Larrea tridentada, Chapparal, Greasewood, Gobernadora, Hediondilla.

Larrea tridentata

..also known as Greasewood, Chapparal, Gobernadora, Creosote bush, or Hediondilla

Family: Zygophyllaceae

One of my favorite desert plants, Chapparal is found throughout many desert lands at or below 4,000 ft.. When the weather brings us the blessings of rain in the desert, the strong, pungent aroma of Chapparal is what you probably smell most. It's wonderful, but strong. (both as a fragrance and a medicine)

The plant grows anywhere from six to 10 ft. (3.3m) tall. Large colonies occupy vast tracts of land in and around the desert. These plants are connected by their root systems, and in some areas, one gets the feeling that the whole colony mass is really just a single plant with many nodes. The leaf has a slightly yellow/olive green shade, but is shiny with resins. The leaves somewhat resemble the scales of large lizards, or the shape of the hard shell casings covering a lady bug's wings, when they flip open for flight.

Depending upon the time of year, and the weather patterns, the plant can vary from a shiny greenish-yellow, to a drab olive green or brown. In the summer "monsoon" months, which here are July and August, the flower buds on these plants explode within a few days time, displaying prodigious quantitiies of small, yellow flowers; turning the former sea of green into a sea of bright yellow. It is a beautiful sight to see, and the flowers last for one or two weeks. When these flowers shrivel and the petals fall, tiny fuzzy gray seed capsules form. These eventually fall away making room for more foliage to grow.

The parts used are usually the leaf and small stems, which are best stripped from the larger branches, using leather gloves. This method allows reasonable quantities to be gathered, with the minimum amount of damage sustained by the plant. (or by your hands).

A resinous coating covers the leaves and stems of the Chapparal plant, which makes it sticky business to collect. This wax-like coating consists of mainly flavinoids approximately 50%, along with another substance, nordihydroguaiaretic acid,(..also known as N.D.G.A.) in approximately the same 50%ratio. Flavinoids have been found to be beneficial to the walls of capillaries throughout the body, and so are good to take regularly in cases of capillary fragility.

The main ingredient though, (as far as what is seen as the most active constituent in the plant), is N.D.G.A.. It is responsible for inhibiting several enzyme reactions, including lipo oxyginase, which is responsible for some unhealthy inflammatory and immune-system responses. It has been shown to reduce inflammatory histamine responses in the lung, which is good news for asthma sufferers.

N.D.G.A. is one of the most highly anti-oxident substances known to man. Several types of tumors, such as those in uterine fibroids and fibrosystic breast disease, may be helped immensely by a concentrated extract form of the plant. The version of this which we make is quite concentrated, with a strength of 2.5:1 and is called Pure Larrea Syrup.

The details of preparing this particular preparation was imparted to me by a wonderful L'akota medicine woman, Tierona Lowdog.

Recent new studies have shown that Chapparal can improve liver function, causing the liver metablolism to increase, clearing toxins, and improving the livers' ability to synthesize fatty acids into high density lipids (HDLs....the good quality cholesterol), while the low density lipid levels (LDLs....the poor quality cholesterols) decrease.

For people who have a history of heavy drinking, hepatitis, or exposure to toxic chemicals (all of which damage liver tissue), a combination of Chapparal with milk thistle seed standardized extract and Tribulus terrestris (common puncture vine) may help recover the normal function of the liver to a large degree . The strong anti-oxident effects of Larrea t. appear to repair free radical damage caused by drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.

Indiginous peoples of the Southwestern area of North America used Chapparal for treating such ailments as: tuberculosis, bowel complaints, cancers, and colds and flu. In the Southwestern eclectic tradition, (a marriage of various Native American traditions with Spanish herbal traditions), Chapparal is used to heal stomach ulcers and bowel disorders, as well as for the anti-fungal topical uses listed below.

External uses of the herb include poultices placed on aching joints, and the tea or a foementation (applied several times per day and left on the area) for such things as ringworm, skin fungi, and athletes' foot. For this type of problem, Chapparal can be combined with Thuja or Tea tree essential oils. A foot soak for nail fungus can be used by placing 2 large handfuls of the dried herb into a vessel which is large enough to comfortably accomodate both feet at once. Heat water to boiling, and pour onto herb until it is coverd (2 to 3 inches deep), and let the herb steep for awhile, until the water is cool enough to put your feet into, while still being pretty hot. Leave the raw herb floating in the water, and soak your feet in the tea while you read a book or watch a movie, leaving them in the tea until it is cool, (and your feet look "prune-like".) During this process, the anti-fungal liquid (tea) is absorbed into the tissues of the feet, where it can inhibit fungal growth and kill existing infestations. An essential oil of Lavender, Tea tree, or Thuja.

As with many herbs having strong properties (like Larrea), some caution is advised. There is a theraputic window of use, which means more is NOT always better. The fact that this herb can so strongly affect the liver, (increasing function...and heating) may be good to a point, but taking too much may stimulate the liver too strongly, and cause liver damage......Of course, taking too many Aspirin can do this too... So just be careful when using this herb.. not to exceed the amount recommended, and to observe your own body carefully, and heed what it "tells" you.

We offer all forms of this herb mentioned, the raw herb, the single plant extract, and the Pure Larrea Syrup

Historical dosages:


Chapparal Tea:

use 1 teaspoon herb per cup... add to cold water , bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat... let steep for 10-20 minutes... take perhaps 1/2 cup two or three times per day.... preferably before meals.

Use 2 to 4 size 00 capsules per day or as an alcohol/water extract,

Tincture 1:5, 75% alcohol, take 20 to 60 drops three times daily.

As a concentrated fluid extract (Pure Larrea Syrup) take 10 drops twice daily.

Contraindications / Cautions:

In the case of using the concentrated syrup used for internal uterine fibroids, direct supervision by a qualified holistic practitioner is advised, as sometimes shrinking fibroids may detach unexpectedly, tearing tissue, possibly causing hemmoraging and heavy blood loss. This probably occurs much more in cases with very large fibroids, which may have more mass.

Chapparal is also contraindicated in pregnancy, or overt liver disease.

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