Pau D’Arco Benefits, Uses & History

Pau D’arco is one of the world’s lesser-known herbs. It is made from the inner bark of Tabebuia trees which can be found growing in Central and South America.

It also goes by a few other names including “Purple Trumpet Tree”, “Taheebo”, and “Lapacho”.

If you’ve been recommended this herb or you’ve simply stumbled upon it in your local health food store but you’d like to learn more, you’ve come to the right place!

Pau D’Arco Benefits, Uses & History

Below we’ll take an in-depth look at the benefits, uses, and history of Pau D’arco. In the end, you’ll have a better idea of just what it’s good for, and whether or not you should include it as a part of your daily regime. 

What is Pau D’arco?

Let’s start our exploratory journey of this wonderful herb by looking at what Pau D’arco actually is.

As we’ve explained in a little detail above, it’s derived from the inner bark of Tabebuia trees. But, the species of the Tabebuia tree it’s made from is actually called “Pau D’arco”.

For this reason, it’s easy to not think of Pau D’arco as a ‘herb’ at all. But, in the case of cinnamon, it still finds its way into this category. 

The Pau D’arco tree can grow up to a staggering 30 meters tall and 3 meters wide and when planted or self-seeded in close proximity, create a canopy of leaves.

It only grows in tropical climates so, while it’s found naturally in Central & South America, it can only be grown in Hawaii or Florida in the United States. 

The History of Pau D’arco

Pau D’arco was first used by the indigenous people of the rainforest and its use pre-dates the Inca Empire. Tribes living thousands of miles apart all used it as a medicinal herb for hundreds of years. 

Both the Guarani and Tupi Indians named Pau D’arco “Tajy”, which translates to “to have strength and vigor”.

The Inca also considered the Pau D’arco tree as divine and, while many plants were given a God-like status, Pau D’arco was believed to give humans a positive electrical charge. 

Hundreds of years later, Pau D’arco was discovered by the Portuguese and the tree was originally used to make weapons. This is where it got its name from as well.

In Portuguese, “Pau” translates to “Wood”, and “Arco” translates to bow. Put together you have “wooden bow”. 

Eventually, its use as a medicinal herb was discovered and it was a go-to remedy for treating tropical diseases. This included schistosomiasis, a particularly problematic issue caused by flatworms. 

Its effectiveness as a medicinal herb soon saw it used throughout Europe and North America.

Then in the late 19th century (specifically the 1920s), more research was carried out on Pau D’arco and scientists successfully managed to isolate one of its active ingredients – lapachol. 

This isolation helped to identify the chemical structure of Pau D’arco and made it possible to synthesize lapachol. 

Once this had been achieved, Pau D’arco was pretty much forgotten about.

However, a few decades later it caught the attention of scientists again who decided to research its medicinal properties further using new, modern techniques. 

Research carried out by Brazillian scientists in the 1960s found that Pau D’arco had multiple health and medicinal benefits including use as an anti-inflammatory. It was also found to have pain-relieving properties. 

Pau D’arco Uses & Benefits

Its long history as a herbal medicine and the amount of research that has been carried out on Pau D’Arco both prove that it has multiple health benefits. But what are they specifically? 

Below, we’ll take a look at three of the most common issues Pau D’arco is used for treating. If you suffer from any of these, there’s a good chance that adding a Pau D’arco supplement will help to alleviate your symptoms.

However, as always, we’d recommend checking with your doctor first. 

1. Controls Candida Levels

Pau D’arco is commonly used to help fight candida. This is a type of yeast that can be found living in the mouth and the intestines. 

Our bodies naturally produce a small amount of Candida as a way of helping to aid digestion and absorb nutrients from our food.

However, when the body’s Ph level gets out of balance, the amount of Candida we produce can rise extremely quickly. This creates a health issue called “Candidiasis”.

Candidiasis can create a plethora of problems including thrush, headaches, the inability to concentrate, extreme fatigue, and seemingly uncontrollable sugar cravings.

The most dangerous thing it can do, however, is weaken our immune system. This leaves us more susceptible to viral and bacterial diseases. 

So, how does Pau D’arco help Candidiasis? To begin with, it contains powerful antifungal compounds including lapachol and xylophone.

Both of these (but specifically lapachol) have been proven to fight rising Candida albicans and Candida tropicalis levels, as carried out in a 2007 study. 

Another way that Pau D’arco helps to prevent Candidiasis is by loosening the bowels.

It doesn’t have a laxative effect, so there’s no need to worry about sudden diarrhea, but it loosens the bowels enough to flush out any older fecal matter. As it does this, it expels Candida. 

2. Anti-Inflammatory

Mild inflammation is often an immune response that shows us that our immune system is working properly and is actively fighting any viruses or bacteria that are trying to do harm.

However, chronic inflammation is a very serious issue and it’s believed to be one of the biggest contributors to most diseases. 

Chronic inflammation occurs when our immune system is overloaded with toxins coming from our diet and the environment.

This overexposure causes a toxin build-up that the immune system has to work extremely hard to process and, as a result, it becomes highly reactive.

