Premium Harvest Chaparral: what it is and why you want it
Em’s Herbals is an established source for Larrea tridentata, the herb known as Chaparral. We include it in our Toenail Fungus Foot Soak, since it’s long been known as one of the most effective anti-fungal plants. And right now we’re especially pleased with a fresh, fragrant batch of Premium Harvest Chaparral, recently gathered for us in New Mexico!
Most people who have hiked in desert areas of the southwestern US and Mexico will be familiar with the evergreen Creosote Bush or Chaparral plant. It ranges from shrub to small tree in size, and exudes an unforgettable creosote-like scent. Some native tribes living in that zone believe that Chaparral was the first plant created. It is clearly one of the most long-lived plants in existence, with some clusters thought to be nearly 12,000 years old.
Local indigenous healers hold Chaparral in highest regard, using it for numerous conditions including chicken pox, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, menstrual pain and premenstrual symptoms, snake bites, colds and flus, sinusitis, diabetes, skin sores, arthritis, gout, anemia, fungal infections, cancer, allergies, autoimmune diseases, and gallbladder or kidney stones.
A 2015 review article offers fascinating details from studies on Chaparral and its constituents, noting significant activity against herpes virus, HPV, HIV, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. The authors suggest that a "cocktail" of extracts from Chaparral (excluding its volatile oils) might play a major role in preventing and treating many types of cancer and viral illness.
They note, “Viruses such as HIV, HSV, influenza viruses, and cold viruses infect and kill millions of people every year. Severe acute respiratory syndrome, avian flu viruses, Middle East respiratory syndrome corona virus, Ebola virus, and many others are still without treatments and some may become global pandemics if not urgently addressed …this class of plant lignans could represent a breakthrough for viral treatment as penicillin became for bacteria since World War II.”
One of the plant’s major constituents is nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), a lignan said to be one of the most powerful antioxidant chemicals known. Chaparral also contains a number of other lignans as well as many other active compounds, including flavonoids, essential oils, saponins, sterols, and tannins.
It’s helpful to understand why antioxidant and anti-inflammatory are terms that come up so often in discussing healing herbs and healthy foods.
Oxidation is a normal part of the chemistry of living organisms. Plants and animals have many ways of controlling the buildup of oxidative compounds, since they may threaten normal functioning and can damage tissues when present at sustained high levels. Oxidative stress can result from internal processes, or exposure to disease microbes, dietary and environmental chemicals, or both.
Oxidative stress is closely associated with the inflammatory response, in complicated ways, as both cause and effect. Medical students traditionally learn about the signs of inflammation as "rubor, calor, dolor, tumor": redness, heat, pain, and swelling. Often, plants with antioxidant properties provide protection against or relief from inflammation, and most medicinal herbs fit that description.
Inflammation matters, a lot—it's the common factor involved in pretty much every disease process that’s been studied, from Alzheimers and arthritis to cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and cancer. In the short term, inflammatory processes are the major source of harm from infections. In the long term, the aging process itself is basically the result of inflammation.
Once this basic principle is understood, the frequent finding that a particular plant medicine has been prescribed for many different illnesses is no longer surprising! Choosing herbs and foods that decrease inflammation is a key strategy for living longer and better. That said, of course, the vital details of how specific herbs and foods act in various parts of the body, and affect various health conditions, are endless. With Chaparral, the connection between uniquely strong antioxidant effects and medicinal power is undisputed.
For strong medicine, dosage is a concern. High doses of NGDA and Chaparral have been connected to toxic effects, particularly affecting the liver, anecdotally and in animal experiments. While experience and a retrospective clinical study have shown that moderate, short-term use of Chaparral for people with normal liver function seems to be harmless, we suggest consulting with a knowledgeable herbalist before ingesting the herb. Topical use for infections or skin conditions, on the other hand, is safe and effective.
When this special harvest of Chaparral is gone, we may not come across another quite like it. If you already know what this very potent plant can do, or if you’re intrigued by its lore, you won’t want to miss the chance to order some for your own herbal tool kit!