What is Chaparral?

Larrea tridentata in bloom * Chaparral in bloomLarrea tridentata

Chaparral, often referred to as Creosote bush, is a desert shrub with waxy green compound leaves consisting of two leaflets. Small, bright yellow flowers usually bloom in the spring, but blooms may be delayed by lack of rain. Although chaparral typically averages around 4-6ft in height, plants growing in areas with greater rainfall have been known to reach a towering 12 feet tall. This flowering evergreen bush in the Zygophyllaceae family grows in the American Southwest and into northern Mexico, throughout the Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts.

The sticky resin found on the leaves of this desert shrub is reminiscent of creosote, giving chaparral its distinct and pungent smell, especially strong after a rainfall. Though plentiful, harvesting chaparral is a difficult task due to the abrasive nature of the stems and the stickiness of the leaves, even after they're dried.

The Creosote bush thrives in harsh desert habitats. The roots excrete a substance that won't allow other plants to grow nearby, helping to ensure its survival. You can't miss chaparral; if you've been to the desert southwest, you've seen miles of land covered in these adaptable bushes. The waxy outer coating on the leaves seals in moisture and protects the plant from heat and harsh UV rays. With a highly efficient root system, in addition to blocking other plants from growing, chaparral is able to absorb enough water to survive even during times of drought. The ability to clone itself adds to the reasons why chaparral is one of the dominant forms of plant life in the area.

What Does Chaparral Do?

Chaparral is known to have a wide range of curative properties. Native Americans and Native Mexicans have used this plant both internally and externally for thousands of years. Traditionally, southwest tribes prescribed chaparral for many conditions ranging from infertility to kidney stones. They also used it topically as a sunscreen for themselves and their animals.

This warrior plant is a strong ally in the fight against many skin ailments. With antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory qualities, and containing a large amount of antioxidants, chaparral can truly be called a cure-all remedy. When applied to the skin, it may reduce irritation from rashes, bites, wounds, and burns.

Chaparral Uses

Do you have skin that is irritated or damaged in any way? It will most likely benefit from chaparral. Yes, that is a blanket statement, but don't overthink it. Chaparral is just good stuff. Everything from chronic conditions like eczema to acute irritations like bug bites, from athlete's foot to minor burns, can be helped by chaparral.

Ground chaparral leaves can be infused into oils, liniments,and poultices, or chaparral-infused oil can added to a salve for ease of use and portability. Because of the resinous nature of this plant, grinding the leaves can be messy and may stain surfaces. For this reason, many herbalists who frequently use chaparral will have a separate grinder and blender just to process these leaves.

Chaparral and calendula have similar healing properties. When used in combination, chaparral takes on the active role, while calendula takes on a supportive role. They act together as yin and yang forces, with chaparral working to fight and defend while calendula soothes and heals. Products containing both of these herbal powerhouses are beneficial for a wide range of skin problems.

Chaparral Precautions

Both the FDA and Health Canada have advised people not to ingest any form of chaparral, and in 2005, Canada banned the importation of certain natural health products containing chaparral. Although indigenous people have used it internally for many years, modern studies have concluded that chaparral can be helpful about as often as they have concluded that it can be harmful. For instance, many studies have found chaparral to be a useful anti-cancer agent or liver detoxifier, but just as many have concluded that chaparral can cause cancer and is highly toxic to the liver. Because of the complexity of the scientific findings, individuals are advised to only use chaparral externally.

As always, the best approach is to remain aware of the possibility of individual sensitivity to plants and herbs. Even topical applications can cause an adverse reaction for those with allergies, so always closely monitor your physical response to any herbal remedy and discontinue use immediately if any irritation occurs.

Chaparral Fun Facts

Spanish names for this plant include "gobernadora" meaning governess, and "hediondilla" which translates to "little stinker".

Chaparral won't grow above 5,000ft in elevation

One of the oldest known living plants is the "King Clone" creosote bush in the Mojave Desert, estimated at over 10,000 years old.

Chaparral Products

Wunder Budder Paramedic herbal salve contains both chaparral and calendula, as well as tea tree oil and eucalyptus, making it the ideal choice for skin irritations such as minor burns, cuts, and insect bites.

Buy Paramedic now.

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