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Chaparral (Larrea tridentata)---skin miracle herb

 
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I wild-harvest here in the VA-WV Appalachian Mts., and in the SW (CA, AZ & NM). One herb I regularly acquire in desert areas is chaparral (its name to herbalists), known commonly as creosote bush, or in Spanish gobernadora or hediondilla.

This herb seems to heal nearly any skin condition, from bad insect bites to fungal rashes. It also makes skin and hair feel very good. I had a good experience with it, when bitten on the arm by an assassin bug (the type in NM, which causes necrosis, and is seriously toxic). I immediately threw some of the dried chaparral herb onto a cloth, got it wet (this is not the preferred way of preparing it, but this was an urgent desperate case), and held this makeshift poultice onto the bite for a while. In the morning, the bite was of about the severity of a flea bite.

This stuff is amazing! I sell it in the farmers market along with other skin herbs (especially sagebrush and rue).

I have a good supply if anyone is interested, though I'm not sure I should be advertising on this site, but this herb is the best for curing skin problems of any I know.

 
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Feel free to promote your stuff on Permies! Just don't let it look spammy. Here is a thread on how to do this in an acceptable manner.

Do you sell the herb fresh? Or is it prepared in some way, salve, tincture, etc?
 
Victor Skaggs
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Feel free to promote your stuff on Permies! Just don't let it look spammy. Here is a thread on how to do this in an acceptable manner.

Do you sell the herb fresh? Or is it prepared in some way, salve, tincture, etc?



Thank you, I will study that page and post the herbs I have if anyone is interested. All are in better condition that what is generally ordered online which tend to be stale.

The chaparral I simply dried it. It lasts for several years. What I have is late 2017 harvest, still very potent. I boil up the scraps (stems, etc.) to make a bath soak, along with sagebrush, which I also have from the same harvest. Both are very aromatic, so I come out of the bath stinking real nice!
 
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Chaparral is a major ingredient in many cancer formulas as well. It is a main ingredient in dr. Christopher's black ointment. well known for drawing out toxins.


I believe back in the 50s they did some actual research on it with skin cancer with good results, but that research was quickly buried and they warned people not to use it-- or at least that's what I was told, I never saw the actual research
 
Victor Skaggs
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bob day wrote: Chaparral is a major ingredient in many cancer formulas as well. It is a main ingredient in dr. Christopher's black ointment. well known for drawing out toxins.


I believe back in the 50s they did some actual research on it with skin cancer with good results, but that research was quickly buried and they warned people not to use it-- or at least that's what I was told, I never saw the actual research



Yes...

It seems to be a syndrome, that any herb showing promise of healing with great power, is "found" to be dangerous.

Comfrey, sassafras root and chaparral are all declared as such by the FDA and forbidden for sale for internal use. One can't help but be skeptical.

I sell chaparral as a skin cure, for which is it very efficacious, and still permitted by the Feudal Drug Administration.

Interestingly they banned the internal use of sassafras root, but allowed the sale of the leaves as "filé", essential to making filé gumbo. It seems they knew they could get away with impeding herbalists, but if they'd banned filé the state of Louisiana might have tried to secede again.
 
bob day
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Yes, I remember them taking the sassafras root out of stores, but they were still selling the constituent that had actually caused cancer (saffrin?) over the counter in the pharmacy next door.
 
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Victor Skaggs wrote:It seems to be a syndrome, that any herb showing promise of healing with great power, is "found" to be dangerous.... Comfrey, sassafras root and chaparral are all declared as such by the FDA and forbidden for sale for internal use. One can't help but be skeptical


Larrea tridentata causes liver damage when taken internally, hence the warning.

I don't get your skepticism; if a plant is used because it's active biologically (i.e. is an herbal remedy), it makes sense to me that some of the actions may be positive and some negative.  Mercury and arsenic are biologically active, and were used for syphilis treatment for many years.  However, they are also broadly toxic and tended to kill patients, so now we use antibiotics instead because antibiotics are biologically active against a narrower type of cells.

The key is to find a substance with biological actions that fixes just the thing you want, without hurting everything else.  Larrea tridentata is biologically active and may do some good things, but it also causes liver damage if swallowed, so I'd pick something else.

By the way, that creosote bush you are harvesting from is probably older than you, and has to work very hard for each leaf.... I'd only take a little from each plant, and give them some water in exchange for collecting from them.  
 
bob day
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A good herbalist knows when and how to use herbs, suggesting that some one might accidentally ingest something not meant for ingestion or in a dose not intended to be taken is an argument against the use of just about everything, antibiotics included.

