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Larrea tridentata

Larrea tridentata


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Creosote Bush, Chapparal Greasewood, Jarillo, Hediondilla and Gobernadora.(1),(2),(3),(4),(5)


Larrea tridenata which is shrub-like evergreen needs hot dry summers and mild winters to survive. It also benefits from wildfires as are common in California. The leaves and twigs of the L. tridentata have been collected and used to prepare herbal teas for centuries, dating back to ancient times.

Origin / Habitat

L. tridentata, or Creosote bush is native to the southern California area and found in Mexico, the Mediterranean, South Africa and parts of South America and Australia.

Chemical Constituents

Lignans (nordihydroguaiaretic acid, dihydroguaiaretic acid, etc…)

Flavonoid glycosides (apigenin methyl ester quercetin, dimethoxyl morin)

Protein (amino acids)

Carbohydrates (dextrin, glucose, sucrose)

Vitamins (vitamin C, carotenoids)

Chaparral also contains triterpene saponins, volatile terpenoids, sterols and lipids. The function of these constituents within the medicinal properties associated with Chaparral is unknown.(1),(2),(3)

Plant Part Used

Leaves and twigs (6)

Traditional Use

L. tridentata has been used by numerous Native American tribes in the Southwest quadrant of the United States and into Mexico most commonly to treat digestive and gastrointestinal maladies. Infusions as well as decoctions of the leaves have been used as a gastric antispasmodic to treat upset stomach(6) and diarrhea.(7) The Pima tribe applied the gum orally, directing it to be chewed and swallowed in order to treat similar gastrointestinal complaints.(6) The benefits of these antispasmodic properties have been used by some Native American tribes to alleviate the cramps associated with delayed menstruation.(8)

Perhaps, in Native American traditional medicine, the second most important role of L. tridentata was its orthopedic and analgesic activity when applied topically. Because of its perceived analgesic activity, some Native American tribes used an infusion of the leaves or twigs to relieve stiffness and pain in limbs and muscles. Occasionally, a poultice made from the chewed or heated leaves has been used to alleviate general pain,(6) as well as pain resulting from rheumatic disease(7) and arthritis.(9) In cases of rheumatism, an infusion has also been used internally in conjunction with its external application. Poultices, infusions and decoctions have been used externally in order to alleviate symptoms of sprains, or sore bones. In cases of sore feet, the Papago tribe would lay the green branches of L. tridentata in the ashes of a fire and hold the feet in the smoke.(6) Additionally, L. tridentata has been applied externally to bruises, lacerations, bites, stings,(7) and dandruff.(6)

L. tridentata has also been used in traditional Native American medicine to treat common respiratory, pulmonary and throat ailments. In instances of cold, an infusion of the leaves has been taken internally or the leaves have been steamed. Tea made from the leaves has been used to treat throat conditions, partially because of its perceived expectorant activity.(7) L. tridentata has been used by Native Americans as a pulmonary aid, most often being used as an infusion in cases of pulmonary infection.(6)

Some Native American tribes, namely the Cahuilla, have found a role for L. tridentata in the treatment of cancer(6) with other tribes using it specifically to treat leukemia.(7)


Dosages vary by tribe, region, application and preparation.

Tea – 1-3g crude herb steeped in boiling water.

Tincture - Less than 1mL daily of tinctures containing less than 10% Chaparral for internal consumption.(2)



L. tridentata has long been established as a powerful antioxidant through the effects of one of its predominant constituents, nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA). Nordihydroguaiaretic acid has been shown to exert protective properties in cases of ferric-nitrilotriacetate induced renal and hepatic toxicities; the protective nature of NDGA appears attributable to its antioxidant activities.(10),(4) However, NDGA conveys numerous pharmacologic activities onto L. tridentata and is also recognized as an inhibitor of lipoxygenase.(11) Through inhibition of lipoxygenase and inference with the arachidonic acid cascade, NDGA interrupts the formation of leukotrienes. Inhibition of leukotriene formation produces anti-inflammatory effects; the anti-inflammatory effects of NDGA are associated with improvement in inflammatory disorders (e.g. arthritis).(12)

