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Description of Larrea divaricata
Scientific Name: Chaparral
Other Names: Creosote bush, Greaswood, Hediondilla, Larrea divaricata, Larrea glutinosa, Larrea tridentata, Stinkweed
Who is this for?
Note: The use of chaparral in any form is discouraged strongly.
In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to patients after several cases of liver damage or hepatitis were shown to have a direct association with taking oral forms of chaparral. Subsequently, at least two individuals who used chaparral required liver transplants. With guidance from the FDA, most manufacturers withdrew their chaparral products from the market voluntarily, but some products containing chaparral either alone or in combinations with other herbals are still available from other countries.
When should I be careful taking it?
Products containing chaparral have been declared to be unsafe by the FDA. Using it in any form is strongly discouraged.
What side effects should I watch for?
Chaparral has been shown to cause kidney and liver damage. Cases of hepatitis have also been attributed to its use.
Liver damage may not have obvious signs; however, it may result in:
Less Severe Side Effects
Touching or handling chaparral plants may result in skin irritation.
What interactions should I watch for?
When it is taken by mouth, chaparral may interfere with the effectiveness of a class of prescription drugs called MAO inhibitors. Using chaparral is discouraged under any circumstances, but especially for people taking an MAO inhibitor. Some MAO inhibitors are:
Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.
Should I take it?
Chaparral includes a group of hardy evergreen shrubs that grow in dry areas of the southwestern United States and Mexico. In general, they have a bitter taste and a characteristic smell similar to coal tar. Native people and early settlers in the area chewed chaparral leaves or brewed its leaves and twigs into a tea to treat arthritis, infections, stomach conditions, and a host of other ailments. Formerly, chaparral was also made into liniments or other topical forms for treating arthritis pain or skin conditions. In the 1960s, chaparral was touted as a treatment for cancer, but those claims were never documented by scientifically controlled human studies. In fact, one small study of 34 patients found that taking one of chaparral's active ingredients actually accelerated the growth of cancerous tumors.
In 1970, the FDA removed chaparral from the list of products that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS). In the early 1990s at least a dozen cases of non-viral hepatitis or liver damage were attributed to taking chaparral prompting the FDA to issue a warning to consumers. At that time, most products containing chaparral were taken off the U.S. market by their manufacturers. Currently, oral and topical chaparral products may be available through foreign manufacturers, but they are considered dangerous and they should not be used.
Dosage and Administration
The use of chaparral in any form is discouraged strongly.
The use of chaparral is discouraged. It was removed from sale in the United States after several cases of liver damage or hepatitis were definitely associated with taking chaparral.
Taking chaparral has been documented to cause hepatitis and liver damage.
By mouth, chaparral can cause liver damage that may have no symptoms or may result in excessive fatigue; nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; painful or swollen abdomen; and yellowed skin or eyes. Taking it has also been associated with kidney damage and hepatitis.
Chaparral should not be taken by mouth. If it is used orally, however, it may interfere with the effectiveness of MAO-inhibiting drugs such as Marplan and Nardil.
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Heron S, Yarnell E. The safety of low-dose Larrea tridentata (DC) Coville (creosote bush or chaparral): a retrospective clinical study. Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. 2001;7(2):175-185.
Jellin JM, Gregory P, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al, eds. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 3rd Edition. Stockton CA: Therapeutic Research Facility, 2000.
Katz M, Saibil F. Herbal hepatitis: subacute hepatic necrosis secondary to chaparral leaf. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 1990;12(2):203-206.
Pierce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: Stonesong Press; 1999.
Shad JA, Chinn CG, Brann OS. Acute hepatitis after ingestion of herbs. Southern Medical Journal. 1999;92(11):1095-1097.
Sheikh NM, Philen RM, Love LA. Chaparral-associated hepatotoxicity. Archives of Internal Medicine. 1997;157(8):913-919.
Smith BC, Desmond PV. Acute hepatitis induced by ingestion of the herbal medication chaparral. Australia and New Zealand Medical Journal. 1993;23:526.
(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)