- Family Zygophyllaceae
- Larrea tridentata
- Larrea divaricata
- Creosote Bush, Greasewood
- Spanish: Gobernadora, Hediondilla, Goma de Sonora
- In 1992, four people, who were taking large doses of the herb in capsule form, developed hepatitis. The resulting scare caused the Herbal Products Association, responding to a press release by the USFDA, to issue a letter recommending the sale of the herb be suspended. After further studies, no scientific basis for the warning was discovered, and it was recinded in 1995.
- It should be noted that extended use may be toxic to the liver.
This tall, thorny shrub is found in large numbers in the deserts bordering the US and Mexico, reaching six feet in height and producing small, finely divided, olive green leaves, which exude a nasty, shiny, smelly resin that keeps predators away. Sometimes planted ornamentally in dessert gardens, its yellow flowers give way to fuzzy white fruits resembling cotton balls.
In 1792, the Spanish naturalist José Longinos Martinez, wrote in his journal that the natives of Baja California used the plant to induce abortions, to bring on delayed menstruation, and as an aid in the expulsion of afterbirth.
The resin was used in folk crafts, as a glue to mend pottery, and as a coating to waterproof baskets.
It was widely used by Native Americans to treat stomach troubles and diarrhea. Young twigs were used for toothache, and the leaves were applied as a poultice for respiratory problems or used in a wash for skin inflammations.
The Maricopa, Papago, and Pimas tribes treated bruises and rheumatism by applying poultices made by boiling the leaves and branches.
The plant was listed in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1842 to 1942.
Until recently, chararral remained in wide use in the US, with an average of ten tons consumed each year. It was thought to be beneficial for rheumatic disease, venereal infections, urinary infections, and certain types of cancer, especially leukemia.
- resin (12%)
- nordihydroguaiaretic acid
- vitamins and minerals (especially, calcium, potassium, selenium, thiamin, and vitamins A and C)
- Aerial parts
Modern herbalists value it as a powerful weapon against infection and in a tea to clear the lymph system.
Chaparral is reportedly effective in treating a variety of conditions, including arthritis, rheumatism, bruises, diarrhea, stomach problems, influenza, venereal disease, and even cancer.
It is also used to treat skin abrasions, insect bites, ringworm, rheumatism, urinary tract problems, and body odour.
Taken internally, it is used for such skin infections as acne and eczema.
It can also be incorporated into a lotion and used for sores, wounds, and rashes.
Topically, chaparral has been used to treat toothaches, and may be effective in preventing cavities.
A related species, the South American L. nitida, is used to counter indigestion, to induce menstruation, and to treat wounds.