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Considerable confusion exists regarding the safety of chaparral. Chaparral itself does not appear to be toxic even when given to animals in very high doses. 1 In particular, it does not appear to contain any liver toxins. Nonetheless, there have been recurrent reports of severe liver or kidney injury associated with use of the herb. 2 While in some of these cases cause and effect was poorly established, in others the connection seems clear.
Almost all reports involved chaparral tablets or extracts rather than the more traditional tea; however, the significance of this distinction is not clear. It is quite likely, though not proven, that liver or kidney toxicity chaparral is an “idiosyncratic reaction,” something in the nature of a rare allergy. However, until this situation is cleared up, internal use of chaparral must regarded as presenting unknown risks. Since chaparral has no established benefits as yet, it is probably best to simply avoid it.
- Brinker F. Larrea tridentata (D.C.) Coville (chaparral or creosote bush) [review]. Br J Phytother. 1993/1994;3:10-31.
- Sheikh NM, Philen RM, Love LA. Chaparral-associated hepatotoxicity. Arch Int Med. 1997;157:913-919.