Urtica dioica (Nettles)

Urtica dioica (Urticaceae) Nettles

Vitalist Actions and Energetics:
Cool/ Warm and Dry, Vital Stimulant, Astringent/ Tonic

Clinical Actions:
alterative, nutritive, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, tonic, astringent, anti-arthritic, anti-allergenic
Leaf: tonic, galactagogue, anti-anaemic, anti-scorbutic, kidney ally, lithotriptic, anti-purine, antiseptic, anti-diabetic, anti-rheumatic, pectoral, expectorant, epi-spastic

Common Forms and Dosages:
Tincture: 1:2 95% fresh root, 1 tsp twice a day. Tincture 1:2 95% fresh leaf for allergies, take symptomatically, 30-60 gtts as needed. (from 7song/ Michael Moore ratios)
Infusion: 28 g herb to 100 mL water, standard infusion- drink daily, as a tonic
Poultice: fresh herb macerated, placed on skin as a bandage for septic wounds. Topical “flogging” as anodyne.
Capsules:for heavy menstruation, take 100 mg capsule 3 times a day
Seeds: 1/4 tsp daily, as nutritive food

Primary Uses:
Infusion: nutritive tonic, mild diuretic, nourish kidneys and adrenals, hair wash, skin cleanser (through diuretic action and general nourishment). Better as a nutritive tonic infusion, than through daily tinctures. More nutrients come out through water.
Root tincture: for enlarged prostrate (BPH), astringent. Increases urinary flow and volume, while decreasing frequency of urination and residual urine.
Leaf tincture: anti-allergenic.
Topical application: anodyne. Flog painful area with nettles leaves.
Seeds: vitamin-packed food.

Leaf: flavanoids, minerals (potassium, silicic acid, calcium), coumarins, phenolic acis (cholorogenic acid, etc), phytoestrols (5-sterols), biogenic amines (histamine, acetylcholine, seotonin), chlorophylls, carotenoids, etc.
Root: phytoestrols, coumarins, lignans, a lectin, polysaccharides, tripertines, minerals, ceramides

Cautions and Contraindications:
The diuretic effect may be contraindicated for obstructive urinary stones, edema due to impaired heart or kidney function and kidney inflammations.

Personal Experience

Pulse: Nettles leaf glycerite did not affect my pulse.
Nettles root tincture did not affect my pulse.
Nettles leaf infusion quickened my pulse a little bit.

Circulation: Nettles leaf glycerite did not affect my circulation. I felt a little cooler after taking it.
Nettles root tincture did not affect my circulation. I felt slightly warmer after taking it, perhaps due to the alcohol.
Nettles leaf infusion increased my body temperature a little bit.

Mucous Membranes: Nettles leaf glycerite caused salivation.
Nettles root tincture caused my mouth to feel drier after taking it.
Nettles leaf infusion tried out my mouth and throat, and even down into my belly. It causes me to pee more often than usual.

Specific Body Area Influenced: Nettles leaf glycerite affected my GI system.
Nettles root tincture traveled to my lower GI.
Nettles leaf infusion made me feel grounded and relaxed.

Movement: Nettles leaf glycerite stuck in my throat, causing an initial nauseous feeling, a tightening in my gut.
I then started to salivate, and feel the release of digestive juices.
Nettles root tincture travels downwards.
Nettles leaf infusion travels downward, rooting me down into the Earth.

Other forms taken:
- Nettles gomasio: sprinkled it on food. Basically powdered everything: nettles, seaweed, roasted sesame seeds, salt, and your personal preferred spice blend combo. Tastes nourishing and delicious. Would be a great way to get it into the diet of future clients, and fun/easy cooking project to engage with kids, or beginner wild-crafters.
- In the past, I eat a lot of nettles during nettles season. I blanch it, then season it with some tamari and sesame oil (the usual Chinese type seasoning). Nourishing, delicious. Love that nettles is also a great food herb, awareness teacher, and abundant where it doth grow. Oh, and did I mention gorgeous? GORGEOUS.
- Nettles lasagna. (Recipe from my first teacher, Lucy)
- Nettles vinegar. Great way to pull out minerals. This spring, I plan to make a nettles salad dressing, based off a Gladstar recipe: layer fresh young nettles leaves in a glass jar, then cover with a 1:1 vinegar:olive oil menstruum... let sit for weeks to months. Enjoy well preserved nettles, come winter! Yes!
- Nettles hair wash! 7song went for something like 6 years with only washing his hair with a 1:1 nettles: rosemary infusion. Unlike his balding brethren, his hair is still pretty luxuriant. It feels nourishing, smells divine (the earthy kind of seaweed-like divine), and makes my hair shinier and darker.
- Urtication! I love it! Do read on...

Overall Experience:
We gathered nettles at Paul Strauss’ Equinox Botanicals farm last year, during a class fieldtrip. I gathered as much nettles as I could process in the time we had. I used up all of my remaining gathering bags on nettles. We dried our nettles harvest in the greenhouse. We filled the greenhouse with nettles. The bright green color filled my eyes, and the dust from the dried plants filled my nostrils. I started off gathering nettles totally covered with clothing, even in the heat. I did not want to get stung... My first experience with nettles was not positive: I was river-tracing up a stream in Connecticut, at the place where I loved, lived, and worked. Exploring the deeper areas of the stream that I’d never been before, I encountered a painful welting on my upper body, as my lower body was submerged under water. Confused about the origin of the stinging sensation, I continued plunging through the brush, up the river. The stinging sensation got worse. I even got it on my face. Then, I realized that it was coming from the plants that I was pushing through, to go upstream. Stopping to soak my stinging limbs in the water, I carefully inspected the plant, noticing the little hairs covering its entire body... and noticing how the stream-side was lined with these plants, as was the path that I was carving through the plant undergrowth that almost canopied over me, bush-whacking upstream. Seeing land ahead, I decided to just plunge underwater and continue swimming upstream, though the water wasn’t quite deep enough. I’d do anything to avoid further stinging. Upon arriving on land, I was dismayed to discover that this bright green gorgeous but painfully stinging plant covered most of the visible landscape. I carefully picked my way across the landscape from rock to rock in my bare feet, trying my best to avoid these plants, but howling more often than not, as I accidentally stepped on their lush growth, as I walked into the forest.

