Posted to Subscribers on 17 January 2013


Dear Subscribers,

After a long lack of availability, a fresh batch of tea arrived a few hours ago so it seems like a good time to introduce this controversial plant. Larrea tridentata is a desert plant, growing in the Southwest and parts of Texas and down into Mexico. It is an evergreen and has beautiful yellow flowers as well as a rather distinct creasote-like smell that a few people like and others do not.

Chaparral is a survivor. Stands of plants have been carbon-dated: they are at least 11,500 years old. This means that despite everything from drought to foraging by animals and human folly, the plant has found ways to protect itself from all the risks known to plants. The oldest plants are in the Mojave Desert where I lived for a short time as a small child. I remember very hot summers and some snow in the winter.

The primary chemical constituent of chaparral is nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) which is a potent antioxidant. It has been tested on female mosquitoes whose normal life span is 29 days. With the NDGA, they lived 45 days. NDGA was once a popular additive to fats and oils, used to prevent rancidity; however, in its whole form, chaparral contains about 600 different chemicals so it is complex and fascinating. Though it had a lot of bad press and was, for a while, voluntarily withdrawn from the market, there is not a single death that has been attributed to this plant. The claims of possible liver toxicity seem valid but exaggerated, and patients return to normal when use is suspended. A panel of experts found no evidence to support the idea that chaparral is toxic and the herb now has a clean bill of health in the U.S. The word has not spread to other countries and chaparral continues to be on the restricted list in quite a number of countries. For those who want to read about the controversy, there is a fairly comprehensive summary here:

On the other side of the equation, we have a rather impressive list of medical conditions that respond favorably to chaparral, everything from severe oral infections to melanoma. As we ought to expect of a plant with such a long history, curanderos hold chaparral in very high esteem and have rituals for the use of the leaves and twigs. It is used for arthritis, eczema, cancer, and infections, including venereal diseases.

Dr. William Kelley was, like many others, very partial to chaparral. He believed it is a chelating agent for pollutants as well as medicinal and recreational drug residuals. He felt that the body could wage a more successful battle against cancer once the toxins, including metallic toxins, were removed. My comments on his theories can be found here:

It is always frustrating when a traditional medicine falls into disrepute because of a single report or sometimes a study of an active ingredient rather than the whole herb. When I get up on my bandstand, I am always at risk of spraining an ankle, but here we go.

In the very long tradition of herbal medicine, the herbs were used whole and often in combination with other herbs. As the Tibetans wrote 800 years ago, the other constituents of the herb protect organs from damage while the "active" ingredient works its magic. In the case of chaparral, it is assumed that the active ingredient is NDGA but scientists have yet to make heads or tails of the other 600 constituents. Okay, that is one point, but the other is the issue of how precisely detoxification occurs, especially chelation of toxic metals, but theoretically similar risks can be found with any protocol that involves mobilizing toxins from their storage places. For instance, in the case of cilantro, I always advise people with amalgams to avoid cilantro, not just the extract of cilantro but any form of cilantro, including chutneys and pestos. The reason is that cilantro appears to be highly reactive with mercury (but also aluminum and lead) so that contact with "silver" fillings can mobilize metals from the teeth. In all likelihood, there is nothing at all wrong with cilantro except that it has this power. Of course, 99% of the world population is probably unaware of the studies involving cilantro as a chelating agent so they might blame the herb for symptoms associated with metallic toxins instead of recognizing what really happened.

If chaparral has a similar power, then its use should be tailored to the capacity to manage the detoxification, which as we all know relies partly on the ability of the eliminatory organs to remove the toxins. Otherwise, the toxins are mobilized and reabsorbed. When this happens, there could be wild symptoms and little or no net gain. Now if we consider what Dr. Kelley said, we might accept that storing toxins in the liver (or pancreas) is not desirable and may impair the ability of the body to manage processes involving enzymes. However, if the side effects of the chelation are too wild, we have to reduce the dosage and improve elimination. Personally, I would not panic. Rather, I try to help people to understand what is happening. Of course, when we are able to monitor the processes in darkfield microscopy, the patient and microscopist can see what has been mobilized and assess the efficiency of the eliminatory processes so that a sensible pace of detoxification can be maintained.

Reading your emails, as I do, I realize that most of those writing have figured out how to monitor their own processes. The rest can locate someone who is a position to assist this monitoring. Unfortunately, for many Americans, this means going abroad. However, common sense is very useful. If we believe the press on autism, attention deficit disorder, and Alzheimer's disease, we realize that toxic metals have gotten into our brains. Anyone who has struggled with any of these problems ought to be relieved to know that a gradual chelation program might relieve the symptoms that rob us of our capacity to function coherently. Since I personally differentiate between the mind and the brain, I worded that the way I did to underscore that on some level, our minds are no doubt absolutely clear, but if our brains are not working as they should, we are unable to demonstrate what the mind knows.

The bottom line is that many herbs work indirectly on the underlying problems rather than directly on the disease. In the case of chaparral, no toxic chemicals have been found in the plant so the explanation for the handful of cases of toxicity must be related to the chelating effects, not to the herb itself:

Those who feel the need to chelate should therefore prepare themselves with herbs that support proper kidney, liver, and perhaps also brain function . . . and they should start with small doses.

Meanwhile, a few of you wrote that something is "different" about my recent posts. Well, there might be some differences that are superficial and some that are deeper. Last year was not an easy year. I took on a lot and because of the pain during the summer and commitment to India during the last three months of the year, I was struggling to maintain momentum. I am fine now but playing catch up. However, I do want to pay tribute to my cranio-sacral therapist because, like everyone else, when one processes "history" in a supportive environment, there is not just a reduction of physical trauma but also emotional baggage. The body-mind connection is profound and meeting another soul who shares this awareness is blissful.

There is however more going on than this. I am trying really hard to create a research institute but with my resources, I can only contribute the philosophical framework for why this is necessary and perhaps how the project could unfold. I feel the pressure to make this happen, but there is nothing to show on the physical level at this time . . . so now you know and you can read into this whatever you like.

Many blessings,



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2013






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Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2013

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