Chaparral, an herb from the creosote bush, a desert shrub, was used by Native Americans in the Southwest and Mexico a hundred years ago for everything from venereal disease to snakebite, according to HealthSCOUT. But today it's regarded as dangerous because of liver toxicity, say herbalists. It made Consumer Reports' potentially harmful list and was removed in 1968 from the FDA's "generally regarded as safe" list. An article in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported adverse reactions in 18 people between 1992 and 1994. Although it was used by Native Americans, they usually drank it as a weak tea, which contains fewer chemicals. The modern usage of putting the herb in capsule form or in an alcohol-based tincture intensifies its effects. Dr. Mary Hardy. medical director of the Integrative Medicine Medical Group at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, is quoted saying, "The difference between poison and treatment is often just [a matter of] dose." Erica Kipp, manager of the Plant Research Laboratory for the New York Botanical Garden, summarizes the attitude that can make self-treatment with herbal medicines so dangerous: "I think people have the misconception that anything from a plant is natural and good and benign--and this is not necessarily the case." [HealthSCOUT, Dec 27, 1999]

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