Thus began my life journey with nettles. Thus explains my respect for nettles... and my fear of touching them, when I was at Paul’s farm. I harvested the nettles with some other student friends. One student was harvesting without gloves. Another student took off her gloves. One after another, as we watched each other yowl through the initial pain, then develop a tolerance for the stinging, most of us took off our gloves, and harvested nettles bare-handed. Me too. After 3 days of bare-handedly handling the nettles, I had a then-permanent tingling in my hands and wrist, and a slight swelling, some bumps. After a while, the pain almost becomes pleasurable, though. I have regular underlying pain in my wrist, due to a surgery. After all of the self-inflicted “flogging” with the fresh nettles during those few days of blissful nettles harvesting, my wrist and hand felt more alive and relaxed than it ever had, after my surgery of a year ago on that hand. Nettles! What a fantastic topical vital stimulant. And now, I am no longer afraid of touching them directly, with respect, and much gratitude.

I started drinking nettles infusion daily after an elder gave me all of Susun Weed’s books, and I devoured them all. I especially enjoyed the charismatic presentation of the plants in “Healing Wise,” and immediately started harvesting, eating, and drinking infusions of all the local edible/ medicinal weeds around me. This included nettles. I love the earthy taste, thick almost syrupy quality, and dark green color of nettles infusion. I love the daily ritual of measuring out an ounce of dried plant material overnight, making the infusion, then straining it in the morning, and drinking it. I love the satisfaction of self-care, and the feeling of luxury, ease, and empowerment from having known where my medicine came from, from having harvested it myself, and now nourishing myself with it. Nettles overnight infusion with the standard infusion ratio feels super grounding and nourishing. Although I am engaging in other dietary practices right now, I feel like the nettles has helped to regulate my daily defecation. After starting drinking daily nettles infusion (and taking some zinc and EFA’s), I am once more pooping regularly in the morning. Satisfying.

Herb Form and Dosage:
Infusion, 28 grams to 1 L hot water, daily: I found this nourishing, delicious, and mildly drying. After 2 weeks of this protocol though, I am starting to get bored of drinking the same thing everyday.

Pairs and Triplets
Urtica dioica and Arctium lappa (for skin disease- BHP)
Urtica dioica and Althaea officinalis (the dry nettles balance the moist marshmallow)
Urtica dioica and Mentha spp. (nourishing digestive relaxant)
Urtica dioica and Ocimum sanctum (more targeted toward digestive nervine qualities, with tulsi)


Formula 1- Female Tonic tea
(from Rosemary Gladstar, p. 111)

Rubus idaeus leaf- 2 parts (5 g)
Fragaria spp. leaf- 1 part (2.5 g)
Urtica dioica leaf- 2 parts (5 g)
Mentha piperita leaf- 2 parts (5 g)
Cymbopogon spp. Leaf (Lemon grass)- 2 parts (5 g)
Mitchella repens leaf- 2 parts (5 g)

Make as an overnight standard infusion. Or, for a milder effect, add 28 g of the formula to 1 liter of water. Add herbs to cold water and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Allow to infuse 20 min, strain, sip throughout the day, daily. (Quantities in g of each herb, for 28 g of total herb for one dose, standard infusion). Drink daily for 2-3 months.

1 part= 2.5 g for a 28 g dose

Client Description 1

Rosemary Gladstar lists this tea under the “Mothering Years” chapter of her book. Most of the herbs in this tea are astringent, tightening the tissues. Raspberry leaf and patridgeberry target the tea to the female reproductive system. Partidgeberry is an emmanagogue, so this tea is contraindicated for pregnant women.

This tea would be helpful for someone with uterine prolapse, or too much “wetness” in their body, which may manifest as sluggish digestion, lack of tone in the skin and/or vaginal tissues, frequent cramps during menstruation, etc. I am surprised that Gladstar suggests an overnight infusion for this tea, because it contains peppermint, which becomes bitter overnight. Raspberry leaf also becomes very astringent overnight.

Raspberry and strawberry leaf contain antioxidants. They, and lemon grass, are slightly sour, stimulating digestion. Peppermint also stimulates digestion, while adding a cooling and calming effect to the tea. The strawberry is also calming, as well as a uterine tonic. Nettles leaf and patridgeberry are uterine tonics, too. Nettles are a nutritive tonic.

This tea tastes earthy yet refreshing, due to the two leading herbs, peppermint and nettles.

I would consider giving this tea (or a modified version, depending on the constitution) to someone with a combination of these symptoms: chronically painful menses, a poor diet/ digestive system, overweight, tendency towards depression, pre-menstraul discomfort, etc.

Formula 2- Blessed Liver Blend
(from Rosemary Gladstar, p. 112)

Urtica dioica leaf- 3 parts (7.5 g)
Taraxacum officinale leaf- 2 parts (5 g)
Trifolium pratens flowers- 2 parts (5 g)
Melissa officinalis leaf- 2 parts (5 g)
Medicago sativa leaf- 1 part (2.5 g)
Matricaria recutita flowers- 1 part (2.5 g)

Add 28 g of the formula to 1 liter of water. Add herbs to cold water and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Allow to infuse 20 min, strain, sip throughout the day, daily. (Quantities in g of each herb, for 28 g of total herb for one dose, standard infusion).

1 part= 2.5 g for a 28 g dose

Client Description 2

Clover has a mild estrogenic effect, so this formula shoulder be used with care, with clients who have estrogen receptor positive tumors.

