The healing power of creosote bush

This plant originally grows in the southern states of the US and in northern Mexico. It is an evergreen plant that can withstand dry conditions. The creosote bush grows to a maximum height of about three meters and is full of yellow flowers during its flowering period. A strange phenomenon of this plant is that it can penetrate the roots of other plants in order to survive longer without water. Furthermore, the roots produce a toxic substance that makes many plants not even want to be near it. The creosote bush was used by the Indians, the original inhabitants of North America, for various diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and snakebites. Today, it is used in phytotherapy for, among other things, gum problems and caries, or cavities in the teeth. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Creosote bushes near the village of Van Horn, Texas. / Source: Leaflet, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)


  • Self-cloning plant
  • Argentinian brother
  • Use by the Indians
  • Naming
  • Scientific research on creosote bush
  • Active substances
  • Phytotherapeutic use creosote bush
  • Dose and safety

Self-cloning plant

The creosote bush ‘clones’ itself. That is, it reproduces not only by spreading seeds, but also by the crown of the plant falling off and re-rooting elsewhere. The oldest known clone was found in the Mojave Desert and is 11,700 years old! In the US the plant is called ‘King Clone’ and is considered one of the longest living organisms on earth.

Argentinian brother

In Mexico, the creosote bush or the chaparal or gubernor as they call it there is considered the medicinal plant with the most diverse medicinal uses. The next paragraph will show why. By the way, there is a closely related plant that has the same medicinal properties: the Larrea divaricata Cav . This grows in the drier areas of Argentina.

Use by the Indians

The Indians drink tea from the creosote bush. They pick the leaves from the plant, let them dry and pulverize them into powder. This is saved for later use. A medicinal tea is made from this powder. This tea was mainly drunk as rheumatism and for urethritis, stomach complaints, hemorrhoids, diabetes, high blood pressure, fever, flu, colds, sinusitis, anemia and bronchitis. It was also given to heavily pregnant women to speed up childbirth. In addition, the creosote bush was used as a sunscreen, for blood poisoning and liver diseases. This impressive list of indications for this apparently miracle shrub was supplemented by the fact that it is also a traditional remedy for sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, chicken pox, dysmenorrhea, snake bites, autoimmune diseases, premenstrual syndrome and allergies.


The Latin name of creosote bush is Larrea tridentata . In Dutch we call this shrub the creosote bush or the chapparal. Larrea is a tribute to a Spanish priest named JA Hernandez de Larrea.

Scientific research on creosote bush

The plant has been extensively researched in Mexico. Below is a selection of recent findings by Mexican scientists. This summary shows that the Indians were right to use the plant in various ways. Not all medicinal applications have been investigated yet.

  • Dissolves kidney stones (Adame and Adame, 2000; Vázquez, 1999 Dimayuga, 1996, Martinez, 1989, González, 1998),
  • Anti-inflammatory in respiratory diseases such as asthma (Foster and Tyler, 2000; Karch, 1999, Melgarejo and Cupp, 2000),
  • To eliminate gallstones (Dimayuga, 1996, González, 1998),
  • Against urinary tract infections (Melgarejo and Cupp, 2000; González, 1998; Martínez, 1989),
  • For the treatment of venereal diseases (Dimayuga 1996; Barnes et al., 2002),
  • Against diabetes (Skidmore – Roth 2003, Luo et al., 1998),
  • For bronchitis and colds (Skidmore – Roth, 2003),
  • Rheumatism (Vazquez, 1999; Barnes et al., 2002),
  • Against some forms of cancer (Skidmore – Roth 2003; Melgarejo and Cupp, 2000; González 1998; Barnes et al., 2002),
  • Inhalation of the resin vapors is used against dizziness (González, 1998),
  • As a mouthwash against tooth decay and halitosis or bad breath (McCann, 2003; Castleman, 2001),
  • External skin infections, especially those caused by bacteria and fungi (Castleman, 2001; Adame and Adame, 2000; González, 1998; Martínez, 1989),
  • As a foot bath against foot odor (Adame and Adame, 2000; González, 1998),
  • Resinous substances in L. tridentata and L. diarivcata act as strong antioxidants, especially in fats, oils and other substances,
  • Nordihydroguaiarenoic acid (NDGA) inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase and can therefore prevent cancer. However, more research is needed to definitively determine this. (Gonzales and Bowden, 2002; Castleman, 2001; McDonald et al., 2001; Foster and Tyler, 2000; Melgarejo and Cupp, 2000; Anesini, 2001, 1999, 1996. Diaz Barriga et al., 1999. Miller and Murray, 1999)
  • Studies in hamsters suggest that NDGA works against the formation of gallbladder stones. (Granados and Cardenas, 1994),
  • DGA and other lignans in Larrea tridentata have antibacterial properties against various bacteria, including: Penicillium, Salmonella, Streptococcus species, as well as Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus (Barnes et al., 2002; Verastegui et al.,1996; Anesini and Perez , 1993),
  • Lignans in Larrea have antifungal activity (Quiroga et al., 2001), therefore the plant is considered as a solution against fungal infections of the skin, in particular for the treatment of athlete’s foot due to richophyton species, through a decoction made from leaves and twigs of the plant for a foot bath. (Bruneton, 1999, González, 1998),
  • A recently discovered hypoglycemic compound isolated from creosote bush, called Masoprocol (NDGA), has been used experimentally in the treatment of diabetes (Gowri et al., 1999; Reed et al., 1999, Luo et al., 1998)
  • It has been shown that lipolytic activity increases and triglyceride levels decrease in laboratory animals. (Gowri et al., 2000).

Active substances

In phytotherapy, the leaf is mainly used for its medicinal properties. This contains the lignan NDGA, an abbreviation that stands for Norhydroguaiarenic acid. That is by far the most important active substance. The plant also contains flavonoids and triterpenes.

Phytotherapeutic use creosote bush

Chapparal has a disinfectant, antibacterial, antioxidant and toothache relieving effect. Research shows that 75% of bacteria that cause infections in gums and teeth are killed by this plant. NDGA is the active substance.

Creosote bush / Source: Ancheta Wis, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.0)

In phytotherapy, the creosote bush leaf is used for the following indications:

  • Tooth decay or caries,
  • Gingivitis or gingivitis,
  • Toothache due to caries.

Dose and safety

  • Rinse the mouth three times a day with a decoction of 7 to 8 grams of leaves in 250 ml of water.
  • 25 drops of tincture in a glass of water.

In phytotherapy, creosote bush is only used for oral problems. It is not used internally, that is, by swallowing. That’s because studies have appeared in recent years that indicate that consuming too much of this plant can lead to liver damage. In addition to liver damage such as jaundice and cirrhosis, kidney damage and skin rashes can occur. Research must be conducted to determine the exact dividing line between the toxic value and the therapeutic value before the many medicinal applications of chapparal can be used internally in phytotherapy.