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Articles from July/August 1999:

The Egyptian Sphinx: A Mystery of Mysteries, by Scott Grady, CHt

Update on the Desert Chaparral Bush, by William A. McGarey, MD

Update on the
Desert Chaparral

by William A. McGarey, MD
Staff Physician (Ret.), A.R.E. Clinic

Dr. McGarey

Chaparral tea, concocted from the leaves of the desert chaparral bush Larrea tridentata (known also as greasewood or creosote bush), has been a favorite of mine ever since I read the story about the man in Utah who went to the University Medical Center and was diagnosed as having cancer of the lungs, the kind which would not respond to chemotherapy and could not be removed surgically.

In the upland Sonora desert — of which Phoenix is a part — the chaparral bush is easy to find. Its small green leaves and long wiry stems are very distinctive.

The story goes that this old gentleman was sent home with little hope, because the doctors could not do anything for him. An old American Indian friend of his stopped by one day, having heard the story of his trouble. He brought some of these chaparral bush leaves with him, instructed his friend on how to make the tea, and suggested that he drink two or three cups of the tea daily, that it would help.

Instructions given by the doctors simply said that their patient should return for a check-up in six months, which he did. Exhaustive studies at that time revealed no evidence of lung cancer. Apparently, studies were begun to find out what the creosote bush — as it is generally called — had in it that might have brought about such a remarkable response. Little was generally published at that time, so the research may not have produced information that was helpful.

”One Pima Indian legend tells us that creosote was the first plant created.”

Indian legends hold the plant in high regard, that it is beneficial in healing arthritis as well as many other disturbances of the human being. One Pima Indian legend tells us that creosote was the first plant created. Some studies lead scientists to believe that some individual plants have survived thousands of years.

Those knowledgeable here in Arizona know that the plant is extremely hardy, can survive months in the hot desert without significant rainfall, and has its roots deep in the ground, lending to its longevity. After a rainfall the desert where chaparral grows gives off its distinctive perfume, once experienced and identified, never to be forgotten. The taste of the tea is bitter to some tastebuds, but can be acceptable if one wishes to learn about its better points.

Some of the research done in the past few years has revealed that a compound found in creosote leaves 50 years ago, NDGA (nordihydroguaiaretic acid) has the capacity to block HIV virus reproduction within cells. A chemical variant — a chemical cousin — of NDGA was found to be even more effective in this blocking of HIV reproduction. It is called 3-0-methyl NDMA. Often, of course, early findings do not pan out to be be what the researchers wish, so the findings need to be looked at with caution.

Nevertheless, the stories coming from the Indian culture need to be paid attention to. Thus the presence of chaparral tea on the dinner table of the Temple Beautiful programs adds more interest and most probably value to the effort to bring healing to the participants.

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