Bottom Line: Chaparral cannot treat or cure cancer or any other medical condition.
Chaparral is derived from the leaves and twigs of the creosate bush, a native American herb that has been used for inflammation and cancer. It contains biologically active molecules that have been found to block cellular division in laboratory studies. However, when chaparral extracts were tested in living bodies (animal studies), no such effect was found. Because several patients who regularly drank chaparral tea developed kidney cysts, kidney cancer, and liver damage, using chaparral is not worth the risks.
Chaparral is a native American herb that has purported anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. However, a phase II clinical trial showed chaparral to be ineffective as an anticancer agent (9). Numerous reports indicate hepatotoxicity following the use of chaparral (4)(7)(8). Although a small retrospective study indicates that low intake of chaparral tincture (<10%) appears to have no adverse effects (3), correlation between length of exposure and risk is not known.
Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), the principal ingredient in chaparral, was removed from the FDA’s “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) list in 1968 (1). Due to case reports involving both reversible and irreversible liver damage, the FDA issued a health warning urging withdrawal of chaparral products in 1992. The use of chaparral as an herbal remedy cannot be recommended.
Chaparral is an ingredient in black salve, which is promoted as an alternative cancer treatment.
Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) a lipoxygenase inhibitor may be responsible for the biological activity of chaparral. It is believed that NDGA may have anticancer activity by blocking cellular respiration in vitro (2). However, later studies found no effect in vivo (3).