Latin name: Larrea tridentata, Larrea divaricatea
Common names: Creosaote brush, Grease Bush, Greasewood, Gobernadora
Chaparral is a species of the zygophyllales family. Chaparral is derived from the Spanish word “Gobernadora” meaning Governess because its ability to inhabit the growth of other plants around it. Chaparral is a flowering plant or evergreen shrub that can be found in the deserts of North America and South America. The chaparral is a very highly adaptable plant but they are difficult plant but are difficult to cultivate outside their native habitats.
The Chaparral plants are suckering shrubs that form large stands. Some individual plants have been found in the Mohave Desert that measure to 26 feet in radius and are estimated to be around 11, 700 years old. Chaparral plants have a very strong aromatic scent to them especially after the rain which fills the air for many miles with a creosote like aroma.
Substances that dissolve in the rain prevent the germination of the plant’s own seed also the growth of other plants around the chaparral has a complex and unusual chemistry which contains nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) which is a potent antioxidant and parasiticide.
Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) was the main antioxidant used in the food industry to prevent rancidity of fats and oils until the late 1960’s. Chaparral has been long used of chaparral tea as a medicinal tea that is regarded as a cure-all. Colonists used chaparral for treating malignant skin conditions and sexually transmitted disease.
Desert tribes have used these plants for a very long time notably in the form of “Chaparral tea”. Eminent herbalists have described Larrea as “of low toxicity by Thomas Bartman in his “Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 1995. It has also been described as having a strong and beneficial affect upon impaired liver metabolism by Michael Moore in his “Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West”, 1989.
A very interesting fact is that the medicinal use of Larrea has actually been banned in a number of countries because of 5 different cases of hepatitis that were apparently due to taking Chaparral. Chaparral is a thorny open spreading shrub with smooth bark, small bifurcated dark olive-green leaves with slender sticky varnish like resin.
It has 5 petaled yellow flowers which appear throughout the year after rain but mostly in February to April which is then followed by fuzzy, pea sized fruits. Chaparral is most native to desert areas of Mexico and USA such as California, Texas and Utah. The parts of chaparral which are used are the leafy twigs. Chaparral properties include a strong bitter resinous, alternative herb that has potent antioxidant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects; also antiseptic especially on the respiratory and urinary systems.
Internally chaparral can be used medicinal to treat arthritis, cancer (leukemia), diabetes, gall stones, kidney stones, liver aliments, rheumatism and urinary tract infections. Externally chaparral can be used to treat arthritis pain, brittle hair, brittle nails, dry skin, foot odor and wounds.
Until antioxidants were synthetic developed, NDGA was important in the food industry for preventing the rancidity in fats, dairy products, fats, frozen fish, frozen meats in pharmaceutical preparation containing vitamin A and reserpine. Chaparral prefers well drained soil in the sunlight or partial shade. Trim to shape in the summer removing standards and topiaries as they appear. Chaparral is prone to scale insect.
Chaparral is sown by seed under the cover of autumn, in the summer by semi-ripe cutting or removal of suckers in summer and in the autumn by layering. When it comes time to harvest the leaves are collected in summer and dried whole or as branches, infusions, powders and oil distillation. Dried leaves lose flavor after about a year.