Herbal Meds

Pau d'arco, a disease fighting herbal medicine


Pau d'arco is obtained from the bark of the Tabebuia impetigonosa tree indigenous to South America.  Other names for pau d'arco are lapacho, taheebo or ipe roxo.  This herbal medicine was popular amongst the Incas, Aztecs and native tribes of the South American rain forests to promote general health and well-being.  It was also used to cure diseases and as a pain killer for toothaches and headaches.

The beneficial ingredients in pau d'arco include potent plant chemicals called naphthoquinones.  Of these chemicals, lapachol has been studied the most and even has several patents associated with it.

In the 1960's, pau d'arco became popular and many books and articles were written on its ability to fight disease and relieve pain.  By the 1980's this herbal medicine was readily available in health stores and pharmacies.

Lapachol and other compounds contained in pau d'arco combat bacteria, viruses and fungi.  It has also shown to be an immune-enhancing herb and can also reduce inflammation.  Herbalists often recommend this herbal medicine as a tea douche to help restore the balance in the vagina, thereby fighting vaginal yeast infections.  A tincture of pau d'arco applied directly to warts will help to eradicate them.  People suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV or AIDS and acute bronchitis will benefit greatly from taking pau d'arco in either capsule, tablet, tincture or tea form.

The most important benefit though is the potential cancer-fighting properties of this herbal remedy.  When this herb starting getting a reputation as a cancer fighting medicine, the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) started an investigation and identified lapachol as the main ingredient capable of shrinking tumours.

Due to the high rate of success in animal studies in the 1970's, the NCI began human trials using high doses of lapachol.  Although there was evidence that pau d'arco destroyed cancer cells, participants started having serious side effects such as nausea and vomiting and blood-clotting problems.  This was thought to be because lapachol interferes with the action of vitamin K which is needed for blood to clot properly.  As a result, research was abandoned.

Researchers opposing this study believe that lapachol should not have been used in its pure form, but that therapeutic doses of pau d'arco would be more beneficial and would produce similar benefits without the undesired side effects.  Other studies suggest that taking pau d'arco with vitamin K supplements will make it possible for people to use the pure lapachol to further study its cancer fighting properties, without interfering with blood clotting.

Despite all the controversy surrounding the research of lapachol, herbalists and health practitioners recommend pau d'arco as a complementary herbal medicine to conventional cancer treatments.  Pau d'arco tea has had beneficial effects for cancer victims alleviating the symptoms of chemotherapy.  

What are the side effects of Pau d'arco?


Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.  

Using whole-bark products are generally safe and do not produce any of the side effects associated with high doses of pure lapachol.  Should you experience any stomach upsets or nausea when using pau d'arco herbal supplements, take it with food.

People using blood-thinning medication such as Warfarin should take care when using pau d'arco supplements.

Pregnant women should not use pau d'arco.

How do I take Pau d'arco?


If you are using pau d'arco tablets or capsules, the daily recommended dosage is 250 mg twice a day.  This dose is suggested for people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome or HIV and AIDS.  Use pau d'arco herbal supplements in conjunction with other immune-enhancing herbs such as echinacea or goldenseal.  

To make pau d'arco tea, steep two or three teaspoons dried herb in two cups of boiled water and drink over the course of a day.

To treat vaginal yeast infections, let pau d'arco tea cool down to lukewarm before using it as a douche.  Repeat the treatment twice a day for a period of 5 days or until the symptoms are gone.

To treat warts, apply a compress soaked with pau d'arco tinture to the affected areas before bedtime and leave it on all night.  Repeat the treatment until the warts disappear.

Herbalists recommend purchasing whole-bark products because they believe that the benefits of pau d'arco come from the entire range of chemical compounds found in the bark.  

To be truly effective, pau d'arco herbal supplements must contain lapachol which is found only in the bark of the Tabebuia impetigonosa tree and not the other Tabebuia species. The most effective pau d'arco products are the ones that contain 2 to 7 percent standardized extract of lapachol.  

Be sure to consult an herbalist or a reputable health store when buying pau d'arco supplements to ensure that you are getting good value.


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