Pau d’Arco, also known as Lapacho or Taheebo, is an incredibly beautiful tree native to the Amazon rainforest and other tropical regions of South America. The inner bark of the Pau d’Arco tree has been used for centuries by indigenous people for a variety of health purposes. I was first introduced to this cooling and bitter wonder bark as a young child when we lived overseas. My dad actually traveled into the South American rainforest and harvested it with a group of local indigenous people.
Pau d’Arco is typically sold as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules, tablets, or tea. It is also sometimes sold as a powder or tincture and has been traditionally used to treat infections, including those caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The active components in Pau d’Arco, including lapachol and quercetin, have been shown to have antimicrobial properties in laboratory studies.
When I created my first protocol to heal, after my prolonged exposure to toxic mold, Pau D Arco was one of the herbs I used daily. You can read about the herbs and foods I used in this post.
One study investigated the antifungal activity of pau d’arco extract against Candida albicans, a common cause of fungal infections in humans. The results showed that pau d’arco extract was able to inhibit the growth of C. albicans at concentrations as low as 0.1%. In addition, pau d’arco extract was found to be effective at reducing the adhesion of C. albicans to human epithelial cells, which is an important step in the development of fungal infections.
Another study examined the antifungal activity of pau d’arco extract against Aspergillus fumigatus, a fungus that can cause respiratory infections in immunocompromised individuals. The results showed that pau d’arco extract was able to inhibit the growth of A. fumigatus in a dose-dependent manner, with higher concentrations of extract resulting in greater inhibition of fungal growth.
In addition to its activity against C. albicans and A. fumigatus, pau d’arco extract has also been shown to have antifungal activity against other species, including Trichophyton mentagrophytes, which is a common cause of fungal skin infections, and Cryptococcus neoformans, which can cause meningitis in immunocompromised individuals.
In vitro and animal studies have shown that pau d’arco has antiviral activity against a variety of viruses, including herpes simplex virus, human respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza virus.
Pau d’arco may also have antiviral effects in humans. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology examined the effects of pau d’arco in individuals with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection. The study found that pau d’arco significantly reduced the number of HSV-2 outbreaks and improved quality of life compared to the placebo group.
The mechanisms by which pau d’arco may have antiviral effects are not fully understood, but it is thought to be due to its active compounds, including naphthoquinones and other flavonoids. These compounds may have antiviral activity by inhibiting the replication of viruses and by boosting the immune system
Benefits for Pain Reduction
In animal studies, pau d’arco has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain in models of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, pau d’arco was found to significantly reduce pain and improve mobility in rats with osteoarthritis when administered orally for 21 days.
Pau d’arco has also been studied for its pain-reducing effects in humans. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology examined the effects of pau d’arco in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The study found that pau d’arco significantly reduced joint swelling and morning stiffness, as well as improving overall quality of life, compared to the placebo group.
It is thought that pau d’ arco works to reduce pain due to its active compounds, including naphthoquinones and other flavonoids. These compounds may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, and they may also inhibit the production of prostaglandins, which are involved in the sensation of pain.
Cancer Prevention Benefits
The main active ingredient in pau d’arco is a chemical called lapachol, which has been shown to have some anticancer properties in laboratory studies. For example, lapachol has been shown to inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer cells, including breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer cells. However, it is important to note that these studies have been conducted in test tubes or on animals, and it is not clear whether lapachol has the same effects in humans.
In addition to lapachol, pau d’arco contains other compounds that may have anticancer properties, including quercetin and other flavonoids. These compounds are thought to work by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels that feed cancer cells, as well as by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells.
Some studies have suggested that pau d’arco may have some benefits in certain cancer-related conditions, such as boosting the immune system and reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea, but more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Benefits for Cardiovascular System
One study found that pau d’arco extract was able to reduce blood pressure in rats with hypertension. Another study found that pau d’arco extract was able to reduce the formation of blood clots in the aorta of mice, which could potentially help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
How It’s Used
Pau d’ Arco can be used to make tea, glycerites, and tinctures. It can also be used as a rinse for the body, mouth, and hair.
To prepare what most people refer to as tea, you will have to decoct the bark in water. I use about 12 grams of chopped bark to 32 ounces of water. I heat the water until boiling, then boil the bark for about 5 minutes, then turn the stovetop down to low and decoct for an additional 20 minutes. After it is ready, it cools, and I strain it and keep it in the fridge in a glass jar. I don’t recommend using plastic. When adding this tea as part of a healing protocol, I would start with 1/2 a cup daily and increase to 1 cup daily over a two-week period. The longest I’ve taken, one cup a day, has been for 90 days.
Caution & Contraindications
-Proper sourcing for this bark is very important. “The inner bark shavings commonly sold in the U.S. are actually by-products of the timber and lumber industries. Even mahogany shavings from the same sawmill floors in Brazil are swept up and sold around the world as “pau d’arco” (due to the similarity in color and odor of the two woods). In 1987, a chemical analysis of 12 commercially-available pau d’arco products revealed only one product containing lapachol—and only in trace amounts.” Source
-Do not use if you take blood thinners or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as it may increase the risk of bleeding.
-Should be avoided during pregnancy.
-I do not recommend using the isolated compound lapachol. For decoctions and tinctures, I only use the whole bark. Using lapachol by itself in high doses can cause vomiting, nausea, and other unwanted symptoms.
I hope you found this post helpful!
Chemical Free Gal
Disclaimer: The content on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any views or opinions written in this blog should not be taken as fact or professional advice.