The extracts from L. tridentata have shown it to possess antimicrobial activity against a spectrum of microbial organisms, including but not limited to L. monocytogenes, C. perfringens, S. dysenteriae, Y. enterocolitica, P. vulgaris, actinomycetes and molds.(13) Recent studies have further supported its use to treat several bacterial (e.g. H. pylori and tuberculosis) and fungal infections.(14),(15),(16) Several derivatives of NDGA have been examined and evidence suggests that three derivates (Mal.4, M (4) N, and tetra-acetyl NDGA) inhibit gene expression of type 16 of the human papillomavirus.(17)

L. tridentata has been investigated for use in the treatment of cancer as a result of the antitumor actions exhibited by its predominant constituent, NDGA. Extracts of L. tridentata have been shown to decrease the growth of breast cancer cells.(18),(19) NDGA has been shown to inhibit ligand activation of the insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) receptor in breast cancer cells.(18) By disrupting the phosphorylation process, activation of the IGF_I receptor is inhibited and so are the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling pathways normally induced when the IGF_I receptor is activated.(20) In addition to its effects on breast cancer cells, NDGA has been shown to inhibit the growth of neuroblastoma cells and to induce apoptosis in a dose-dependent fashion in neuroblastoma cells.(20)  These results are attributed, at least in part, to the inhibition of IGF-I activation of the IGF-I receptor and disruption of the associated signaling pathways.(19),(20) The antitumor effects of NDGA do not appear to be limited to breast cancer or neuroblastoma; a study in gerbils has shown NDGA to be effective in decreasing the incidence of H. pylori-associated gastric adenocarcinomas and NDGA is currently in Phase II of the clinical trial process for treatment of non-metastatic recurrent prostate cancer.(21),(22) Finally, one derivative of NDGA (3’-O-methyl-nordihydroguaiaretic acid) has been shown to induce apoptosis in cervical tumor cells.(23) The ability of NDGA derivatives to both inhibit gene expression of certain types of the human papillomavirus while also inducing apoptosis in cervical cancer cells indicates that extracts of L. tridentata may be able to alter the course of viral-induced carcinogenesis.


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Not to be used in combination with any prescription or over-the-counter medications.


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women, children, the elderly or frail.