This formula helps someone who wants to help support their liver in cleansing the body of environmental toxins and metabolic waste. For example, if someone has been taking western medicines or other chemical-laden drugs and want to simultaneously cleanse and support their system, this formula will help support detoxification (nettles and dandelion are diuretic), promote gut healing (chamomile is vulnerary), replenish the body (nettles, alfalfa, and clover are nutritive), and relax the digestive system (lemon balm and chamomile are digestive relaxants, and carminative). For a detoxing person, I would adjust the length of time to take the herb, according to how long they’ve used the chemical product for, and/or how serious their symptoms are.

I would also use this formula on an acne-prone teenager with a bad diet, for the cleansing and nutritive combinations of herbs in this formula.

Depending on the person’s constitution, I’d consider using this as a spring tonic to gently reboot the liver and digestive system. If someone was very dry constitutionally, then I’d add a demulcent herb to this formula.

Formula 3- Hepatonic Tea
(from Rosemary Gladstar, p. 82)

Rubus idaeus leaf- 2 parts (5.6 g)
Mentha piperita leaf- 2 parts (5.6 g)
Urtica dioica leaf- 1 part (2.8 g)
Medicago sativa leaf- 1 part (2.8 g)
Taraxacum officinale leaf- 1 part (2.8 g)
Glycyrrhiza glabra root- 1 part (2.8 g)
Leonorus cardiaca leaf - 1 part (2.8 g)
Cymbopogon spp. Leaf (Lemon grass)- 1 part (2.8 g)

Add 28 g of the formula to 1 liter of water. Add herbs to cold water and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Allow to infuse 20 min, strain, sip throughout the day, daily. (Quantities in g of each herb, for 28 g of total herb for one dose, standard infusion).

1 part= 2.8 g for a 28 g dose

Client Description 3

Gladstar recommends young women entering their moontime to drink this tea everyday, “as a tonic to help gently regulate hormones and nourish the system.” This formula targets the liver and endocrine system of young women. I would consider using this formula with someone presenting these symptoms: acne prone, irregular menstruation, painful cramping during menses, poor digestion, anxiety/ depression, and obesity.

Action Formula

Formula 1- Female Tonic tea
(from Rosemary Gladstar, p. 111)

Rubus idaeus 2
Urtica dioica 2
Mentha piperita2
Cymbopogon spp. 2
Fragaria spp. 1
Cool/ dry
Cool/ dry
Cool/ dry
Warm/ dry
Neutral/ dry






Resources Cited
Herbal Vade Mecum, Skenderi, pg. 265- 266
Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Chevallier, pg. 146
Planetary Herbology, Tierra, pg. 333-334
Herbal Pairs Database, Bergner, pg.
Herbal Healing for Women, Rosemary Gladstar
Actions Database (http://naimh.com/Actions/naimh-actions-database.htm)
Healing Wise, Susun Weed, pg. 165-190
Classes with 7song

NOTE and DISCLAIMER: same deal as with the Chaparral monograph. Go read that. Thanks for reading. 

Larrea tridentata (Chaparral)

Larrea tridentata (Chaparral)
Aka. Creosote, Shegoi, Chapparo Gobernadora, the Governess (due to its ability to secure more water by inhibiting the growth of nearby plants), Greasewood, Hediondilla (Little Stinker)

Latin translation
Larrea is named after Juan Antonio Hernandez de Larrea, a Spanish clergyman. Tri- means “three,” -dentata means “tooth.” It does not have three teeth, so I am unsure where that stems from.

Zygophyllaceae (Calthrop Family)-Species in this family live in tropical and warm climates, especially in arid (and sometimes saline) habitats. Most species are shrubby, but some grow as small trees and some are herbaceous. 


Leaf: Opposite, simple, evergreen, compound with 2 small (1/4 to 1/2 inch long) leaflets, generally elliptical but often curved, yellow-green to green, with a waxy leaf coating. Water loss is reduced by the resinous, waxy coating of the leaves, and by their small size which prevents them from heating up above air temperature.
Flower: Five bright yellow twisted sepals, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches across, occur at the ends of the twigs, appearing in spring and scattered throughout the year.
Fruit: Capsule (1/4 inch), covered in long, stiff white hairs.
Twig: Slender, light gray to reddish brown, each node is ringed in a darker color and is slightly swollen.
Bark: Initially smooth and gray, eventually becomes darker and splits into shallow fissures and flat plates.
Form: A multi-stemmed shrub commonly up to 4 feet tall but may reach 15 feet, generally a round shape. Spreads by cloning itself along the edges of the plant often resulting in a circular pattern of "cloned" plants. Though each stem lives only a few centuries, new ones are continually produced from the outer edge of the root crown. As the dead stems in the center decay, an open ring of stems forms. With passing centuries the ring very slowly expands and breaks into separate bushes, with outliers all of one clone, because they descended from a single original seed. In the Mojave Desert of California, there is a a Larrea stand called the “King Clone” that is 11,700 years old. It’s one of the oldest living organisms on Earth! All of the plants in its clonal ring are genetically identical, and it has continued to grow and expand since around 9700 BC.

Range: Chaparral is the most common and widespread shrub in 3 of the 4 North American deserts. It originally came from South American, where there are 5 species of Larrea. This is the most drought-tolerant perennial in North America.

Although Chaparral is allelopathic, it accumulates enriched soil beneath it, and creates a little shade for other plants to live under. Most of these are annual species that are only present during wet years, such as these cacti: Echinocereus, Mammillaria, and Peniocereus. Its roots secrete a germination inhibitor that affects its own seeds only. The average distance between Chaparral plants depends on the amount of rainfall and soil moisture-holding capacity of the area.

Germination: Has the ability to inhibit aerobic combustion of the mitochondria of the cells. In the desert, oils leeched out to the surrounding soils inhibit seeds from burning up their sugars; the seeds can’t sprout unless the oils are washed away by heavy rains (allelopathic). Young plants need three to five years of abnormally cool and moist weather during and after germination, to become established. Young Chaparral are more susceptible to drought stress than established plants. Germination is actually quite active during wet periods, but most of the young plants die very quickly unless there are optimal water conditions.

