Today, we’re going to have a word or two about chaparral for dogs. Chaparral is a medicinal herb in the Zygophyllaceae family. Technically known as Larrea tridentate, the plant version of chaparral is sometimes called greasewood or creosote bush.
It should be noted right off the bat that chaparral is a somewhat controversial herb. It is discouraged for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which offered warnings of chaparral with respect to internal medicine. Health Canada offered similar warnings, stating that chaparral presented a risk of kidney and liver damage.
Chaparral is, however, non-toxic for animals and that’s where our discussion is most pertinent. Chaparral has been recommended by many herbalists and health experts as a reliable treatment for many conditions for our four-legged friends and is noted for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. This puts this controversial but effective herb on our radar.
What is the herb chaparral used for?
Therapeutic Uses of Chaparral for Dogs
Chaparral for dogs has a number of possible applications, from treating bacterial infections to covering as a sort of sunscreen. Its use internally should be limited on account of the multitude of health warnings, but there are many functions as an external medicine that are frankly too compelling to pass up.
- Treat Everything: Native Americans in the Southwest believed that chaparral held a number of uses and turned to it to treat everything from sexually transmitted diseases to snakebite. It was even used as an emetic, which may prove enticing for some pet parents. Internally, however, this is an herb we recommended using with extreme caution. Despite some controversy surrounding the FDA’s decision regarding chaparral, we believe safety is always better than sorry.
- Antioxidant Compound: Nordihydroguaiaretic acid is the element of most interest in chaparral. This antioxidant compound was widely used in the 50s as a preservative, but toxicity reports led to its banning a decade later. Many have turned to it as a nutritional supplement, but instances of renal toxicity and liver damage have come up.
- Healing Effects: Chaparral’s best and safest usage is external, at least in this author’s opinion. This herb can be used safely to treat things like infections and sunburns, but dogs should be prevented from licking the substance as it can lead to liver damage. The healing effects of nordihydroguaiaretic acid cannot and should not be discounted when it comes to fighting infections, of course.
- Anecdotal Pieces: Infections brought on by fungi or bacteria or amoebas are especially good targets for a chaparral treatment,as the elements of the herb can help tackle complications. There are some anecdotal pieces of evidence available on the Internet about chaparral being used internally, specifically as a tea, but those cases are best taken with a rather large grain of salt. And for what it’s worth, Cancer Research UK absolutely discourages chaparral use for treating or mitigating the symptoms of cancer.
As we’ve outlined extensively, chaparral for dogs is one of those tricky ones. There are many good reasons to use this herb as a topical treatment for things like wounds and infections, but we should exercise extreme care when it comes to anything internal. For this reason, we recommend using chaparral only with a large degree of care.
While many in the herbal field tend to treat warnings from government health bodies with a certain degree of trepidation, it is always best to proceed with attention when our loved ones could get caught in the crossfire. In the case of chaparral for dogs, care and attention to all the facts are required.
Reasons to Use Chaparral for Dogs
Chaparral is an effective treatment for a host of external issues, including infections and sunburns. But there are documented and researched risks associated with its internal use. It can lead to liver damage and other dangerous, potentially fatal conditions. That’s a risk you may not be willing to take, especially when there are other topical treatments available that can produce equal results.
In the end, we recommend chaparral for dogs but only with caution. Larrea tridentate does have an intriguing history and there are some interesting facts about it with respect to Native American culture and human applications, but the jury is most definitely still out regarding its overall safety for your four-legged friend.
References: Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by CJ Puotinen