The action of chaparral is to draw out toxins. And I have seen it used internally in blood purifying combinations along with herbs that fortified the liver's action.

I do like the idea of giving a little back in gratitude. Chaparral was once quite plentiful, some might have called it invasive, except not much else wanted to grow there.  

Here is a direct quote about the toxicity observed

"The rare cases of liver injury reported with chaparral use have had idiosyncratic features, and the rapid recurrence after reexposure and finding of eosinophils on liver biopsy suggest an allergic or immunological cause of injury.  As with other reported herbal toxicities, the liver injury attributed to chaparral may have been due to contaminants or improperly prepared extracts. "

I was never that fond of chaparral- (it's an acquired taste), but if I had cancer I'd be taking that blood formula I mentioned earlier, and I wouldn't hesitate to use it topically. I would not use it in a pill form or as an isolated extract internally.


 
Victor Skaggs
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J Brooks wrote:

Victor Skaggs wrote:It seems to be a syndrome, that any herb showing promise of healing with great power, is "found" to be dangerous.... Comfrey, sassafras root and chaparral are all declared as such by the FDA and forbidden for sale for internal use. One can't help but be skeptical


Larrea tridentata causes liver damage when taken internally, hence the warning.

I don't get your skepticism; if a plant is used because it's active biologically (i.e. is an herbal remedy), it makes sense to me that some of the actions may be positive and some negative.  Mercury and arsenic are biologically active, and were used for syphilis treatment for many years.  However, they are also broadly toxic and tended to kill patients, so now we use antibiotics instead because antibiotics are biologically active against a narrower type of cells.

The key is to find a substance with biological actions that fixes just the thing you want, without hurting everything else.  Larrea tridentata is biologically active and may do some good things, but it also causes liver damage if swallowed, so I'd pick something else.

By the way, that creosote bush you are harvesting from is probably older than you, and has to work very hard for each leaf.... I'd only take a little from each plant, and give them some water in exchange for collecting from them.  



All true, however, given the history of the FDA's collusion with pharma corporations, one has to remain skeptical of their actions. We do not see many good scientific studies done on herbs, and so support or condemnation for any particular herbal use must occur in a vacuum or real scientific knowledge.

On what is the claim of liver damage made? High concentrations pumped into mice? Is this damage worse than what is caused by many approved pharmaceutical medications, some sold over-the-counter?

Western medicine has centuries of history of allopathic error, misogyny, and profit motive driving it which has to cause a reasonable person to maintain healthy skepticism. I advocate for scientific skepticism, not cultish faddism or organo-fanaticism.

I do not harvest from only one plant. Where I get chaparral, in 2 locations, one in the Sierra Nevada and one in the New Mexico malpaís, there are thousands of plants, and I take a bit from one plant and keep moving. Chaparral may in fact be one of the oldest plants on the planet, it being suspected that some clusters are up to 10k yrs old. It is far from an endangered species, as in some parts of the SW desert it is growing everywhere. Sustainable harvest practices must be observed when harvesting any plant, and so I take only a small % of the biomass from any one plant, and these are bushes of considerable size usually.

I have drunk chaparral tea on various occasions, but as with any strong herb I do not ingest it other than sporadically. I survived a nearly fatal case of hepatitis A in the late 70's and so do not ignore my liver.

What I've noticed most about chaparral is its extreme efficacy in treating skin conditions. It will remove fungal afflictions, rashes, cure bites, better than any herb I know. Rashes often should be addressed via the immune system, but conditions based in the skin itself respond very well to chaparral. I was bitten by an assassin bug (the kind which causes necrosis, a very serious injury) in NM and applied chaparral crushed in water within a few minutes, and the bite was reduced to the severity of a flea bite within minutes. And I've seen similar "skin miracles" occur with other conditions.

 
bob day
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While the actual medical quote may be a bit complicated in my previous post, the conclusion of the very few liver cases where it was involved seemed to indicate either an allergic response or contaminant caused the toxicity to the liver, not the actual herb
 
Victor Skaggs
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bob day wrote:A good herbalist knows when and how to use herbs, suggesting that some one might accidentally ingest something not meant for ingestion or in a dose not intended to be taken is an argument against the use of just about everything, antibiotics included.




An important point... an herbalist should be involved in the use of any strong herbs, such as chaparral.

I emphasize as I sell a diverse array of herbal substances that I am a cultivator and gatherer, not an herbalist. Locally I refer all questions at the point of sale to the local herbalist, who is trained as such and also a registered nurse.

