Chaparral is a shrubland plant community that may be found predominantly in California, southern Oregon, and the northern section of Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. Summer-drought-tolerant plants with hard sclerophyllous evergreen leaves, as opposed to the associated soft-leaved, drought-deciduous scrub community of coastal sage scrub, are shaped by a Mediterranean climate (mild, wet winters and hot dry summers) and infrequent, high-intensity crown fires, which are often found on drier, southern facing slopes within the chaparral biome.
Native Americans have used it to cure skin sores, inflammatory diseases, rheumatism, diabetes, tuberculosis (TB), colds, venereal disease, and cancer for centuries. Tea made from chaparral has been used to cure kidney and gallbladder stones.
Chaparral was shown to be unsuccessful as an anticancer drug in a phase II clinical study. A tiny retrospective research found that a modest dose of chaparral tincture (ten percent) had no harmful effects, although the relationship between exposure time and danger is unknown.
The biological effects of nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), the active chemical identified from chaparral, have been studied. It showed antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, antiparasitic, neuroprotective, and renoprotective effects in preclinical investigations. It also protected against diet-induced changes in metabolic function. Human research, on the other hand, are few. In a study of relapsed prostate cancer patients, NDGA was found to be well tolerated and to reduce PSA doubling time, but it was also linked to transaminitis in certain individuals.
Chaparral and products containing chaparral have been linked to many incidences of reversible and permanent liver injury. Chaparral products are not advised since some individuals who drank chaparral tea on a daily basis experienced kidney cyst, kidney cancer, and liver damage. The FDA has removed NDGA off its list of “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) chemicals. It was formerly used as a food additive in low amounts. Masoprocol, an NDGA-containing topical cream for the treatment of actinic keratoses, was also taken off the market in the United States in June 1996.
Chaparral is a component of black salve, which is touted as a cancer therapy option.
Health benefits of chaparral
Despite the lack of evidence, there are several health benefits associated with chaparral.
The human papillomavirus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and herpes simplex virus are all said to be prevented by the chaparral plant (HSV).
Lignans are plant chemicals that provide health advantages. Chaparral includes several distinct polyphenols called lignans. The lignans in chaparral are thought to prevent the transcription factor Sp1 from replicating viral genes.
Although this is encouraging, chaparral can have serious side effects such as liver problems, diarrhoea, and fever, which are particularly harmful for those with weakened immune systems, such as HIV patients.
Furthermore, no human study has been conducted, making it impossible to determine its real efficacy.
NDGA, an antioxidant found in Chaparral, can help to prevent lipid peroxidation. This is a process in which free radical molecules assault lipids, causing cellular damage. Chronic illnesses, such as neurodegenerative disease, may be exacerbated by cellular damage.
Anti-inflammatory qualities have been discovered in NDGA, which may help with arthritis, sciatica, headaches, and stomach discomfort.
Researchers think that oxidative stress plays a significant role in neurological illness. Free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which antioxidants like NDGA can help to prevent.
As a result, NDGA has been investigated as a possible therapy for neurological disorders. It may also protect brain cells from various forms of injury, according to research. NDGA has been proposed as a therapy option for:
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Antioxidants are thought to help prevent illness by lowering free radical levels in the body. They’re thought to protect the arteries and blood vessels of the cardiovascular system against damage caused by excessive cholesterol, the deposit of fatty materials (atherosclerosis), diabetes, high blood pressure, and other factors.
Chaparral in cancer
Lignans can be found in chaparral. Plants contain lignans, which are compounds. They have anticancer and oestrogenic properties.
Nordihydroguaiaretic acid is the primary lignan found in chaparral (NDGA). It’s an antioxidant with a lot of punch. That is to say, it shields cells from harm. It is poisonous, despite the fact that it is an antioxidant. NDGA causes liver damage in large dosages.
M4N is an NDGA-derived molecule. It’s also known as an NDGA derivative. M4N has been tested on mouse and human cancer cells in the laboratory. They discovered that M4N inhibits cancer cell growth.
However, there is no evidence that it works or is safe to use. There is no scientific proof that it can be used to treat cancer.
Mechanism of Action
The lipoxygenase inhibitor nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) may be responsible for chaparral’s biological action. It stopped cellular respiration in vitro. It also exhibited additive effects when coupled with tamoxifen, inhibiting the development of oestrogen receptor (ER) positive MCF-7 cells that overexpressed HER 2 (MCF-7/HER2-18).
In mouse models, NDGA suppressed the c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase pathway, resulting in neuroprotection against ischemic/reperfusion damage, as well as reducing potassium dichromate-induced oxidative stress and nephrotoxicity.
Chaparral has been found to have considerable health hazards in most studies, which is why it is prohibited in many nations. Despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified it as a toxic plant, it is nevertheless available for purchase in the United States and online.
Although NDGA from chaparral is a powerful antioxidant, it has been linked to a number of significant side effects, including hepatotoxicity, or liver harm caused by drugs or chemicals.
While a link between chaparral and liver damage appears to exist, the mechanism remains unknown. Some speculate that it has something to do with NDGA impairing the liver’s capacity to eliminate toxins.
Chaparral may also result in:
• weight loss
• skin rashes and itching
• severe liver inflammation (hepatitis)
• kidney cysts
Due to its potential for damage, the FDA revoked NDGA’s classification as “Generally Recognized as Safe” in 1968. Due to a significant number of complaints of liver failure, the FDA issued a public warning regarding the safety concerns of chaparral in 1992.
Despite this, there is controversy about its safety, as the plant has been used anecdotally for millennia with no instances of liver failure. Furthermore, after supplementing with tiny quantities of the plant, some short trials showed no symptoms of liver failure.
As a result, some researchers feel that the increase in reported liver failure in the 1990s was due to a mix of causes, not only chaparral.
The greater amount of NDGA in chaparral supplements appears to be the cause of the majority of adverse effects. Chaparral tea often has lower levels of NDGA and is linked with less adverse effects.
However, several studies have demonstrated that chaparral overdose can happen quickly and in tiny doses.
For ages, chaparral has been utilized as a cure-all for a variety of illnesses.
It’s available as a tea, a supplement, an oil, and a homoeopathic remedy. It is still available in the United States and online, despite being prohibited in several nations.
Although certain animal and test-tube research back up its anticancer and anti-inflammatory capabilities, no human trials have been conducted because to the significant health risks it poses.
Even tiny quantities of chaparral have been found to be toxic to the liver, requiring a liver transplant in certain cases.
As a result, it’s advisable to steer clear of chaparral.