Pau D'Arco is a large canopy tree native to tropical rainforests in Central and South America. It grows to about 30 meters in height and can measure 2-3 meters in diameter at its base. The common name Pau D'Arco is applied to a number of species of the Tabebuia genus, but the preferred species employed in herbal medicine is Tabebuia avellanedae (1) (4).
Pau D'Arco is taken for Candida yeast infections, various viral infections and parasitic infections. It also has anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties, and stimulates the immune system (4). Pau D'Arco is a potent antioxidant (5).
Lapachol, a chief constituent of the wood and bark of the Pau D'Arco tree, has anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and immunomodulatory activity (3), many of which have been backed up by results from animal and other laboratory studies (2).
Lapachol shows antibacterial/anti-parasitic activity against Gram-positive and acid-fact bacteria, fungi and viruses, with a strong activity against the Brucella species. Napthoquinones in Pau D'Arco, are highly effective against Candida albicans and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Pau D'Arco also actively inhibits the growth of several dangerous viruses, including Herpes types 1 & 11 (5).
In folk medicine Pau D'Arco has been taken to treat diabetes, ulcers, liver ailments, cystitis, prostatitis, ringworm, gonorrhea, syphilis, candida and as a general tonic (3). Natives from Central and South America reportedly used Pau D'Arco bark to treat cancer, leishmaniasis, leukemia, lupus and infectious diseases (6) (1).
In North American herbal medicine Pau D'Arco is considered to be antifungal, antiviral, anti-cancerous, and antibacterial. It is used for fevers, colds, flu, lupus, arthritis and circulatory problems. It is commonly included in herbal preparations throughout the United States for treating Hodgkin’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and candida yeast infections (1).
Duke’s Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals lists lapachol as being anti-malarial, bactericidal and fungicidal (7).
Pau D'Arco should be used with caution as significant evaluation of the safety of this herb in typical doses has not been conducted. Daily doses greater than 1.5 grams of lapachol have been associated with the most risk. Due to the lack of available data, Pau D'Arco should not be taken during periods of pregnancy or breastfeeding (3).
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Bigus A, Massengill D, Walker C.“Pau D'Arco.”Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: A Scientific Reference for healthcare Professionals.(Accessed May 31, 2003).
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Duke JA. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 1992.