The Power of Pau D’arco – Herbal Remedies and More

By Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards
October 15, 2015 Updated: October 15, 2015

By , Organic Lifestyle Magazine

What if you could treat and prevent a wide range of illness just by drinking tea or by swallowing a few drops of a powerful herbal extract? It turns out that you can, and this natural medicine has been in use for centuries.

Pau d’arco is said to treat numerous conditions including, cancer, Candida overgrowth, constipation, fibromyalgia, diabetes, lupus, bacterial infections, viral infections, and various parasites. Pau d’arco strengthens the body’s immune system, detoxifies the liver, treats various ailments, contains many antioxidants, and is said to promote overall health.

What is Pau d’Arco?

Pau d’arco is a large canopy tree indigenous to tropical regions of South America, from the Bignoniaceae family, the Tabebuia genus, and the impetiginosa species. These flowering trees are often chosen in tropical landscaping for their beauty and durability. They can grow up to 30 meters tall and 3 meters wide. Pau d’arco trees only grow in tropical regions, so they can only be grown in the U.S. in Hawaii and southern Florida.


Pau d’arco has definitely been used for centuries, and its use may go back further. It may predate the Inca. Throughout South America, tribes living thousands of miles apart have used the tree bark for the same medicinal purposes. The Tupi and Guarani tribes refer to the tree as tajy which means to have vigor and strength.

The name pau d’ arco is Portuguese, and it was the Portuguese name for the herb that has come to use in common parlance. Pau translates to wood and arco translates to bow – one of the common uses for the wood.

History of Pau d’Arco Use by the Western World

The Portuguese learned that the bark was useful in treating tropical diseases, including the problematic schistosmiasis caused by flatworms. After this, the incorporation and use of pau d’arco within traditional herbal medicine spread to Europe and later North America. Widespread knowledge of pau d’arco was not seen until the late nineteenth century when scientists isolated one of the active ingredients, lapachol, and identified its chemical structure. Lapachol was first synthesized in the 1920s.

More than seventy-five years after lapachol was first identified within pau d’arco, the herb once again caught the attention of scientists working to identify its medicinal properties. In the 1960s, a Brazilian physician’s research revealed pau d’arco was useful as an anti-inflammatory and for pain relief, which then led to further research.

There are many names commonly used to refer to this tree including ipe, roxo, lapacho, tahuari, taheebo, trumpet tree, ipe-contra saran, tabebuia ipe, and tajy.

Natural Remedies with Pau d’Arco

Pau d’arco has been used as a traditional medicine for more than 1,500 years. Multiple studies have proven it accelerates wound healing.

Pau d’arco is used in many forms including:

  • Tincture
  • Liquid
  • Tablets, softgels, capsules
  • Powder
  • Herb
  • Ointment
  • Tea

Pau d’arco is said to cleanse the blood and body and stimulate the immune system and the production of red blood cells. It contains the following properties:

  • Analgesic
  • Antioxidant
  • Antiparasitic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiviral
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Astringent
  • Laxative

The leaves and bark have been used by traditional folk healers of the Caribbean to treat wounds, snakebites, backaches, and toothaches. It has also been used traditionally by indigenous people to treat malaria, respiratory problems, colds, flu, fever, Lupus, infectious diseases, prostate inflammation, boils, ulcers, STDs, poor circulation, anemia, arthritis, rheumatism, and cancer.

In Western medicine, pau d’arco has been used as an herbal remedy for the following:

  • Liver disease
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Herpes I and II
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Asthma
  • Influenza
  • Poliovirus
  • Vesticular stomatitis virus
  • Skin inflammations
  • Psoriasis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Vaginal fungal infections
  • Eczema
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Fungal infections of the nails and skin
  • Warts
  • Hepatitis

Combining Echinacea and pau d’arco in a tea is useful for combating tuberculosis. Some herbalists recommend pau d’arco to strengthen immunity, especially in cases of HIV /AIDS or cancer.

Pau d’Arco and Cancer

Like many natural remedies, especially those with claims to heal cancer, information found is contradictory. There are reports of widespread use to heal cancer with miraculous shrinkage and elimination of tumors and reports of curing leukemia countered with warnings that claim the dosage needed to cure cancer would be toxic and may cause internal bleeding.

The National Cancer Institute in the U.S. has declared its side effects are too dangerous (in the high doses it says are necessary to combat cancer). Meanwhile, it is used in South America by doctors with great results. Argentina dispenses it freely to all patients with leukemia or cancer and Brazil sells it in herb stores and regular pharmacies.

Pau d’Arco Research Issues

One problem with most of the scientific research on this herb is the focus on the isolated compound, lapachol, typically a synthesized version. Pau d’arco contains other helpful compounds such as quinoids, benzenoids, flavonoids, and beta-lapachone. The side effects of the isolated lapachol are more intense than the side effects of the whole pau d’arco herb.

Pau d’Arco Warnings

There are strong warnings against using pau d’arco when pregnant or lactating and not giving it to children. These warnings are not generally explained, but large quantities are known to cause digestive upset and bleeding. Be wary of prescription drug interaction, especially with blood thinners. Others warn that too high a dose could weaken immunity. There are also warnings that not all supplements claiming to be pau d’arco contain the correct herb. Obviously, if using pau d’arco to treat a serious disease, consulting a knowledgeable and experienced naturopath will help you determine the correct dosage and schedule and help you source a reputable brand.

Pau d’arco, the “Divine Tree,” is now threatened. Hopefully humanity will recognize it for the gift that it is and protect and cultivate it for future generations.

Pau d’Arco Recipe For Vaginal Yeast Infections

DIY Rosemary Gladstar’s Anti-Yeast Douche

  • 1 quart water
  • 1/2 oz anti-yeast tea herb mix from the following herbs:
  • 1 part black walnut hull powder
  • 1 part chaparral powder
  • 1 part echinacea root powder
  • 1 part goldenseal root powder (organically cultivated)
  • 1 part marshmallow root
  • 1 part pau d’Arco powder
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 drop tea tree oil

Boil water then remove from heat, stir in the herbs and let steep for 1 hour then strain.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Let cool to warm.  Pour herbal liquid into douche bag and use it to gently douche the vaginal area.