Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More


Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

Common Names

  • Creosote bush
  • Greasewood
  • Hediondilla
  • Gobernadora

For Patients & Caregivers

Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.

What is it?

Chaparral has not been shown to treat any medical condition, and has been associated with cases of liver toxicity.

Chaparral is a plant that grows in the desert regions of Mexico and the southwest United States. It has a long medicinal history and has been used by Native Americans to treat skin sores, inflammatory disorders, rheumatism, diabetes, tuberculosis, colds, venereal disease, and cancer. Chaparral tea has been employed to treat kidney and gallbladder stones.

However, evidence on whether it can treat any medical condition is lacking. Although lab studies suggest an active compound in chaparral, nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), has antiviral, anticancer, and antiparasitic properties, a clinical trial found chaparral was ineffective as an anticancer agent.

Because several patients who regularly drank chaparral tea developed kidney cysts, kidney cancer, and liver damage, chaparral products are not recommended. The FDA removed NDGA, formerly used as a food additive in low concentrations, from its "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) substances list. Also Masoprocol, a topical cream containing NDGA for the treatment of actinic keratoses, was withdrawn from the US market in June 1996.

Chaparral is an ingredient in black salve, which is promoted as an alternative cancer treatment.

What are the potential uses and benefits?

There is no scientific evidence on the use of chaparral to treat:

  • Arthritis
  • Bronchitis or the common cold
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Urinary problems
  • Muscle spasms
What are the side effects?
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash
  • Stomach upset
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Liver damage, cirrhosis, acute hepatitis
  • Kidney failure
What else do I need to know?

Patient Warnings:

  • Chaparral and products containing chaparral have been associated with severe liver damage, in some cases requiring liver transplantation.

For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name
Larrea tridentate, Larrea divaricata
Clinical Summary

Chaparral is a plant prevalent in the desert regions of Mexico and southwest United States with a long medicinal history. Native Americans used extracts and preparations from this plant to treat skin sores, diabetes, cancer, venereal disease, tuberculosis, colds, and rheumatism. The aqueous extract, known as chaparral tea, has been employed for the treatment of kidney and gallbladder stones.

A phase II clinical trial found chaparral to be ineffective as an anticancer agent (9). In another small retrospective study, low intake of chaparral tincture (<10%) did not cause adverse effects (3), but the association between length of exposure and risk is not known.

Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), the active compound isolated from chaparral, has been investigated for its biological effects. In preclinical studies, it demonstrated antioxidant (12), anticancer (2) (13) (19) (20), antiviral (21), antiparastitic (22), neuroprotective (14) and renoprotective (15) properties. It also had a protective effect against diet-induced metabolic function (23). However, studies in humans are quite limited. One pilot in patients with relapsed prostate cancer suggested NDGA was reasonably well tolerated and affected increases in PSA doubling time, but it was also associated with transaminitis in some patients (16).

Several cases of reversible and irreversible liver damage (4) (7) (8) (17) have been associated with chaparral and products containing chaparral. NDGA, formerly employed as a food additive in low concentrations, has been removed by the FDA from its “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) substances list (1). Also Masoprocol, a topical cream containing NDGA for the treatment of actinic keratoses, was withdrawn from the US market in June 1996 (18).

Chaparral is an ingredient in black salve, which is promoted as an alternative cancer treatment.

Purported Uses and Benefits
  • Arthritis
  • Bronchitis
  • Cancer
  • Common cold
  • Inflammation
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Promote urination
  • Spasms
Mechanism of Action

Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), a lipoxygenase inhibitor, may be responsible for the biological activity of chaparral. In vitro, it blocked cellular respiration (2). It also inhibited growth of estrogen receptor (ER) positive MCF-7 cells that overexpressed HER 2 (MCF-7/HER2-18), and had additive effects when combined with tamoxifen (13).

In murine models, NDGA exerted neuroprotective effects against ischemic/reperfusion injury mediated via suppression of the c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase pathway (14), and ameliorated potassium dichromate-induced oxidative stress and nephrotoxicity (15).


Chaparral and products containing chaparral have been associated with severe hepatotoxicity, with some cases requiring liver transplantation (4) (7) (8) (17).

Adverse Reactions

Fatigue, jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatotoxicity (4) (5) (7) (8) (11) (17).

Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  1. USFDA. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.…. Accessed February 11, 2021.
  2. Cunningham DC, et al. Proliferative responses of normal human mammary and MCF-7 breast cancer cells to linoleic, CLA and eicosanoid synthesis inhibitors in culture. Anticancer Res 1997;17:197-203.
  3. Pavani M, et al. Inhibition of tumoral cell respiration and growth by norhidydroguaiaretic acid. Biochem Pharmacol 1994;48:1935-42.
  4. Sheikh NM, et al. Chaparral-associated hepatotoxicity. Arch Intern Med 1997;157:913-9.
  5. Tyler V, et al. The Honest Herbal. New York: Pharmaceutical Press; 1993.
  6. Heron S, Yarnell E. The safety of low-dose Larrea tridentata (DC) Coville (creosote bush or chaparral): a retrospective clinical study. J Altern Complement Med 2001;7:175-85.
  7. Batchelor WB, et al. Chaparral-induced hepatic injury. Am J Gastroenterol 1995;90:831-3.
  8. Gordon DW, et al. Chaparral ingestion. The broadening spectrum of liver injury caused by herbal medications. JAMA 1995;273:489-90.
  9. Smart CR, et al. Clinical experience with nordihydroguaiaretic acid — “Chaparrel tea” in the treatment of cancer. Rocky Mt Med J. 1970 Nov;67(11):39-43.
  10. Gordon DW, et al. Chaparral ingestion. The broadening spectrum of liver injury caused by herbal medications. JAMA 1995;273:489-90.
  11. Kauma H, Koskela R, Mäkisalo H, et al. Toxic acute hepatitis and hepatic fibrosis after consumption of chaparral tablets. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2004 Nov;39(11):1168-71.
  12. Kumar S, Wedgwood S, Black SM. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid increases endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression via the transcription factor AP-1. DNA Cell Biol. 2007 Dec;26(12):853-62.
  13. Zavodovskaya M, Campbell MJ, Maddux BA, et al. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), an inhibitor of the HER2 and IGF-1 receptor tyrosine kinases, blocks the growth of HER2-overexpressing human breast cancer cells. J Cell Biochem. 2008 Feb 1;103(2):624-35.
  14. Liu Y, Wang H, Zhu Y, Chen L, Qu Y, Zhu Y. The protective effect of nordihydroguaiaretic acid on cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury is mediated by the JNK pathway. Brain Res. 2012 Mar 22;1445:73-81.
  15. Yam-Canul P, Chirino YI, Sánchez-González DJ, et al. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid attenuates potassium dichromate-induced oxidative stress and nephrotoxicity. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Mar;46(3):1089-96.
  16. Ryan CJ, Harzstark AH, Rosenberg J, et al. A pilot dose-escalation study of the effects of nordihydroguareacetic acid on hormone and prostate specific antigen levels in patients with relapsed prostate cancer.  BJU Int. 2008 Feb;101(4):436-9.
  17. USFDA. Accessed February 11, 2021.
  18. Drugs@FDA: FDA Approved Drug Products.…. Accessed February 11, 2021.
  19. Li X, Fan S, Pan X, et al. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid impairs prostate cancer cell migration and tumor metastasis by suppressing neuropilin 1. Oncotarget. 2016 Dec 27;7(52):86225-86238.
  20. Leon D, Parada D, Vargas-Uribe M, et al. Effect of nordihydroguaiaretic acid on cell viability and glucose transport in human leukemic cell lines. FEBS Open Bio. 2016 Aug 23;6(10):1000-1007.
  21. Merino-Ramos T, Jiménez de Oya N, Saiz JC, Martín-Acebes MA. Antiviral Activity of Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid and Its Derivative Tetra-O-Methyl Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid against West Nile Virus and Zika Virus. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2017 Jul 25;61(8). pii: e00376-17.
  22. Bashyal B, Li L, Bains T, Debnath A, LaBarbera DV. Larrea tridentata: A novel source for anti-parasitic agents active against Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Naegleria fowleri. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017 Aug 9;11(8):e0005832.
  23. Chan JKW, Bittner S, Bittner A, et al. Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid, a Lignan from Larrea tridentata (Creosote Bush), Protects Against American Lifestyle-Induced Obesity Syndrome Diet-Induced Metabolic Dysfunction in Mice. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2018 May;365(2):281-290.
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