Pau d’Arco – great South American immune herb

by on 16/01/2013

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Pau d’arco – latin name Tabebuia impetignosa and also known as lapacho, is an evergreen tree, native to the rain forests and mountains of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. This impressive tree can grow to 25 feet and is the proud bearer of beautiful trumpet like flowers, but it is the inner bark which is used therapeutically.

It has many names including lapacho and pink trumpet tree, and two ancient tribal names – ipe roxo and taheebo. The native Indians of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and other South American countries, have used pau d’arco for thousands of years – some evidence even suggests that its use pre-dates the Incas!


Many South American tribes used large quantities of pau d’arco tea, both internally and externally. Traditionally, it was often used for fevers, infections, colds, respiratory problems and there are also references to its use with helping gastric problems and arthritic conditions.

Pau d’arco was traditionally used as a remedy for some severe conditions too. These include cancer / tumours, leprosy, syphilis and snakebite wounds.

The Guarani, Tupi-Nambo and many other tribes call the pau d’arco tree “Tajy”, “The Divine Tree.”

There is also evidence to suggest that pau d’arco was used by the Vikings and the Russians, so it seems its use was not limited to the tropics!

Some of the earliest research dates back to 1873 when physicians were already aware of the healing properties of pau d’arco. The active constituent lapachol was isolated in 1884 and synthesized in 1927, so pau d’arco is not a recent discovery!

Uses of pau d’arco

Modern research of this plant confirms many of its traditional uses.

Immune system – pau d’arco is considered to be one of nature’s most powerful antibiotics, it can help with

  • Viral infections, such as the common cold or flu
  • Fungal infections, such as candida albicans
  • Skin ulcerations and boils etc
  • Gastro-intestinal upsets, dysentery etc

Anecdotal evidence also tells us that pau d’arco can give pain relief, especially to conditions of inflammation and circulatory disorders, like arthritis, for example.

Pau d’arco contains a rich and potent source of anti-oxidants – known to protect the body by mopping up ‘free-radicals’ which cause harm to body cells. Anti-oxidants are also considered to slow the aging process by slowing down oxidation damage to DNA.


Decoction – 15-20g to 500ml water, gently simmered for 20 mins. Drink 1 cup 3 times daily

Tea – pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1-3 teaspoons of herb and cover. After 10-15 minutes strain, add honey if desired. Drink 2-3 cups daily.

Tincture (1:5) – 30-60 drops 3 times daily

Fluid extract (1:1) – 10-20 drops 3 times daily

Capsules (min 325mg) – 1-2 capsules 3-6 times daily

Or follow the instructions on any proprietary pack of pau d’arco being used.


Do not use in pregnancy.

Some American studies have shown pau d’arco to cause nausea and diarrhoea in very high doses. It has also been noted that when using this herb initially, some may experience slight nausea which is usually associated with the detoxification process, but this is a positive sign.

The American FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) tested pau d’arco for toxicity in 1981 and passed it.


Pau d’arco is an important ‘immune herb’ which should be considered when the immune system needs stimulating and supporting.

An excellent alternative to the more commonly used ‘immune herbs’ like echinacea and garlic.


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Cat’s claw

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