Pau d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae) is a tree native South America. The tree's inner bark is used medicinally and has a long history of traditional use for treating various ailments. In its native area of growth, local people have long used pau d'arco for pain, inflammation, joint pain, prostate health, fever, ulcers, dysentery, and for fighting off infections.
Today, pau d'arco tea and pau d'arco bark supplements are widely available and commonly used for immune health and as general wellness tonics. In this article, we will discuss the many health benefits of pau d'arco.
What Is Pau D'Arco?
Pau d'arco is a tree native to South America but also grows in parts of Central America. It is an evergreen tree with pink flowers that can grow to a height of over 120 feet. The inner bark of the tree is used medicinally.
The inner bark of pau d'arco contains chemical compounds called naphthoquinones, specifically lapachol and beta-lapachone, that have been shown to have antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. (1) The inner bark also contains significant amounts of the antioxidant quercetin.
Pau d'arco is available in many health stores today is commonly sold as tablets, dried bark tea, or as a tincture.
What Are the Health Benefits of Pau D'Arco?
Because of pau d'arco's powerful medicinal properties, supplementing with this plant has many potential health benefits. Some of the top benefits attributed to pau d'arco include:
1. Pau D’Arco May Boost Immune Health
One of the most notable and popular uses of pau d'arco is supporting the immune system. Most of pau d'arco's immune-supporting benefits are attributed to unique plant compounds in the inner bark known as naphthoquinones. These compounds have been studied extensively and have been shown to have antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. (1)
Several studies on pau d'arco have found that it effectively killed bacterial strains that are notoriously difficult to eliminate, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and H. pylori. (2,3)
The antioxidant quercetin found in pau d'arco also has many benefits to the immune system. Quercitin has free-radical scavenging properties and helps to stimulate immune cells like leukocytes. (4)
For immune health, pau d'arco is commonly consumed in tincture form, as it appears to be more effective than pau d'arco tea. (5)
2. Pau D'Arco May Help Treat Fungal Infections
The naphthoquinones in pau d'arco, specifically the compounds lapachol and beta-lapachone, have been shown to have potent antifungal properties. (6) Pau d'arco has commonly been used as an herbal remedy to support the elimination of Candida, the most common species responsible for fungal or yeast infections.
However, Candida infections are notoriously difficult to treat. While antifungal herbs or medications are essential in eliminating Candida, it is also important to follow an anti-Candida diet and protocol to eliminate Candida overgrowth properly.
3. Pau D'Arco May Help Treat Parasitic Infections
Another widespread use for pau d'arco is supporting the treatment of parasitic infections. Parasites are organisms that inhabit and feed on a host organism, usually at the expense of that organism. Parasitic infections are incredibly common, though they are not often considered as causative factors for illness.
Many different types of parasites can infect humans. While pau d'arco appears to have some general antiparasitic properties, studies suggest that it is particularly beneficial for eliminating liver flukes, a parasite that people can get by eating raw or undercooked fish or shellfish. Pau d'arco has also been used for hookworm and tapeworm infections. (7)
While pau d'arco has some antiparasitic properties, it is not traditionally known to be the most effective antiparasitic for a broad range of parasitic pathogens. The most common herbal formula for eliminating parasitic infections is known as "wormwood complex," a combination of cloves, wormwood, and green black walnut hulls. We've included organic therapeutic extracts of these plants in our Parasite Detox Tonic, a major part of our Parasite Detox Protocol.
4. Pau D'Arco Has Antioxidant Properties
Pau d'arco contains significant amounts of quercetin, a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause oxidative damage to cells. Antioxidants can donate atoms to free radicals, making them more stable without causing the antioxidants themselves to become unstable. This neutralizes the damaging effects of free radicals and protects our cells from oxidative damage. (8)
5. Pau D’Arco May Reduce Inflammation
The quercitin compound found in pau d'arco also has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system and a necessary part of the healing process. When inflammation exists for long periods, it becomes chronic and can interfere with normal body functions, eventually leading to illness. Some of the major contributors to inflammation are:
- Environmental toxins
- Pathogenic infections
- Free radical build-up (oxidative stress)
- Food allergies
Pau d'arco's inner bark contains compounds that fight pathogenic infections and free radicals, helping to eliminate two major factors contributing to inflammation. Furthermore, quercetin has been shown in multiple studies to have its own anti-inflammatory effects, helping to reduce inflammatory biomarkers, including CRP and IL-6. (9)
6. Pau D’Arco May Support Prostate Health
Pau d'arco has also long been used to support prostate health, particularly as herbal support for inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis). Not only does pau d'arco have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to lower inflammation in the prostate, but pau d'arco exerts antibacterial activity against E. coli, the most common cause of two types of prostatitis. (10)
7. Pau D’Arco May Alleviate Joint Pain
Pau d'arco bark is also commonly used for pain relief, especially in alleviating joint pain. One study found that pau d'arco extract blocked inflammation by 30-50% compared to a placebo. (11) Pau d'arco may be helpful for inflammatory joint conditions, swelling, pain, and joint stiffness.
What Are The Active Compounds in Pau D'Arco?
The medicinal benefits of plants are primarily attributed to the bioactive compounds found within them. The major bioactive constituents in pau d'arco include:
"acetaldehydes, alpha-lapachone, ajugols, anisic acid, anthraquinones, benzoic acids, benzenes, beta-lapachone, carboxaldehydes, chromium, chrysanthemin, dehydro-alpha-lapachone, dehydroisolapachone, deoxylapachol, flavonoids,furanonaphthoquinones, hydrochlorolapachol, 2-hydroxy-3-methyl-quinone, 6-hydroxy-mellein, iso-8-hydroxylariciresinol, kigelinone, lapachenol, lapachenole, lapachol, lapachones, menaquinones, 4-methoxyphenol, naphthoquinones, paeonidin-3-cinnamyl-sophoroside, phthiolol, quercetin, tabebuin, tectoquinone, vanillic acid, vanillin, veratric acid, veratric aldehyde, and xyloidone." (12)
The most researched compounds in pau d'arco include quercitin and the napthoquinones lapachol and beta-lapachone.
Pau D'Arco Safety and Side Effects
While pau d'arco has been used traditionally for many years and is generally considered to be safe for consumption, it has been shown to cause some potential side effects in animal studies (particularly in large doses), such as:
- Upset stomach
- Blood thinning
- Reproductive damage
Side effects in humans are rarely reported. However, if you experience any adverse side effects after taking pau d'arco, you should stop and consult your doctor. In addition, because pau d'arco extract may thin your blood, it is recommended to avoid taking pau d'arco supplements if you're taking blood thinning medication or are scheduled to undergo surgery.
Pau d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae) is a tree native South America. The tree's inner bark is used medicinally and has a long history of traditional use for treating various ailments. Today, pau d'arco tea and pau d'arco bark supplements are widely available and are most commonly used for:
- Supporting immune health
- Fighting fungal infections
- Fighting parasitic infections
- Fighting free radicals
- Reducing inflammation
- Supporting prostate health
- Relieving pain
- Supporting joint health
While pau d'arco is available in several different forms, it is believed that the medicinal compounds in pau d'arco are best extracted in a tincture as opposed to teas or capsules. It is also recommended to get an organic pau d'arco supplement. If you are considering supplementing with pau d'arco, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare practitioner to determine if it is a good fit for you.