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Herbal Monograph

Herb:   Pau D’ Arco Bark   (Tabebuia avellanedae, T. impetiginosa)

Other Names:   Lapacho, Purple Lapacho   (1)  

                          Taheebo, Ipe Roxo,…Red Lapacho   (26)  

                          …Tecoma   (27)  

Known in the herb trade as lapacho or taheebo.    (61)


Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:              

Part(s) used:  inner lining of the bark   (26)                                                                                                

Identification & Harvesting: Found in South America.    (61)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Active Constituents: Most of the chemical analyses of lapacho have been performed on the heartwood of the tree, rather than on the phloem (pronounced floam), or inner lining of the bark, which is used medicinally….it is probably safe to assume that the living bark contains a similar set of active constituents to the heartwood plus some others that make it more effective and would account for the living bark’s greater popularity as a folk medicine….The reason is simple: the nutrients and representative families of chemical substances used to sustain the life of the tree are found in greatest concentration in the cambium layer and phloem of the living bark….

Lapachol is just one of a number of plant substances known as napthaquinones (N-factors) that occur in lapacho. Anthraquinones, or A-factors, comprise another important class of compounds. The N-factors are not common except in herbal tonics. Seldom do both N- and A- factors occur in the same species. Several of the remarkable properties of lapacho may be due to a probable synergy between A- and N- factors.

Quercitin, xloidone and other flavonoids are also present in lapacho; these undoubtedly contribute to the plant’s effectiveness in the treatment of tumors and infections.    (26)

Isolated research did not corroborate its reputation, but advocates contend that the whole bark produces effects that result from a synergistic complex, not from a single chemical.    (61)

Actions:   Alterive, antifungal, antibacterial, depurative, immune support, antibiotic   (22)            Laxative, anticancer, antioxidant, analgesic, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, sedative, decongestant, hypotensive.  (26) 

A folk reputation as an anticancer, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal agent, esp. for yeast infections.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:   Native to South America and known as the “Divine Tree,” Pau D’ Arco is the precious inner bark of this tree. Used by the Incas, Pau D’ Arco has recently been recognized by the rest of the world…for its ability to promote energy and endurance. Lapacho is the active ingredient in Pau D’ Arco and this substance acts by stimulating natural resistance…(it) will nutritionally support the respiratory and digestive systems and the body’s natural ability to defend itself.  (1-distributor’s advertisement)

Over the past 20 years reports from doctor’s and patients have indicated that this bark, when ingested (usually in tea form), has cured terminal leukemia, arthritis, yeast and fungus infections, arrested pain, stopped athlete’s foot and cured the common cold. 

(1-excerpted from Health Store News, January 1987, Vols. 3 and 6)

            Since information on its antifungal and anti-candida properties were made known, this is the herb of choice for candidiasis. It is reported to be a natural blood cleanser and builder. It has antibiotic properties which can aid in destroying viral infections in the body. It has been used to give the body strength and energy and to protect and strengthen the immune system. Scientific studies also show that the active ingredient of Pau d’ arco, lapachol, can inhibit tumor growth. It has also been used in healing diseases such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, gonorrhea, hemorrhage, hernia, infection, liver ailments, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, pyorrhea, skin problems, spleen, ulcers, varicose veinsand wounds.   (22)

Lapacho is applied externally and internally for the treatment of fevers, infections, colds, flu, syphilis, cancer, respiratory problems, skin ulcerations and boils, dysentery, gastrointestinal problems of all kinds, debilitating conditions such as arthritis and prostatitis, and circulation disturbances. Other conditions reportedly cured with lapacho include lupus, diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, osteomyelitis, Parkinson’s diseaseand psoriasis.

Lapacho is used to relieve pain, kill germs, increase the flow of urine, and even as an antidote to poisons. Its use in many ways parallels that of echinacea on this continent and ginseng in Asia, except that its actions appear to exceed both in terms of its potential as a cancer treatment….

As early as 1873, physicians were aware of the healing action of lapacho. Dr. Joaqin Almeida Pinto wrote during that year, “Pau D’ Arco: Medicinal Properties: prescribed as a fever reducer; the bark is used against ulcers; also used for venereal and rheumatic disorders and especially useful for skin disorders, especially eczema, herpes, and mange.”

Another physician, Dr. Walter Accorsi, reported that lapacho, “eliminated the pains caused by the disease (cancer) and multiples the body’s production of red corpuscles.”    (26)

Helps cure fungal infections; helps fight parasitic infection; promotes good digestion; lowers blood sugar    (28)

Long use in South American native tribes as a cancer remedy.  Used in Peru to treat diabetes and 

PAU D’ ARCO  (Tabebuia avellanedae, T. impetiginosa)

to purify the blood.  Widely used outside US to treat cancer, viral infections, colds, flu, herpes, bacterial infections, candida and other fungal infections, inflammation of the nose and throat.    (61)


Precautions:   While there can be no doubt that lapacho is highly toxic to many kinds of cancer cells, viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and other…microorganisms, the substance appears to be without any kind of significant toxicity to healthy human cells.   The side effects mainly encountered (and usually with isolated lapacho constituents) are limited to nausea and anticoagulant effects in very high doses, a tendency to loosen the bowels, and diarrhea in very high doses. As indicated earlier, some nausea should be expected as a natural consequence of the detoxification process. The FDA gave lapacho a clean bill of health in 1981.   

Perhaps the most significant study on toxicity was published in 1970 by researchers from Chas Pfizer & Co. Inc. Looking specifically at lapachol, these investigators found that all signs of lapachol toxicity in animals were completely reversible and even self-limiting, i.e., over time the signs of toxicity decreased and even disappeared within the time constraints of the study.

The most severe kinds of self-limiting side effects they observed were an antivitamin K effect, anemia, and significant rises of metabolic and protein toxins in the bloodstream. The diminution of these signs indicates that lapacho initiates an immediate alterive or detoxification effect on the body’s cells. Once the cells are “cleaned up,” the signs of toxicity disappear. This effect is quite common among herbal tonics.     (26)         

Reported side effects include nausea and gastrointestinal distress.  Toxicity considered low.  Other spp. have produced more side effects.  Use with caution:  its anticancer action is unconfirmed, identity of source species is often questionable.    (61)                                                                                                                                   

Tincturing Process:



Dosage:   20 to 40 drops 3-5 times daily   (22)                                                                                                     

    Capsules: take 1 up to 3x daily

                 Extract : 25-40 drops in liquid 3x daily

                 Tea: drink 1 cup up to 3x daily     (28)                                

Up to 2.7 g. capsules daily.  Simmer 2-3 tsp inner bark in 2 cups water for 15 min.  Divide into 2 or 3 daily doses.  Tincture 20-50 drops up to 4 x daily.    (61)

General Notes: Paraguayan lapacho is preferable to the Brazilian variety. (1–see article “Nature’s Healing Agent: Lapacho/Pau d’Arco” by James A. May)

The Guarani, Tupi and other tribes call the lapacho tree tajy, meaning “to have strength and vigor,” or simply “the divine tree.” Modern Guarani Indians prefer the purple lapacho, but also use the red lapacho. And they use only the inner linings of the bark.   (26)                                                                                                                                                

Material sold as pau d’arco in the American market may be from other Tabebuia spp.    (61)



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “Pau D’ Arco” file

(22) Herbs and Herbal Formulas (booklet) by Mark Hershiser, pg. 14

(26) Herbal Tonic Therapies by Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D., pgs. 69-87

(27) Pau d’ Arco: Immune Power from the Rain Forest, by Kenneth Jones, pg. 33

(28) Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible by Earl Mindell, pg. 145

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 154-55