Mature plants can tolerate extreme drought stress. Chaparral can fully operate at -50 bars of water potential and have been found living down to -120 bars. The practical average floor is around -70 bars, where the plant's need for cellular respiration generally exceeds the level that the water-requiring process of photosynthesis can provide. Cellular division can occur during these times of water stress, and it is common for new cells to quickly absorb water after rainfall. This rapid uptake causes branches to grow several centimeters at the end of a dry season.

Vitalist Actions and Energetics
Energetics: cold, dry, bitter. Strong vital stimulant
Meridians/ organs affected: kidneys, lungs, liver
Tissues affected: skin, immune cells, mucous membranes

Clinical Actions
Anti-microbial, diuretic, anti-oxidant, internally used for inflammations of the upper respiratory tract, GI tract, and genitourinary tract. It’s externally used for minor skin inflammations and wounds, for rheumatic pains, etc. (Skenderi)
Disinfectant, immune-enhancing alterative, anti-inflammatory (Bergner)

Resin (with lignans; mostly NDGA (nordihydroguaiaretic acid), phenols, guaiacol derivatives, guaiacum), mucilaginous polysaccharides, flavanoids, triterpenes, phytoesterols, wax, etc.

Common Forms and Dosages

Tincture: fresh dried leaves 1:5 75%, 20-60 gtts up to TID (Moore)
Fresh leaves 1:2 95%, 30-60 gtts up to TID (7song)
Oil: fresh plan infused in extra virgin olive oil, folk method. For use as an external antiseptic, which can be applied directly to wounds. It’s a strong antioxidant, and can help slow down other oils’ rancidity, in combination oils. (7song) Used as sunscreen and post-sun restorative, due to antioxidant properties. Tans and conditions to protect the skin. (Simons)
Salve: similar as oil use
Infusion: standard infusion. Note that Chaparral is strong tasting though; use as needed. Taken internally as a vermifuge, antimicrobial infusion of the fresh or dried leaves.
Wash/ soak/ sitz/ bath: use infusion or tincture diluted in water, to soak infected body parts. 7song thinks this is the most effective way of using this plant.
Poultice: it can be used as a fresh spit poultice, but the sticky nature of the plant (and strong taste) makes for a difficult application; a wash is easier
Capsules: it’s a quick way to get the medicine in, without having to taste the not-that-great-tasting medicine
Essential oil:
Flower essence: It can assist life transitions. It can assist a dying person caught between life and death, leading them toward desiring to live or pass from the world,  harmonizing the energies in and around one’s being. This essence can help relieve addictions, by drawing out the traumas that led to the imprisoning feelings that dependence brings. Chaparral transmutes sun rays into the life force of our chosen directions and releases us from the impacts of past traumas, such as war trauma. (Bresselsmith)
Cleansing. Clearing physical, emotional, and mental toxins. Opening and energizing a receptive space for new experience. Transformation. Inviting guidance or spiritual assistance. (Mimi Kamp)
Honey: 7song wants to experiment with this as a burn medicine

Primary Uses
Used to treat cancer, skin diseases, arthritis, and rheumatic complaints. Daily mouthwash will prevent dental caries.

Useful for...
Arthritis, allergies and hypersensitive, auto-immune type conditions, where stress, diet aggravate notably
Chronic biliousness with symptoms of autointoxication, sluggish liver catabolism.
Dyspepsia, aggravated by fats and proteins.
Nausea in morning, after fatty breakfast.
Steatorrhea with ileocecal irritability.
Vomiting, from fats, pastry abuse.
Eczema, with chronic poor fat digestion, dry skin.
As a bath in arthritis.
Leukorrhea, supportive to local itching and pain (with Anemopsis (Yerba Mansa) as a sitz bath).
Blood serum levels: SGOT, SGPT elevations with elevated bilirubin, no active hepatitis.
Nutritional malabsorption in conjunction with lipotropic therapies.
Cancer, supportive in skin cancers (externally).
Hangover, liverish, dark circles under eyes.

Kiva Rose:
Great for scorpion stings, caterpillar hairs, and other venomous insects. Helpful for all manner of cuts, scratches, burns, wounds, fungal infections, rashes, etc. It’s very effective at preventing or treating infection, reducing inflammation and promoting rapid healing of almost any injury, from serious wounds to contusions to large scale bruising and abrasions. Beyond its’ basic wound care capabilities, it can also lessen pain and dramatically reduce bleeding. A diluted tincture of Larrea or softened animal product based salve is great for burns. Also used externally on sore or arthritic joints. Can be used as a rub in a hot bath. This is especially effective with hot, inflamed, and swollen arthritis. Larrea steams are commonly used for asthma, lung congestion, headaches, and sinus troubles. Larrea poultices were used to help relieve pain. Infusions were use locally, and held in the mouth for tooth pain. Traditional cure-all in Native culture.

Foster and Hobbs:
Long used by Mormons as a folk cancer remedy. Popular alternative cancer remedy in the 1970s and 1980s. Native American groups used leaf, flower, and twig tea for respiratory, digestive, skin, rheumatic, and gynecological disorders. Leaf tea used for coughs, colds, tuberculosis, asthma, diarrhea, dysentary, cramps, upset stomach, delayed menstruation, menstrual cramps, and as a general tonic. Externally, a wash or poultice was used on wounds to prevent inections, relieve swollen limbs due to poor circulation, as a hair wash for dandruff, and as a disinfectant and deodorant for sores, wounds, insect bites, and snakebite, sore and aching joints and muscles, and umbilical stump inflammation.

Cautions and Contraindications

Its anti-oxidant effects (from NDGA) can cause short-term hemolysis-like symptoms from its effects on the liver and spleen. (Moore) Not for internal use for those with severe liver and kidney disorders. Applied externally, it may cause skin irritation to hypersensitive individuals. (Skenderi)

It has a long history of multicultural herb usage, among which is cancer. It seems to help simple skin cancer and some forms of pre-cancerous oral leucoplakia, but it has also been shown to aggravate some other neoplasias. Better not to use for cancer therapy. It is a physiologically active anti-oxidant, and may inhibit a few types of neoplasias, but it will also, in larger and extensive doses, inhibit the rate of combustion of the hot-burning granulocytes of innate immunity, thereby acting as an immunosuppressant and derailing, at least in early conditions, the wholistic approach of trying to jump-start resistance to rogue cells that seem to have bypassed a compromised immune system. (Moore)

Limit to 2 weeks usage either internally or externally. If Chaparral doesn’t work by then, then one should consider another treatment (7song).

