Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

Pau D'arco

Pau D'arco

Botanical Description & Habitat

Tabebuia avellanedae

Tabebuia impestiginosa

Common Names

Red lapacho
Trumpet bush


The tree provided archery bows and has scarlet flowers.


Native of South America.

Historical Properties & Uses

Pau d'arco, or taheebo, is a native plant of South America. In several countries on that continent, the inner bark of the plant has long been used by the natives. In recent decades it has found its way into clinical and hospital practice, where it is used extensively as an alternative cancer treatment and as a potent antibiotic.

In the last half-decade or so, pau d'arco was discovered by North American practitioners, and its popularity is growing steadily. Pau d'arco resembles some of the major tonic herbs in action: it bolsters the body's defense or immune system. The herbs ginseng and echinacea also demonstrate this capacity.

Among the conditions for which pau d'arco is used are: arteriosclerosis; cancers, including leukemia; anemia (the bark is high in iron); diabetes; Parkinson's disease; rhemuatism; varicose veins; infections, wounds and sores; lupus; and osteomyelitis.

Method of Action

Pau D'Arco is Commonly Used in South America.

Pau D'Arco is used extensively in South American hospitals and clinics. Its introduction to North American and European practice is so recent extensive clinical trials have yet to be reported in the literature.

Its active constituents are naphthaquinones (lapachol and beta-lapachone). Both have antifungal properties superior to that of ketaconazole, a commonly prescribed remedy.

It also has anticancer properties but the amounts required are toxic.

Drug Interactions & Precautions


Pau d'arco has coumarin constituents and therefore acts as an anticoagulant.

Possible Interactions
The anti-inflammatory activity of this herb can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics, such as chloral hydrate and meprobamate. This is also true of beta-adrenergic blocking agents, such as propranolol.

There is evidence to show combined use of bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent. How this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still unknown.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Pau D'Arco has no known toxicity, especially in the bark form. (Oswald, 1993)

High doses of extract (lapachol) can cause bleeding, nausea and vomiting.

Pregnant or lactating women should avoid using it.

Preparation & Administration

3 capsules, or tablets, providing 300 mg of powdered bark are typically consumed 3 times a day (t.i.d.)

Because the active constituents are not water-soluble, a tea is considered to be ineffective.


Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.

Austin, F: Schistosoma mansoni chemoprophylaxis with dietary lapachol. Am. J. Trop. Hygien. 1974, 23:412-419.

Block, J et al., Early clinical studies with lapachol. Cancer Chemother. Rep. 1974, 4:27-28.

Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.

Clark, T.H., A.H. Conney & B.P. Harpole, et.al. 1967. Drug interactions that can affect your patients. Patient Care, 1(11).

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Jul, 1990.

Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. MacMillan, NY.

Guiraud P, Steiman R, et al. Comparison of the antibacterial and antifungal activities of lapachol and beta-lapachone. Planta Med 1994, 60:373-374.

Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.

Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila(St. Louis).

List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Martin, E.W. 1978. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996:21,45,63,282.

Oswald, EH: Lapacho. Br. J. Phytother. 1993/4, 3:112-117.

Riesterer, L. & R. Jaques. 1968. Interference by beta-adrenergic blocking agents with the antiinflammatory action of various drugs. Helv Physiol Acta, 26.

Stuart, D.M. 1968. Drug metabolism Part 2. Drug interactions. PharmIndex, 10(10).


Tabebuia avellanedae

? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine