Habitat & Cultivation : Chaparral is found in large numbers in the deserts of south-western US and Mexico.
Parts Used : Aerial parts.
Constituents : Chaparral contains about 12% resin and lignans, including nordihydroguaiaretic acid. The latter is reportedly harmful to the lymph glands and kidneys, though recent research shows that it has beneficial anti-diabetic properties. US research published in 1996 demonstrated that other lignans have antiviral activity against HIV.
History & Folklore : Chaparral was extensively utilized by Native Americans for various medicinal purposes. They prepared a decoction from the plant to address stomach troubles and diarrhea. Additionally, the young twigs of chaparral were employed as a remedy for toothache. The leaves were applied as a poultice to address respiratory issues and used as a wash for skin problems, showcasing the diverse applications of chaparral in traditional Native American medicine.
Medicinal Actions & Uses : Until the 1960s, chaparral was widely used in the United States, with an annual consumption averaging around 9.07 tonnes (10 tons). It was believed to be a beneficial remedy for conditions such as rheumatic disease, venereal infections, urinary infections, and certain types of cancer, particularly leukemia. Internally, chaparral was ingested for skin afflictions like acne and eczema, and topically applied as a lotion to treat sores, wounds, and rashes.
However, in the early 1990s, sales of chaparral were banned in the US and Britain due to concerns over potential liver toxicity. There is now evidence suggesting that, like some conventional medicines, chaparral can, in rare cases, cause liver damage. Given the uncertainty about its safety, any potential benefits from taking the herb must be carefully considered against the associated risks.