Lisa Ganora said that she’s seen two cases of contact dermatitis with Chaparral. She researched it, and has only found 9 reported cases of this, and all from males. So, it is rare, but some people have reactions to the topical usage of Chaparral. (One person that she saw had uprooted a lot of Chaparral for gardening work. During a fieldtrip, after applying Chaparral salve, broke out in hives all over his face and neck. The second person was being treated for warts on his penis. After using a Chaparral wash/ soak, he got hives on his penis, and up towards his belly. I have never seen or heard of this before.

Personal Experience

Bath- Bath with standard decoction of Chaparral leaves and stems. (1 oz herb: 1 L water, added to warm bath). Slightly astringing to the tissues, skin a little dried and tighter after arising from the bath, a few scabs fell off. Very warming and relaxing. The scent is stimulating relaxing for me. I want to compare the effects of this bath with other baths, to evaluate its effectiveness for arthritis. I can feel how this topical wash is 7song’ favorite wound cleaning wash; it is highly astringent, brings heat to the area, and disinfecting.

Inspired from: “The brew for the treatment was made by boiling large amounts of the leaves and parts of the upper stalks, then poured into the largest washtub, the patient put in to soak and be sponged over all the ailing parts for about one-half hour. The brew was as hot as he could stand and a treatment was repeated for three days. From reliable reports it was a good cure for what is known as arthritis. The roots of this plant were boiled in small amounts of water to make a brown-colored dye which was used to color parts of the wool used in weaving blankets. For this same rheumatic ailment they also used a different plant, made into a brew and used about the same as the creosote, but most preferred the creosote... Steam baths from a weak solution of gobernadora tea produce much sweating and are taken as a treatment for flu, arthritic and rheumatic conditions, and as a general aid to personal cleanliness and good health. Gobernadora steam baths redden the skin and cause it to tingle vigorously. If continued they become increasingly painful, and discretion must be used in the number of baths given an ailing person. Native people of the Southwest recommend that the average individual should not have more than two gobernadora steam baths each year.” (Hicks)

Smudge- I smudged myself and my space with smoke from the dried leaves and stems before going to sleep. The smoke is pungent, aromatic, and feels cleansing on various levels.

Michael Cottingham suggests asking specific things of Chaparral, if using it as a smudge, since it was spiritually used as an Apache warrior medicine. He once called upon the plant spirit of Chaparral during an emergency situation, when he was held at knife-point in another country. The situation resolved itself without anyone getting hurt. I want to learn more about how to call upon plant spirits.

I smudged with Chaparral for three nights. The first night, I did not ask for anything specific, and received nightmares. I asked for some things prior to sleep or smudging for the next two nights, and received slightly more vivid dreams than usual.

The smell of the smoke is at once grounded yet uplifting to me. The plant is high is essential oils, and burns quickly, releasing a lot of smoke. It is helpful as a fire-starter, similar to pine resin, in that the resinous leaves catch fire quickly. I like to place some chaparral in the middle of a tinder bundle, if all is wet, and I am in the desert in need of some fire-starting support. But, they don’t burn for long. Birch bark is still my favorite fire-starter.

Flower essence- I am taking the standard dosage of 4 drops of flower essence 4 times a day. I will continue to do so, for a month. I have been experiencing greater concentration in my work, and more forthrightedness in my speech. However, my speech is sometimes too direct, and I have hurt the feelings of two people, after I started taking the flower essence. It is rare for me to engage in conflict with others, so I wonder if it is from the flower essence, or is it just spring? Chaparral is certainly a warrior medicine, a powerful plant. I am using the flower essence with gratitude and care, as it is a very special plant for me. I feel like it is helping me to establish solid boundaries and sense of self. I am more organized and direct, though it is sometimes abrasive to others. I feel like a strong, leathery leaved, indestructible and drought tolerant ancient desert plant... is it making me become allelopathic?! I am enjoying this experiment. Every time I take the flower essence, I think of Chaparral Thoughts of this plant elicit smell sensations, which promote a heart-opening feeling, and associations of home. It also elicits sight sensations, which brings up visions of endless expanses of desert, covered in chaparral: an expansive limitless landscape that touches the horizon, then keeps going, where I can walk and explore forever, under a sky that is always blue, a sun that always warms me to the core, to my heart. I love this plant!

A 2 minute flower essence meditation/ attunement: I felt a heady sensation, that moved down into my chest. Felt great agitation/ anger in my chest, then it burst open, and the energy flowed outward into my extremities, leaving my extremities tingling, like energy is pouring out of me, my chest suddenly feeling a lot more open and receptive. I feel like a sunburst, like a ray of shadow that has exploded into light, lying here on the ground, smiling in the aftermath of such a small yet profound flower essence meditation with Chaparral.

Facial steam- The overpowering smell of Chaparral! I imagine this treatment would be helpful for someone with oily skin and/ or horrible acne, to help dry out and cleanse the acne from the skin. I had one pimple on my face prior to the facial steam. I sweated a lot during the steam. Afterwards, my face is very dry, and I need to rehydrate with creamer. My face tends toward dry already, so this kind of treatment was too much for me, but a great experience!

Soak for aching joint- Made a strong overnight infusion and morning decoction of the dried leaves and stems that I’d used for my bath, and soaked my chronically achy right wrist in it. The infusion left a sticky green residue all over the soaked parts. Joint areas feel more relaxed. Skin feels dried. I can think of more effective achy joint soaks, which would be less messy to clean up. Generally effective, though.

