Chaparral herbal product causes liver damage

Chaparral herbal products are prepared by grinding the leaves of an evergreen desert shrub known as the creosote bush or "greasewood" and either packing them into pills or brewing into tea. Chaparral attracted the attention of the scientific community in 1959 when several cancer patients appeared to have been helped by its use. Subsequent testing found that chaparral's effects upon cancer was mixed, including the disturbing finding that a majority of malignancies were stimulated by chaparral's major active ingredient. The use of chaparral tablets for as little as 6 weeks has been associated with liver damage. More recently, chaparral has been touted as a source of antioxidants. Now comes a report of a 60 year-old Chicago area woman who suffered severe liver damage after 10 months of taking 1-2 chaparral tablets daily. [JAMA, 1995;273:489-90]

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