When this happens, we become susceptible to developing certain diseases including asthma, Crohn’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Again, Pau D’arco can come to the rescue here. A study on the medicinal properties of Pau D’arco found that it is capable of increasing the effectiveness of Nrf2.

This is a protein found in the intestinal tract and its purpose is to protect against oxidative stress caused by injury and inflammation. 

Put simply, this means that Pau D’arco is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help prevent and manage the symptoms of the diseases associated with chronic inflammation.

3. Antioxidant / Antiviral

Another common use for Pau D’arco is as an antioxidant. This is because it contains powerful compounds including quercetin, flavonoids, and carnosol. 

Of these three compounds, it’s quercetin that has the highest antioxidant potency as it is highly effective at fighting free radicals.

In turn, oxidative stress is reduced and the signs and effects of aging are slowed down.

Quercetin also helps to stimulate the digestive system and keeps everything moving smoothly. It’s particularly effective on the colon and helps to regulate bowel movements. 

Pau D’arco is also used as an effective antiviral supplement, and it has been for thousands of years. It helps to stop certain viruses in their tracks by containing high levels of beta-lapachone.

This inhibits the enzymes in the virus cells and affects their ability to synthesize DNA and RNA, preventing them from being able to replicate themselves or infect other healthy cells. 

Pau D’arco and Cancer

Pau D. Arco

As with most herbal medicines, there are two sides to the story as far as Pau D’arco’s cancer-fighting properties are concerned. 

The first and most important thing to note is that there is currently no evidence to prove that Pau D’arco is effective at preventing or treating cancer.

However, research does suggest that it could be a possible route to explore for future cancer drug development. 

The reason for this comes down to certain compounds found in Pau D’arco, namely beta-lapachone. Scientists have found that this is capable of inducing apoptosis in certain types of cancer cells which is capable of killing them. 

Unlike normal cells that naturally undergo apoptosis as a way of regenerating new, healthy cells, cancer cells are “immortal”. This means they are capable of replicating themselves without any older cells dying and they also gradually replace normal cells with cancerous ones. 

However, by restoring apoptosis (which the beta-lapachone found in Pau D’arco is capable of doing) the cancerous cells can be controlled and may even be reversed. 

Other Uses of Pau D’arco

While research shows that Pau D’arco is an effective herb for fighting Candidiasis, preventing chronic inflammation, and as an antioxidant and antiviral supplement, there are some other things it is used for. 

The first of these is weight loss and management. In a study carried out on postmenopausal, overweight mice, Pau D’arco extract was shown to reduce triglycerides in fat cells which, in turn, prevented fat accumulation and weight gain.

It also activated their fat-burning pathways on a DNA level. 

It is also believed that Pau D’arco can help to reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies and eczema. It manages this by reducing certain compounds in the body including Histamine, IgE, IL4, and IFN-gamma. 

Another study carried out on mice with Huntington’s disease found that Pau D’arco extract helped to protect mitochondria and support brain function. 

It is worth noting that each of these studies was carried out on mice and, as such, the same effects may not occur in humans.

However, as with most research, it offers hope and opens up an avenue for further research and drug development. 

Potential Side Effects of Taking Pau D’arco

As with all herbs, there can be some potential side effects from taking Pau D’arco. These range from mild to severe so it’s always worth researching first and checking with your doctor before you start taking it. 

Some of the milder side effects associated with Pau D’arco include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you experience any of these, it’s a good idea to stop taking it or lower your dosage until your body is accustomed to it. There are also some severe side effects that can come from an incorrect dosage of Pau D’arco.

The first of these is toxicity to the kidneys and liver. This may happen when Pau D’arco is taken in doses exceeding 1.5g (1,500mg), and the symptoms include severe vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody stools, and fainting. 

Another potential side effect of taking Pau D’arco is slow blood clotting. This means it shouldn’t be taken alongside any anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs.

It also shouldn’t be taken if you have an upcoming operation as it may increase the risk of excessive bleeding during and after surgery. 

Finally, Pau D’arco shouldn’t be taken by children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. 

How to Take Pau D’arco

If you’ve done your research and checked with your doctor that you’re safe to start taking a Pau D’arco supplement, the first thing you need to do is decide what form you’d like to take it in. 

Pau D’arco is available as a tea, in powdered form, and in capsules or tablets. Each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages, but capsules and tablets are the most popular simply because they are the most convenient. 

It’s also incredibly important that you pay attention to the dosage instructions on the packet, otherwise, you may end up suffering from the side effects described above.

This is especially true if you choose a dried bark tea as it’s much easier to accidentally overdose. 

Final Word

There you have it, everything you need to know about the lesser-known Pau D’arco herb. And, while it may not be as famous as some other herbs, it certainly has its place in herbal remedies. 

If you suffer from Candidiasis, chronic inflammation, or you simply want to keep your immune system functioning as healthily as possible, Pau D’arco is a fantastic supplement to add to your daily routine.

It may even be capable of preventing certain cancers, although there is very little proof around this at present. 

Whatever you decide to take it for, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it can have some severe side effects if taken in the wrong amount.

So, pay attention to the packaging and make sure you never exceed the recommended dose.