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

L. tridentata is hepatotoxic. The US FDA has restricted sale and use of this herb due to its toxicity.

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Brinker F. Larrea tridentata (DC) Coville (chaparral or creosote bush) [review]. British Journal of Phytotherapy. 1993;3:10-31.
  2. Heron S. and Yarnell E. The safety or low-dose Larrea tridentata (DC) coville (Creosote bush or chaparral): A retrospective clinical study. J Alt Comp Med. Apr. 2001;7(2):175-185.
  3. Arteaga S., Andrade-Cetto S. and Cardenas R.  Larrea tridentata (Creosote bush), an abundant plant of Mexican and US-American deserts and its metabolite nordihydroguaiaretic acid. J Ethnopharm. Apr. 26, 2005;98(3):231-239.
  4. Yam-Canul P., Chirino Y.I., Sanchez-Gonzalez D.J. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid attenuates potassium dichromate-induced oxidative stress and nephrotoxicity. Food Chem. Toxicol. Mar. 2008;46(3):1089-1096.
  5. United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service 2009. The PLANTS Database. Available from: [Accessed on February 18, 2009].
  6. Moerman D. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2000.
  7. Meuninck J. Medicinal Plants of North America: A Field Guide. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press; 2008
  8. Romero JB. The Botanical Lore of the California Indians. New York. Vantage Press, Inc; 1954.
  9. Chichoke A. Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: Penguin-Putnam Press; 2001.
  10. Ansar S., Iqbal M., Athar M. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid is a potent inhibitor of ferric-nitrilotriacetate-mediated hepatic and renal toxicity, and renal tumor promotion, in mice. Carcinogenesis. Apr. 1999;20(4):599-606.
  11. Luo J., Chuang T., Cheung J., Quan J., Tsai J., Sullivan C., Hector R.F., Reed M.J., Mesazaros K., King S.R., Carlson T.J., and Reaven G.M. Masoprocol (nordihydroguaiaretic acid): A new antihyperglycemic agent isolated from the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). European Journal of Pharmacology. Apr. 3, 1998;346(1):77-79.
  12. Rang H.P., Dale M.M., Ritter J.M., and Gardner P.  Pharmacology: Local hormones, inflammation and allergy. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 1995.
  13. Verastegui MA, Sanchez CA, Heredia NL, Garcia-Alvarado JS. Antimicrobial activity of extracts of three major plants from the Chihuahuan desert. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1996;52(3):175-177.
  14. Stege P.W., Davincino R.C., Vega A.E., Casali Y.A., Correa S., and Micalizzi B. Antimicrobial activity of acqueous extracts of Larrea divaricata Cav (jarilla) against Helicobacter pylori. Phytomedicine. 2006;(13):724-727.
  15. Rivero-Cruz I, Acevedo L, Guerrero JA, Martinez S, Bye R, Pereda-Miranda R, Franzblau S, Timmermann BN, Mata R. Antimycobacterical agents from selected Mexican medicinal plants. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2005;57:1117-1126.
  16. Quiroga E.N., Sampietro A.R., and Vattuone M.A. In vitro fungitoxic activity of Larrea divaricata cav. Extracts.  Lett Appl Microbiol. 2004;39(1):7-12.
  17. Craigo J., Callahan M., Huang R.C., and DeLucia A.L. Inhibition of human papillomavirus type 16 gene expression by nordihydroguaiaretic acid plant lignan derivatives. Antiviral Research. Jul. 2000;47(1):19-28.
  18. Youngren JF, Gable K, Penaranda C, Maddux BA, Zavodovskaya M, Lobo M, Campbell M, Kerner J, Goldfine ID. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) inhibits the IGF-I and c-erbB2/HER2/neu receptors and suppresses growth in breast cancer cells. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. 2005;94:37-46.
  19. Van Slambrouck S., Daniels A.L., Hooten C.J., Brock S.L., Jenkins A.R., Ogasawara. Effects of crude aqueous medicinal plant extracts on growth and invasion of breast cancer cells. Oncology Reports. 2007;(17):1487-1492.
  20. Meyer G.E., Chesler L., Liu D., Gable K., Maddux B.A., Goldenberg D.D., et al. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid inhibits insulin-like growth factor signaling, growth, and survival in human neuroblastoma cells. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. Dec. 15, 2007;102(6):1529-1541.
  21. Toyoda T., Tsukamoto T., Mizoshita T., Nishibe S., Deyama T., Takenaka Y., Hirano N., Tanaka H., Takasu S., Ban H., Kumagai T., Inana K-I., Utsunomiya H., and Tatematsu M. Inhibitory effect of nordihydroguaiaretic acid, a plant lignan, on Helicobacter pylori-associated gastric carcinogenesis in Mongolian gerbils. Cancer Science. Nov. 2007;98(11):1689-1695.
  22. National Institutes of Health: Pharmacokinetic and efficacy study of nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) in non metastatic recurrent prostate cancer. Available from [Accessed on February 13, 2009].
  23. Allen K.L., Tschantz D.R., Awad K.S., Lynch W.P., and DeLucia A. L.  A plant lignan, 3’-O-methyl-nordihydroguaiaretic acid, suppresses papillomavirus E6 protein function, stabilizes p53 protein, and induces apoptosis in cervical tumor cells.  Molecular Carcinogenesis. Jul.2007;46(7):564-575.

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