skin cancers, chronic backache, warts and blotches, cancer, and arthritis. Chaparral increases hair growth, improves eyesight and increases bowel elimination although it is not a laxative. Chaparral definitely is indicated in kidney infections, leukemia, prostate gland disorders, skin cancer, sinus problems, stomach disorders, throat ailments, bronchial an pulmonary affections, leg cramps, boils and obesity. The herb converts fermentation processes seemingly out of balance, and makes a good poultice to us for chest and body pains.
J.C. Th. Uphof, in his 1968 publication, DICTIONARY OF ECONOMIC PLANTS, states that the twigs and leaves of Larrea Mexicana are steeped in boiling water and then used as an antiseptic lotion. It is used for the sores of men and domestic animals. The flower buds are often pickled in vinegar and eaten as capers. In Mexico the plant is considered a healing aid for rheumatism. A decoction of the leaves is put into baths and fomentations.
CANCER RESEARCH AND CHAPARRAL
Most of the cancer research with chaparral has been done at the Universities of Nevada at Reno and Utah at Salt Lake City. (This does not include our success with hundreds of patients throughout the years). There is a well-known study by Dr. C. R. Smart, Dr. H. H. Hogle and others from the University of Utah College of Medicine Department of Surgery and College of Pharmacy at Salt Lake City. It involves an 85 year old man who had a recurring malignant melanoma (dark, cancerous skin growth) on his right cheek. The growth was associated with satellites of the original melanoma and a large tender mass in the right jaw and neck area. The man had lost much weight and was pale, weak, and lethargic. He had previously undergone three surgeries for removal of the melanoma and each time the mole grew back and increased in size. The fourth time the black mass of tissue measured about 3x4 cm, and the neck mass was about 5x7 cm. Surgery was again advised. The old man refused being repeatedly sacrificed to the same surgical specialist, declined any further treatment and went home. This was in October, 1967. In November of the same year, he began to take 2-3 cups of chaparral tea daily and faithfully on the advice of an Indian friend. By February, 1968, the cancerous growth had shrunk to 2 or 3 mm in diameter while the neck mass was entirely gone. His weight, color and general health had greatly improved.
The Kelly Research Foundation in Grapevine, Texas has been active in cancer research. The following is a statement concerning chaparral by Dr. William Kelly:
“I've found that chaparral is very effective in 7% of the cases of malignancy. The action is not as many researchers believe--a specific activity against the cancer cell, but rather an indirect one. In about 7% of the cases of malignancy, the pancreas and the liver as well as other tissue of the body are so congested with poisons such as medications, sprays, drugs, metallic poisons, and pollutants, that these tissues cannot carry on normal activity. This is basically an antagonist to the enzyme and vitamin and mineral metabolism that goes on in the body. In cancer specifically, we find that the pancreatic enzymes are locked with the antagonists and are rendered totally ineffective. By chelating these antagonists from the pancreatic enzymes, we find that normal activity takes place and the person's own cancer defenses take over and destroy the tumor in malignant conditions. It has been found further and should be seriously investigated by the Federal Government that Chaparral works well in chelating the toxins out of the bodies of those who have been drug addicts. We recommend taking two Chaparral tablets before each meal. This seems to be an effective way of chelating antagonists from the body that otherwise could not be accomplished.”
Dr. Kelly is the author of the book, ONE ANSWER TO CANCER. (March, 1972).
A nurse's aid in Mohave, California wrote a letter to Fate Magazine in 1970 concerning an old Indian woman's advice for the discomfort of extremely sweaty feet: That is to line the inside of the shoes with several thicknesses of chaparral leaves. Not only did the herb stop the feet from sweating, it also soothed the nurse's tired feet upon which she was required to stand for 6 to 7 hours a day.
A Spokane, Washington woman was suffering from all sorts of body pains; head, face, eyes, leg and back. She also had arthritis and gastritis, and the above conditions had been aggravated by three serious falls. The poor soul hardly had enough strength to walk from place to place without resting every few minutes. In desperation she bought some chaparral tablets and some tea at a local health food store. After a few months on the herb she was able to walk and even dance without any leg or back pains. Her gastritis had ceased and she stated that her body felt more free and lighter. Her husband was quite impressed with the improvement he saw in his wife and now has started taking the tea himself They both drank the tea with honey and lemon in the evenings before bedtime as an aid to relaxation. The lady suggests adding a quarter cup of pineapple juice to the tea to improve the bitter taste.
According to Edward L. Card, N.D., of Mexico, chaparral has the ability to stimulate the liver and the intestines to clean out the toxic debris from the human system. The hydrochloric acid produced by most people's stomachs is sufficiently strong to wipe out parasites and their larvae. However, many folks have pockets of old garbage in their intestines from years of indiscriminate eating of pastry, sugar, and greasy foods. Here is where chaparral can be a great aid.
The antiseptic resin of chaparral's leaves can help the organs to remove those pockets of toxic material where parasites have enjoyed their residence for perhaps many years. As soon as the garbage and filth is removed from the intestines, the parasites have no choice but to evacuate the clean premises and look elsewhere for their lunch.