Tincture- 1:2 95% fresh leaves. Internally: bitter! Tightened face, dried inside of mouth, strong taste. Feel my intestines cringing, even with just one drop of tincture and a full breakfast. Inside of mouth coated with resin. Warming sensation, straight to my belly. Dull aching sensation at the bottom of my belly, and tightening of my belly.

1:4 95% fresh leaves. More alcoholic, less strong than the first one. Actually, a little more tasty: it’s not as strong, so it’s not overwhelming. Bitter initial taste, then slightly sweet after taste. Mucous membranes not as dried out, but still tightening, drying. Medicine still rushes down to my lower GI. Feeling hunger, a minute after taking this tincture.

Liniment- Applied 1:4 liniment of fresh leaves in isopropyl to my chronically dull achey right wrist. The liniment leaves a sticky residue on the skin, and a slightly darkened coloration. Initial cooling sensation, then warming sensation. Feels like liniment is penetrating through skin into my flesh. Skin feels tightened across flesh; increased sensation of blood pulsing through veins in that area. Successful temporary allevement of pain, local anesthetic, for topical use only. The sticky sensation on the surface of the skin is not pleasant, but the deeply penetrating and warming/ relaxing effect of the Chaparral liniment feels soothing. I will try it with my menstrual cramps, in a few weeks (if they arise.) I would consider giving this to clients as a topical painkiller: anti-inflammatory. The liniment is more fast acting than the oil. I don’t feel anti-inflammatory effects from the oil.

Oil- fresh leaves covered (folk method) in extra virgin organic olive oil. Internally warming to the applied parts, and slightly drying. Circulatory stimulant. Effective as a sunscreen on a bike trip that I went on, but the oil tends to stick to the surface of the skin, and not penetrate deeply enough. Unsure if I should try infusing it in a different base oil, or it is sticky and doesn’t get absorbed easily, because of the sticky resins. Perhaps the sticky resins are what provides protection from the sun: they reflect the sun. The antioxidant effects of the plant help with after-sun care. Doug Simons noted that the Chaparral oil is helpful as a sunscreen and after-sun care, because it also darkens the skin. Does it affect melatonin, or is it just the darkness of the plant itself that colors the skin? After straining the tincture yesterday, I noticed that my hands are still dark brown/ green, in the places where I had physical contact with the plant. Where the tincture dripped down the bottle and onto the table, I noticed dark sticky green/ brown spots. I think that the plant material itself is darkly colored, and thus colors the skin, which also protects it, somewhat.

Infusion- Strong taste, dries mucous membranes, but causes my mouth to salivate, from the bitter acridity of the taste. Can feel my organs shrinking initially, then churning into motion. Only took one sip. The taste is too strong to take more. I wouldn’t consider giving a client a Chaparral infusion, unless they absolutely had to, or I had no tincture available with me.

Dried plant- Sucked on a piece of dried plant for a few minutes. Although dry, it is still sticky and resinous, with a strong flavor, similar to the infusion, but not as intense. Experience heightened sensation: the movement of my heartbeat, the computer’s humming nature below my fingers, the sound of the silence around me, the clacking of the keys as I type. Starting to feel a slight aching sensation in the left side of my belly. I’ve been having diarrhea this morning. I wonder if the Chaparral will aggravate or improve that. It feels like it will cause increased defecation, and I will thusly lose my breakfast. Doug Simons taught me to suck on fresh Chaparral leaves if I got thirsty while walking through the desert. He would suck on a little everyday, tucking it into his cheek pocket, like gum. He was taught by the native peoples of that land to use Chaparral for everything; it is their miracle plant, yet also everyday plant. I went for over a month of intaking some Chaparral daily. I was traveling intensively at that time, and did not get sick. But, I was also young, healthy, and active, with a kicking immune system. Ah, the usual question of... what works? How does it work? When does it work? Is it actually working, or is it something else that is working? The more questions, the better. Never take anything at face value. Go find your own chaparral bush and suck on its leaves, dear reader. Southern Arizona, southeastern California, or southern New Mexico... go!

Medicine making notes-Note that an infusion of Chaparral in any menstruum will leave a strong residue, that is difficult to clean, sticky to the touch, and dark green in color. Many years ago, when I was first getting to know this plant, I tried putting Chaparral in my Vitamix, to turn it into powder. Not only did it not powderize, but it also stuck up the blender, which caused the engine to automatically turn off, and I thought I broke my parents’ expensive machine. Furthermore, it left a resinous residue all over the inside of the blender, which, 7 years later, still remains stuck to the machine, even after years and years of blenderizing different things and washing with different strong soaps and scrubbing techniques... it still remains there, to this day! After trying to powderize with the blender, I went on to try to powderize it with my metate, which caused a green stickey residue to accumulate on both my mortar and pestle. The plant powderized somewhat better this way, but still mostly just stuck onto everything, including clumping onto itself in a not-very-powder-like fashion. I still haven’t found the best way to powderize Chaparral... unless you were using it in a tooth powder (which I was), I can’t imagine any other reason to powderize Chaparral. The dried leaf is easy enough to carry around on its own, as is.

When harvesting the plant, pick the brighter green leaves. These are younger. An oil infusion of the flowers with the leaves seems like a nice energetic balance, adding another element of the plant to the infusion. I have not compared this though. I hope to catch Chaparral in flower soon, and try. I imagine that the tincture is more powerful with just the leaves, as most of the medicinal constituents are in the leaves.

Overall Experience

Chaparral, Chaparral, Chaparral

I love the way the name rolls off my tongue. It was thrown around in the morning, a lively conversation around Chaparral at my first primitive skills gathering, Wintercount, near Maricopa, AZ. I had landed late in the desert the previous night with an old friend, driving all night through the Rockies to get there. I was new to the landscape, unfamiliar with all the mysterious majestic Arizona desert plants, not to mention this alluring Chaparral everyone kept talking about.

