Chaparral (scientifically called Larrea tridentata or Larrea diver-icata } grows from four to eight feet tall, and has small, dark green leaves and brittle stems. It covers hundreds of square miles in the desert plains and slopes of southern California and Arizona, up to an elevation of five thousand feet. (8) The Cahuilla Indians of the Palm Springs, California, area make a general-health tonic tea from its leaves, which they sweeten with honey.
The medicinal tea is used for many different diseases, from colds to intestinal complaints and cancer. (6) In 1942 scientists at the University of Minnesota isolated nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) as the most significant chemical component of chaparral. (12) NDGA was used to preserve butter in the tropics during World War II, and is used to preserve other fats and oils, because it is a very powerful antioxidant. Dr. Mora, from the University of Auburn in Auburn, Alabama, has found that NDGA attacks bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi, and cancer cells. He has noted that it does not produce the side effects of other chemotherapeutic agents.
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