Chaparral Leaf (Larrea Tridentata)


Chaparral has been primarily used for the treatment of the big C , acne, rheumatism, and diabetes. It has also been promoted for its antioxidant effects, and as a blood purifier and a weight loss agent. Clinical trials have not supported these uses.

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, chaparral 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.

Key Actions

  • analgesic
  • antiseptic
  • antiamebic
  • antioxidant
  • antiviral
  • antibiotic
  • anticancer
  • antimicrobial
  • deorderant
  • diuretic
  • decongestant
  • expectorant

Key Components

  • resin (12%)
  • nordihydroguaiaretic acid
  • flavonoids
  • vitamins and minerals (especially, calcium, potassium, selenium, thiamin, and vitamins A and C)