Medicinal herbs are increasingly popular today, as more and more people find naturopathic medicine more helpful and safe than synthetic drugs. The use of traditional herbs has always been a time-honored approach in treating different forms of illness and alleviating various symptoms. One powerful herb today is Tabebuia avellanedae, more commonly known as pau d’Arco. Are you wondering what is pau d’arco? It would be understandable: for all its popularity in certain societies, it is a virtual unknown in others.
Pau d arco is an evergreen tea commonly found in South and Central America. It has broad leaves and reaches 125 feet. It has extremely hard wood, making it resistant to decay or disease. Pau d’Arco is also known as Lapacho, with tribal names as Taheebo and Ipe Roxo (typically misspelled as “epay”). Pau d’Arco owes its medicinal properties to its tree bark, particularly the inner bark referred to as phloem.
Pau d’Arco has been an integral part of traditional medicine in most South American countries. The native Indian tribes in Northern Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and other South American countries have taken paud arco for thousands of years. Even prior to the arrival of Spanish, the Tupi-Nambo and Guarani tribes used a huge amount of lapacho tea. Still, the use of pau d’arco may not be limited to Southern America. According to a Yugoslavian scientist, there is evidence of the plant being used by the Russians and Vikings. Also, he claims that a toothpaste containing pau d’arco was manufactured during the late 1800′s and may have been effective in tooth decay prevention.
What is Pau d’arco and What is it Made of?
Majority of the chemical studies on pau arco have used the wood and not the phloem or inner bark. It contains the important compounds known as naphthoquinones, particularly lapachol and beta-lapachone. These compounds are believed to have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is thought that lapachol, which is found in the inner bark of pau d’arco tree, triggers human immune cells in low concentrations. Human immune cells include T-cells that mediate immunological reactions and white blood cells that combat foreign bacteria and microorganisms. The herb also contains a great deal of quercetin, a certain type of antioxidant. Xyloidone and several flavonoids are also present in lapacho, which undeniably contribute to the plant’s effectiveness in treating infection and tumors.
Based on lab tests, lapachol and beta-lapachone have the ability to kill fungi, viruses, bacteria and parasites. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, but its effectiveness when taken by humans is not yet established and well documented.
Pau d’arco and its Medicinal Benefits
Pau d’arco has many medicinal properties. It is cooling, alterative, bitter, antimicrobial, antitumor, antineoplastic, antidiabetic, diuretic, digestive, astringent, hypotensive, parasiticide and anodyne. Its active ingredient, lapachol, is a type of quinine and a famous antitumor agent. Pau d’arco can be applied internally and externally in treating fever, colds, flu, syphilis, infections, cancer, respiratory problems, all kinds of gastro-intestinal problems, arthritis and circulation problems. Other conditions that are reportedly cured by lapacho are diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, psoriasis and osteomyelitis.
With all this, it is no wonder that traditional societies whose ancestors discovered the various health benefits of pau d’Arco long ago have been taking this for many centuries. Currently, many naturopathic experts are using the healing power of this plant to treat different forms of illnesses. Considering all the benefits the plant has, it may well be time for more people to learn the answer to the question of what is Pau d’arco.