I offer a warning to anyone purchasing the stronger herbs (rue, pennyroyal, chaparral, valerian, etc.) regarding potential negative effects. Rue and chaparral I sell for use on the skin. Pennyroyal I sell to females always with the warning that it is abortifacient.

Some might criticize my selling of powerful herbs, but they are not available in anywhere near the good condition of my herbs, anywhere online or elsewhere that I know of. The major sources online generally are selling old and stale herbal material. With their massive bulk offerings, they keep prices down so that many herb shops cannot afford to pay me, for these herbs in prime condition, what I must charge in order to not lose money on the transaction, and so I have taken to selling directly to consumers.

There are efforts underway to force better pay for the armies of collectors hired by the large herbal operations, which will drive up prices, but these prices are now unsustainably low. We need to see growers and collectors paid decently for our work, which will then cause an improvement in the quality of the herbs being offered.
 
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Here's an interesting story about a very old creosote:

http://mojaveproject.org/dispatches-item/king-clone-creosote/  

also includes a bit about bioactive effects:
"Up to ten percent of creosote’s dry weight is comprised of a powerful antioxidant, known as NDGA, that is believed to have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Some recent studies have shown creosote’s effectiveness as an antiviral treatment against HIV, herpes simplex, human papilloma virus and possibly cancer and neurogenerative diseases.[9] But, in contrast, other studies confirm reports of liver and kidney toxicity and even death when internal creosote treatments were taken too often or in too high of dosage. Although herbalists market creosote-based alternative remedies as “Chaparral” (a misnomer) and extoll its many healing qualities, the American Cancer Society’s website warns that it is “considered a dangerous herb that can cause irreversible, life-threatening liver damage and kidney damage.”[10]"

And when I think of all the things that we inadvertently wreck in our naivety, it makes me wince:
"just outside the fence line, lays a mining access road that surely swept several ancient clone rings into oblivion when it was initially graded."  

Creosote is so ubiquitous, it can be difficult to appreciate what a cool plant it is.   I've always loved the scent, and admired its ability to thrive where other plants can't.
 
Victor Skaggs
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J Brooks wrote:Here's an interesting story about a very old creosote:

http://mojaveproject.org/dispatches-item/king-clone-creosote/  

also includes a bit about bioactive effects:
"Up to ten percent of creosote’s dry weight is comprised of a powerful antioxidant, known as NDGA, that is believed to have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Some recent studies have shown creosote’s effectiveness as an antiviral treatment against HIV, herpes simplex, human papilloma virus and possibly cancer and neurogenerative diseases.[9] But, in contrast, other studies confirm reports of liver and kidney toxicity and even death when internal creosote treatments were taken too often or in too high of dosage. Although herbalists market creosote-based alternative remedies as “Chaparral” (a misnomer) and extoll its many healing qualities, the American Cancer Society’s website warns that it is “considered a dangerous herb that can cause irreversible, life-threatening liver damage and kidney damage.”[10]"

And when I think of all the things that we inadvertently wreck in our naivety, it makes me wince:
"just outside the fence line, lays a mining access road that surely swept several ancient clone rings into oblivion when it was initially graded."  

Creosote is so ubiquitous, it can be difficult to appreciate what a cool plant it is.   I've always loved the scent, and admired its ability to thrive where other plants can't.



Very interesting info on the very ancient creosote clones. Redwoods reproduce in that way also. I'd like to know if they've been analyzed to come up with any estimate of their age.

The final paragraph is a call for research to develop proper remedies! With the FDA simply banning it, they've thrown out the baby with the bath. This herb has potential to do a lot of medical good, but of course if uninformed people simply begin drinking chaparral tea regularly, they will harm themselves. This is an herb which should be used in preparations which are strictly quality controlled with known potency and so on, and in the proper combinations with other substances. Would that some corporation would decide to fund all this research to create good herbal products to give us an alternative to pharmaceutical concoctions. This is being done to some extent in Germany, I believe. But not here.
 
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I’m wondering if Dr. Tilgner might chime in on this.

I live in creosote country (only one bush right close to us but start to climb a little to the southeast and it’s all over). Recently I started to learn more about its potential as an herb so I’ve collected a few times.

My first use was actually internal — being aware of the warnings — as a tea for a particularly aggravating bout of chronic asthmatic bronchitis. The steroidal inhalation products I’m prescribed for the same condition have similar warnings, as do OTC painkillers like ibuprofen. I treat the occasional creosote tea in the same way, with caution. But it’s wonderful to know that there’s an apothecary up the hill that doesn’t require money for healing materials.