My new friend Porangui handed me a sprig of the plant. I inhaled its perfume, breathing deeply and smiling with surprise at the musty incense of this beautiful new friend. I stroked the leaves, marveling at their oiliness and rough texture, delighted as I chewed on the leaf and my mouth stuck together, from its bitter, sticky, and astringent nature.

Then I went on a plant walk with Doug Simons, who waxed at length on its uses and virtues; I learned to identify and use it. I gathered enough to make tooth powder (astringent antiseptic), oil (antioxidant sunscreen), and smudge (I love the smell). I learned that I had intuitively planted myself under a Chaparral bush when we landed in AZ so late in the night. I woke up pre-sunrise, with the confusion of one who has just landed in a new place from a completely different place, peering through the spiraling Chaparral branches to watch the full moon in the sky, simultaneously wondering where I was, while feeling completely at home. At night, I dreamed Chaparral dreams. In the day, in between workshops, I would crouch in the shade of Chaparral bushes, observing the rhythms of the dry desert magic around me. I noted the little tracks of small animals scurrying under and also taking cover under the Chaparral I noticed the small animal holes, bug tracks, and lack of other plant life under the Chaparral I admired how the Chaparral patch stretched far into the distance of the flat endless landscape. When I climbed onto a hill and looked down, I could see all of the Chaparral down below me, marching towards the horizon.

I later went on a plant walk with Dave Holladay, who suggested that we walk through the landscape slowly, greeting every being that we came in contact with, en route to a designated meeting spot. I slowly meandered through the landscape with relish and appreciation. The first being that I came across was Chaparral, who extended her reddish white spindly spiraling graceful arms towards me. I extended my arm towards her, in return. We engaged in a graceful dance. I could imagine myself gazing into the eyes of an ancient dance partner that smells like desert rainfall: sweet, sexy, musty, and magical; a similar kind of magical feeling that I feel in an old temple, or an old apothecary with dusty jars full of ancient medicines. As I ran my fingers across the arms, leaves, and buds of that first Chaparral that I really “touched,” I married my Heart to this plant.

Since that first meeting, I’ve carried Chaparral with me all over the world. I carry her in my stories and words, and also the dried plant itself: in my medicine pouch that I wear on special occasions and in transit, in my sacred smoke mix, and in big bags of “in case” medicine. I’ve been blessed to share this plant with several others for the first time, including my own Mama, who patiently listened to my stories about this plant and how to identify and collect it, then went walking silently out into the desert with my collection bags hanging on her shoulders, her hat low over her head, and her wide-angle owl-eyes widely scanning the desert for the brightest young green leaves to harvest, while ready to duck into the bushes, in case of officials noticing us illegally wildcrafting.

I understand that Chaparral is a powerful medicine. I use it often as an infused oil, for sunscreen. I biked across California using it as a daily topical skin protectant, and continued using it even as I moved into the Northeast, until I started using St. Johnswort instead, for the less potent Northeastern sunshine. I gained a fresh appreciation of Chaparral after spending a week at the Rainbow Gathering with 7song, last year. He uses Chaparral often: for cleaning out infectious wounds, both internally and externally with Staph infections, and for GI bugs.

I consider it a plant ally of mine: the smell and feel of the plant help me feel grounded and solid within myself, reminding me of where I originate from (the desert), while establishing strong and healthy boundaries where needed, on both physical and spiritual planes.

Chaparral This is the smell of the Arizona, southern California, and southern New Mexico deserts after a rainfall. It is the smell of the desert in the early morning, when the dew still sits lightly upon the hardy plants. It is one of the oldest plants in the whole world. She is ancient medicine, powerful medicine, a friend that accompanies me on journeys profound, profane, and potent. A protector, aid, ally, and gorgeous friend, I am grateful for this plant on Earth, and in my life.

Looking at the map of where Chaparral grows, it suddenly occurred to me (felt like the plant reminding me of the obvious) that I want to live in the USA desert southwest, in an area where Chaparral grows. I want to be at a higher elevation than Chaparral, because I love mountains. But, I want to LIVE with this plant within my wildcrafting range. The feeling came to me suddenly, with much sweetness and solidity tonight; a pleasant surprise. So mote it be!

Pairs and Triplets

Combination possibilities to use with Chaparral (from 7song):
- Antibacterials- Echinacea, Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Osha (Ligusticum porteri), Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon graperoot (Berberis spp.), Barberry (Berberis thundbergii), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- Anti-inflammatories- Arnica (Arnica spp.), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Willow (Salix spp.), Tumeric (Curcuma longa), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.)
- Astringents- Yerba manza (Anemopsis californica), Oak (Quercus spp.), Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Geranium root (Geranium maculatum)
- Vulneraries- Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)


I’ve never used Chaparral in a formula before. It’s usually an herb that I use as a simple, or as part of a treatment protocol. Thus, I will draw on others’ experiences for this portion of my Chaparral monograph.

Formula 1- All Purpose Salve
(Kiva Rose- equal parts)

Larrea tridentata (Chaparral leaves/ flowers)
Plantago major (Plantain leaves)
Populus spp. (Poplar buds)
Salvia spp. (Sage leaves)
Artemisia spp. (Mugwort leaves)
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow leaves/ flowers)

This formula is similar to the formula below:

Muscle Rub Salve
Larrea tridentata (Chaparral leaves/ flowers)
Populus spp. (Poplar buds)
Artemisia spp. (Mugwort leaves)
Solidago spp. (Goldenrod leaves/ flowers)
Zingiber officinale (Ginger rhizome)

Use as needed. For topical use, only.

The all-purpose salve formula contains disinfecting and antioxidant Chaparral, vulnerary and mild disinfectant Plantain, anti-inflammatory and soothing Poplar, cooling/ drying/ disinfectant Sage, Mugwort, and Yarrow. It is helpful for small cuts and bruises, helping to reduce inflammation, calm the wound, and heal from damage quickly and cleanly.

The muscle rub salve formula contains disinfecting and antioxidant Chaparral, anti-inflammatory Poplar, antiseptic mugwort, circulatory stimulant and mild rubefacient ginger, and astringing goldenrod. It is slightly warming in energetics, yet basically neutral.

