What Is Pau d’arco?
Pau d’arco is botanically known as Tabebuia impetiginosa and it belongs to the bignonia family found exclusively in South America. There are more than hundred related species of this herbal tree including the following – Tabebuia avellanedae, Tabebuia heptaphylla and Tabebuia ipé.
Pau d’arco is also known by the following other common names – lapacho, taheebo, lapachol, ipes, trumpet tree etc. The name of this herbal tree has been derived from the Spanish language and it means ‘bow stick’. The wood of Pau d’arco was often used by native South American tribal members to prepare bows for use during hunting.
Pau d’arco is predominantly found in the following tropical areas – Caribbean Islands and in Central and South American countries especially Brazil, Argentina and Peru. The tree is also cultivated in Southern Florida in the USA. Pau d’arco is mainly seen in rainforests and is a very large tree with purple and pink colored flowers. Pau d’arco can reach up to a height of 150 feet with 4-6 feet base diameter.
The inner bark of the tree which is also known as the heartwood is known for its medicinal properties and is a popular herbal remedy in Brazilian folk medicine. Herbal tea made from the bark and wood of this tree was a popular medicinal remedy of the ancient Incas and tribal members of the South American rain forests.
How Does It Work?
Research scientists have been able to identify atleast twenty active compounds found in Pau d’arco. However, the most active ingredient of this herbal tree is a compound known as naphthaquinones. There are two main types of Naphthaquinones present in Pau d’arco wood – lapachol and beta-lapachone. Other ingredients found in this herbal tree include the following – quercetin, anthraquinones, alkaloids and other types of flavonoids.
With such beneficial compounds, the herbal tree offers the following types of effects on the human body – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, astringent, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, anti-tumor and laxative.
Herbal Benefits Of Pau d’arco
Pau d’arco has the following health related benefits:
Pau d’arco is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and therefore is considered an apt remedy against malaria. In an animal based clinical study conducted in the year 2005, the two naphthaquinones present in Pau d’arco were found to be effective in treating malaria.
Against Tumor Cells
Many studies conducted using Pau d’arco have shown that the herb may be effective against certain types of tumor cells especially sarcoma in animals. In yet another study conducted on mice it was found that the herb was able to reduce the spread of lung cancer especially after a surgery to remove the tumor. It was also found that the herbal extract could eliminate liver cancer and lung cancer cells which were grown in test tubes.
It remains to be seen whether Pau d’arco extracts are effective against human cancer cells or not. Most of the research work conducted on Pau d’arco extracts were done by the US National Cancer Institute. Further it was pointed out by some scientists that the a high amount of this herbal extract needed to work against cancer cells in humans could lead to poisoning and internal bleeding.
The herbal tree extract was also used in many clinical studies to test its efficacy against different forms of viral infections. It was found that Pau d’arco extracts can be used to treat common forms of viral infection such as cold, flu, H1N1 flu and herpes.
Traditionally, Pau d’arco extracts were also used to treat fungal infections such as candida or yeast infection in females. It is now believed by many that Pau d’arco can be used to treat the following – ringworm, infectious diarrhea, bladder infections and sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and syphilis. To treat candida infection, the herbal extracts of Pau d’arco are directly applied to the skin.
Unconfirmed research findings show that Pau d’arco extracts can also be used to treat diabetes in humans. However, there are no clinical studies to validate this claim.
Among the other related benefits of Pau d’arco, the usage of the herb as a tonic and blood builder has been widely accepted by many. Some even claim that Pau d’arco extracts can be taken internally to treat anemia. Pau d’arco is also used to treat the following conditions – gastritis, ulcers, joint pain, hernia, skin boils, asthma and bronchitis.
In most of the clinical studies that used Pau d’arco extracts it was found that an effective dosage of the herb would be approximately 500 mg taken in divided doses per day. To make the popular Pau d’arco herbal tea, add one teaspoon of the loose and powdered bark of the tree in a cup of hot water. Pau d’arco herbal tea can be taken 2-4 times per day.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
Pau d’arco is considered possibly unsafe when taken at low and high dosage levels.Possible side effects of taking Pau d’arco extracts include the following – nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage, kidney damage, allergic reactions and severe internal bleeding.In a clinical study conducted by the National Cancer Institute it was found that the compound lapachol present in Pau d’arco could prevent blood clotting. It was also found that the effective dose of Pau d’arco needed for fighting tumor cells could also lead to severe internal bleeding in patients. As a result of these findings, the herb was banned in Canada in the year 1985.
Many animal-based studies show that the herb could lead to birth defects and possible death when taken during pregnancy. Therefore, Pau d’arco extracts should be strictly avoided by pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.Pau d’arco extracts must be avoided by those suffering from bleeding disorders and by those scheduled for a surgical procedure.
Pau d’arco is a traditional herb that has been used by Native South American tribal members to treat pain and minor infections. However, today the herb is found to be effective against many types of disorders and conditions. Pau d’arco is available in the market in the following forms – capsule, tablet and in tea form. In a study it was found that most of the pau d’arco herbal products available in the market do not contain Tabebuia impetiginosa extracts.
Avoid Pau d’arco with the following – anti-coagulant and anti-platelet drugs.