Our primary use now is topical. I make an herbal oil (1:7) with an alcohol intermediary and then make a salve with that (7:1 oil:beeswax). I have a spot of skin damage on my face that I put it on several times a day and I use it on all sorts of mesquite thorn scratches, bug bites, etc. I also make a strong tea or decoction along with desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) and Mormon tea (Ephedra nevadensis or... forgetting the species name of the other we have around here, neither reportedly containing ephedrine) as a soothing anti-fungal/anti-microbial and astringent skin wash.

A good resource has been Charles W. Kane’s Medicinal Plants of the American Southwest, which I turn to almost every day and find to be invaluable. I had missed Dr. Tilgner’s books somehow but look forward to using them as heavily!

I sometimes use fresh creosote and sometimes dried because I haven’t been able to find written guidance on this and, as I said, it grows near us. Although I've noticed that dried creosote that has gotten too old and dusty (because I didn’t garble it in time and put it away) seems to lose efficacy, I haven’t noticed a significant difference otherwise between fresh and fresh-dried.

Have folks here propagated it? As part of our giving back in thanks for the use of this wonderful plant, I’d like to try spreading its seed or otherwise propagating it in whatever way would be best.

Thank you, all!
 
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I love this plant! As soon as I felt ill, I'd place a few small sprigs in water. WOW! what a taste. Perhaps my mouth feared my body would deliver more it didn't get better. Better I always got. I imagine someone with a weak, sick or over-burdened liver would have difficulty processing this plant (along with many other plants, like ashwagandha).

Where I used to work had an abundance of creosote, growing along fence lines. We constantly had to trim it back. So I would wait to after a rain to cut it back. Then keep it in paper bags in my car. Made my car smell good too. The dried leaves where added to olive oil for salve making. I didn't have to add any preservatives at all. The salve was great on wounds, diaper dash on daughter. I greatly miss this plant.

Propagation could be by seed. I would start the seeds in the shadow of another creosote. Close enough to share soil, but far enough way to not disturb the mother. Let em grow a few years, then dig up gently in the fall/spring for planting elsewhere.

Thanks for reminding me of this lovely gem. =)
 
Victor Skaggs
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Chaparral/creosote bush/gobernadora/hediondilla is indeed a marvelous plant. I've picked it by clipping off some of the twigs with the heaviest leaf growth. Once it dries a bit I knock off the leaves into bags, then I seal it airtight when I think it's dry enough. It keeps for several years and still has odor and potency. There is a variety called "golden", Larrea aurea I think, or maybe it's a sub-species, which I was picking in the southern Sierras. It seems to emanate light, it's crystalline, quite amazing.

I've made tea of it and I like the taste, so apparently I'm insane. It makes me feel good. I don't drink it for any particular condition, just occasionally to get its molecules into my body to do whatever it is they do.

The twigs from which I remove the leaves I then boil up to pour into the bathwater. This is the best skin herb I know of, and mixed with sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) it is good for skin and hair.

I have never tried propagating it, as I lived in California and New Mexico where I knew where to easily find it. Here in Virginia I doubt it would grow, so I've got big bags of it I pick when I go West.

One place I picked it in the Sierras used to be a piñón-juniper forest with lots of chaparral and sagebrush, but the drought caused the piñones and junipers to die. Now it's chaparral and sagebrush among the skeletons of dead trees.

I hope knowledge of chaparral spreads fast, because I've got a lot of it I am selling in the farmers market but it does not sell well here. These Easterners... but they'll learn.
 
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Sena Kassim wrote:Propagation could be by seed. I would start the seeds in the shadow of another creosote. Close enough to share soil, but far enough way to not disturb the mother. Let em grow a few years, then dig up gently in the fall/spring for planting elsewhere.



Good idea! I’ll try planting some seeds from the mother plant near it, but I think if it grows I’ll just leave the babies there. It’s pretty close to home there and the only specimen currently, kind of a pioneer, so I’ll just let the cluster get established. I might try a few seeds on the homestead nursed by a mesquite, too, to see if I could extend its range a bit more, I guess. There is plenty a little further away but it would be great to have a few bushes nearby and worry less about stressing just one bush by overharvesting. (Right now I just clip that bush when there’s an urgent need and travel uphill to do a larger, more spread out harvest where it’s more abundant.)

I love the smell — especially with olive oil and beeswax in salve, the scent makes me feel zingy all over — and when it rains and the wind blows from the direction of the creosoteland, its one of the most wonderful things I can think of, but I find the almost-petrochemical taste to be challenging. I can see acquiring greater tolerance of it over time if need be, but for now, I view it as a reminder to not drink too much creosote tea too often!
 
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