Formula 2- “Staph dismissed tincture”
(From 7song- equal parts)

Larrea tridentata (Chaparral)
Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal)
Berberis spp. (Barberry or Oregon Grape)
Hamamelis virgiana (Witch Hazel)

Apply topically, as needed for treating Staph infections. Alternate with activated charcoal. Do not use for over 2 weeks. Clean and treat the infected Staph wounds twice a day. Do not bandage on or around the wound. Use vet wrap, or other non-binding bandage material, to prevent further infection (from accidentally removing hairs and exposing more infectable surfaces, while removing bandages).

Client Description 2
This is for anyone who has a Staph infection. It can also be taken internally. The Chaparral, Goldenseal, and Berberis are all antibacterial/ antiseptic in different ways. The witch hazel is very astringent, and all of the other herbs are somewhat astringent, cooling, and drying as well. This helps to close the wound back up, dry up the pus, and reduce inflammation. It is very important to keep Staph wounds clean and dry; this tincture aids both actions. This tincture can also be taken internally, though I prefer to just alternate between Chaparral and Goldenseal tinctures, with Echinacea, at 60 gtts every 4 hours, and a loading dose of 90 gtts.

If taken internally, I might add some demulcents to help balance out the strong drying quality of this tincture. But, it depends on the person. I might also add some flower essences and/or nervines to help with the stress/ trauma/ fear/ confusion associated with having infections.

Formula 3- “Chronic degenerative diseases, tumors, cancers and cysts”
(From Tierra, p. 127)

Leading herbs:
Tabebuia spp. (Pau d’arco)
Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea)
Larrea tridentata (Chaparral)
Trifolium pratens (Red clover blossoms)

Assisting herbs:
Poria cocus (Fu ling/ Angelica)
Grifola frondosa (Hen of the woods mushroom)
Laminariales spp. (Kelp)
Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng)

Take 2-4 tablets 3 times daily with warm water or red clover tea. Take for up to 2 weeks.

This formula clears heat, removes dampness, and softens and eliminates tumors. “Cool natured and dispersing, this formula is a mild diuretic, helping to resolve tumors, cysts, and lymphatic congestion. It is specifically useful for chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer, but good also for other chronic conditions. Used with an immune system formula, it helps offset some of the negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It may be combined with a heat-clearing formula, too.”

Most of the plants in this formula are cooling and drying. Many of the supporting herbs are nutritive, and warming. They help balance out the strongly antibacterial and drying formula. I would also use this formula for digestive upset caused by a GI infection or bug.

For a person of colder constitution, I may add ginger to potentiate the formula. For a person of warmer constitution, I may add a demulcent herb, to help bulk it up and increase nutrition.

Formula 4- Tooth Powder

Anemopsis californica (Yerba manza root) (1) (2.7 mg)
Commiphora myrrha (Myrrh resin) (0.5) (1.3 mg)
Larrea tridentata (Chaparral leaves) (0.25) (0.7 mg)
Equisetum arvens (Horsetail stems) (0.25) (0.7 mg)
Salvia spp. (Sage leaves)(0.25) (0.7 mg)
Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice root) (0.25) (0.7 mg)
Clay (green or red clay, fine) (0.5) (1.3 mg) (0.7 mg)

Solid numbers are listed as parts. Secondary quotation in mg are amounts of each herb, for an 8 oz jar of tooth powder.

Put tooth powder onto wettened toothpaste. Brush morning and night.

Most of the herbs in this tooth powder are dry, thus the addition of demulcent Licorice. The dryness and coolness of much of the formula tonifies the gums and cleanses the teeth. Yerba manza, myrrh, Chaparral, and sage are disinfectant. Horsetail cleanses by abrading the teeth, and helps to remineralize the teeth if swallowed or drunk as an infusion, according to Doug Simons. If you wanted to make a swallowable tooth powder, I would take out the clay, and possibly add salt, if I wanted to make the tooth powder more abrasive and cleaning. Only swallow for a maximum of two weeks, if you choose to do so. The myrrh resin can be replace with a less potent but just as lovely local analogue, pine resin (Pinus spp.)

Action Formula

Formula 1- All Purpose Salve
(Formula from Kiva Rose- for topical use only)

Warm/ dry
Cool/ dry
Warm/ dry
Warm/ dry
Warm/ dry




Resources Cited
Herbal Vade Mecum, Skenderi, pg. 93
Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Chevallier, pg. 225
Planetary Herbology, Tierra, pg. 193, 124-128, 95
Herbal Tinctures in Clinical Practice, Michael Moore
Actions Database (http://naimh.com/Actions/naimh-actions-database.htm)
Encycopedia of Life (http://eol.org/pages/4418/overview)
7song’s Plant Medicine Notes (2013)
Wintercount plant walk with Doug Simons (2007)
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (http://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_zygophyllaceae.php)
Henriette’s Herbals forum post by Michael Moore (1994) (http://www.henriettes-herb.com/archives/best/1994/larrea.html)
Kiva Rose articles: Choice Injury Herbs (http://bearmedicineherbals.com/choice-injury-herbs.html)
The Practice of Larrea I- external (http://bearmedicineherbals.com/the-practica-of-larrea-1-external.html)
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larrea_tridentata)
Eric and Lisa Bresselsmith (http://houseofaromatics.com/chapparal-a-flower-essence-story/)
Desert Plants and People, Sam Hicks (http://www.swsbm.com/Ethnobotany/Desert_Plants_and_People.pdf)
Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Foster and Hobbs, Peterson Field Guides)
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West (Michael Moore)

NOTE: This was originally written for homework. Sorry that it is very wordy. If you don't understand or have any questions, then please ask. 

 DISCLAIMER: none of this information is intended to treat or diagnose symptoms or conditions. I am making no claims about this plant's ability to do anything. Take responsibility for your own experiments. Do more research before trying anything at home. Consult your healthcare provider if you must. And ask me more questions, if you wish. Thanks for reading!