Dr. Carl has had excellent success in treating infested persons with chaparral. The herb, along with a change to a cleansing diet, is especially effective against the amoebic infections such as Entamoeba Hystalitica so prevalent in Mexico, even in cases where powerful inorganic drugs fail to prevent reinfestation through weakening of the body organs.
Chaparral is an antibiotic which will inhibit the growth of, or destroy, bacteria, viruses and amoebas. It is a harmless herb which is non-toxic, non-poisonous and as it is not habit forming, it does much good for purification of the body. In order to `personally' test out the pros and cons of this herb at one time, I used 7 to 11 fifteen-grain chaparral tablets each day for nearly two years, with nothing but beneficial results.
In the GROSSET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NATURAL MEDICINE, we are told the following by its author Robert Thomson (Grosset & Dunlap press Copyright 1980).
“The leaves and stems of chaparral, also known as creosote bush or greasewood, contain many gums, resins, acids, small amounts of a mixture of sterols, sucrose, protein, alcohol, and very little volatile oils. Chaparral is non-toxic and contains no alkaloids.
Its use among Indians of the United States and Mexico has been wide spread. Chaparral is antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant and tonic.
The plant has become popular in the past few years as a treatment or part of a treatment for cancer and other degenerative diseases. It is thought to be especially able to reorient the body's fermentation process by means of an active ingredient known as nordihydroguariaretic acid (NDGA). Several magazines have reported remissions and shrinkage of tumors with treatments consisting only of chaparral tea.
Chaparral is also used externally as a poultice for rheumatism and sprains, and its leaf residue, what is left after commercial processing for the resins, is fed to livestock for it contains as much protein as alfalfa.”
A number of years ago, I had given an elderly male patient of mine (Mr. L. L. W.), the instruction to take one cup, three or more times a day of chaparral tea.
This was suggested to him because he had a crippling arthritis condition. After a number of weeks, I asked Mr. W. how he was feeling, and if the chaparral was loosening up his joints. He told me he wasn't getting as fast results this time as he had hoped for, so I told him I would give him another formula to replace the chaparral tea. He replied that even as nasty as the chaparral was to the taste, he still wanted to continue using it. “Why, I asked him?” He explained that before using the chaparral tea he was up five or six times each night to go to the bathroom to urinate. This was causing him to lose so much sleep that he felt “worn out”, but since using the chaparral tea, he was able to sleep all night without having to get up to release the pressure.
So, as a “side effect” you can see it is a great diuretic and rebuilder. But, as I have always said, “anything that is as nasty tasting as chaparral tea has to be good for something.” This tea has helped many patients with rheumatism, arthritis, etc., to get help in getting around with more ease.
Knowing how strong tasting and “nasty” chaparral tea is to drink, this next instance I wish to tell you has amazed me and taught me another benefit of chaparral tea.
We were giving a lecture one night in Seattle at the Y.W.C.A. auditorium. As it was a woman s club, I did not stop to think that they must rent out the auditorium to all types of groups for lectures and meetings. When we stepped into the poorly ventilated hail I was shocked and staggered by the horrible rancid stench and odors of stale cigar and other tobacco smoke, beer, body odors, etc., enough to make you sick!
I made the statement that surely we shouldn't have a health group come into such a stinking hall--yet it was not too far away from lecture time, with just a few hours left. A young gentleman student who had come to the hall with me said, “Oh don't worry about the disgusting stale stench, I will have it smelling like a fresh garden by lecture time.” I was astounded, but had faith in him and his positive attitude. I told him to go ahead and fix up the room to make it fit to meet in.
I was surprised upon returning to find the hall smelling fresh and clean. I turned to this young student and asked how he performed such an outstanding miracle in such a short time. He told me he had made up a pot of chaparral tea and then had concentrated it down to a 7 power tea. He had learned about strengthening herbal liquids through our teachings, but I had never thought of using it this way. He had simmered the tea down to one fourth its original making. Simmering a tea down to one-half its original amount and it becomes a 3 power tea, 3 times as strong as the original, but if simmered down to one-forth the original amount, it becomes a 7 power tea. This is what he had done and then put the tea into an atomizer and sprayed it around the hall, on the seats, curtains and carpets. By doing this he neutralized the rancid odor. The hall remained clean smelling the whole evening.
I asked him how he ever discovered this principle. He told me he had always had problems with underarm odor and was, for some time, reluctant to go out in crowds because the commercial underarm deodorants did not help him. By accident he had discovered the amazing deodorant effects of chaparral and so he made some deodorant up with this herb and he had no more problems with body odor. He just figured this would work on the lecture hall, which it did.
It is instances such as this that cause me to say, as I have said many times, about four percent of what I know today about herbs comes from the classroom studies, and 96% of my knowledge comes from students, patients, and promptings from the “Greater Source
May Health Be With You Always,
John R. Christopher