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Herbs & Botanicals

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Pau D'Arco (tabebuia avellanedae)

What is pau d'arco? What is it used for?

Pau d'arco is a type of tree that grows predominantly in the rainforests of Latin America and Brazil. Several species of pau d'arco trees exist in the region, the most common of which is tabebuia avellanedae.

It is also known as lapacho, and can reach a height of more than 100 feet, with extremely hard wood and distinct, pink-purplish flowers. The inner bark of the tree is used in herbal remedies.

Traditionally, pau d'arco has been used to treat conditions ranging from arthritis and inflammation to ulcers, skin lesions, and some types of cancer. The two primary active ingredients in pau d'arco are lapachol and beta-lapachone; laboratory studies have shown that these chemicals exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Pau d'arco is also used to treat some wounds and infections.

How much pau d'arco should I take?

Some traditional healers recommend a sort of pau d'arco tea, which is made by simmering 10-15 grams of inner bark in a pint of water for 15 minutes, and can be taken three times per day. In modern herbal medicine, some practitioners recommend up to 600 milligrams of powdered bark, taken three times per day.

What forms of pau d'arco are available?

Powdered pau d'arco bark can be found at many herbal shops and markets, and is sold in capsules and tablets. Tinctures and extracts of pau d'arco are also available.

What can happen if I take too much pau d'arco? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Pau d'arco is considered safe; the American Herbal Products Association has given the herb a class 1 rating, meaning that it can be safely consumed when used appropriately. However, high amounts (constituting several grams taken for several days in a row) of lapachol can cause nausea, vomiting and nosebleeds. Many practitioners recommend that it not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with pau d'arco. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking pau d'arco or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 113.
  • Miranda FG, Vilar JC, Alves IA, et al. Antinociceptive and antiedematogenic properties and acute toxicity of tabebuia avellanedae Lor. ex Griseb. inner bark aqueous extract. BMC Pharmacol 2001;1(1):6.
  • Muller K, Sellmer A, Wiegrebe W. Potential antipsoriatic agents: lapacho compounds as potent inhibitors of HaCaT cell growth. J Nat Prod 1999;62(8):1134-1136.
  • Portillo A, Vila R, Freixa B, et al. Antifungal activity of Paraguayan plants used in traditional medicine. J Ethnopharmacol 2001;76(1):93-98.
  • Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press, 1999, pp. 246-247.

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