The healing power of Pau d’arco

Pau d’arco originally grows in South America. Pau d’arco is a tree that can reach a height of 38 meters and has violet-colored flowers. This tree has the hardest wood types among tropical hardwood trees. It is a tree that is widely used in natural medicine and traditional folk medicine. It is praised worldwide for its medicinal qualities. Scientific research has shown that it works against various parasites, bacteria, fungi and infections. The use of pau d’arco has been known for a relatively short time; Only since 1873 did it begin to be used or was it identified by scientists as being used in folk medicine. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Flowers pau d’arco / Source: JMGarg, Wikimedia Commons (GFDL)


  • Traditional healing with pau d’arco
  • Modern scientific findings
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Pau d’arco, good for the immune system
  • Other medicinal effects pau d’arco
  • Dose and safety
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Traditional healing with pau d’arco

Pau d’arco has been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries for a wide variety of conditions. There is a very good chance that the Incas also used this tree medicinally. It is used by Indian groups living in the forests of Brazil for pain, arthritis, inflammation, prostatitis, fever, dysentery, ulcers and boils. Because few studies have been done on pau d’arco, but it has often been found to help, it is almost exclusively used in folk medicine. In the 21st century it is most commonly used for candida, cancer, herpes simplex, influenza, parasitic conditions such as schistosomiasis and bacterial diseases such as brucellosis.

Modern scientific findings

Countless scientific studies have been conducted on the medicinal effects of pau d’arco. This shows that the inner bark of this tree has an antibiotic, antiparasitic, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating effect. It has antioxidants and counteracts the pro-inflammatory effect of histamine. It fights all kinds of infections; viral, bacterial and fungal infections as well as infections caused by parasites. It is especially good for the intestines; it relieves all kinds of intestinal disorders.


In Latin, pau d’arco is called Tabebuia impetiginosa . A Latin synonym is Handroanthus impetiginosus . Other names, in Dutch, English, French and German are: Lapacho, Ipe roxo and Taheebo. Pau d’arco means ‘stick’; in Portuguese and arco stands for ‘bow’. The sticks are ideally suited for making bows and arrows, which is what the Indians have used the tree for for centuries.

Active substances

The cortex of pau d’arco, which is the Latin name for the inner bark, is used for phytotherapeutic purposes. It contains the following important active ingredients: Naphthaquinones, including the lapachol derivatives lapachol, alfalapachone, betalapachone, deoxylapachone, dehydrolapachone and alfalapachone. It also contains the flavonoids xiloidone and quercetin, the anthraquinones naphthafurandiones, benzoic acid derivatives and benzaldehyde derivatives, iridoids, coumarins and carnosol.

Pau d’arco, good for the immune system

Pau d’arco has an immune system-stimulating effect, anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant effect and has an antimicrobial effect. A wide range of pathogenic bacteria are combated by pau d’arco, while probiotic bacteria such as healthy bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are left alone. In addition, this tree bark also has an antifungal effect and an antivirus effect. It works, among other things, against herpes viruses and the Epstein virus

Handroanthus impetiginosus, Tabebuia impetiginosa or pau d’arco / Source: Ilosuna, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Barr virus. In phytotherapy it is used for:

  • Candidiasis or overgrowth of candida in the intestine,
  • mononucleosis,
  • Weak resistance,
  • respiratory infections,
  • Dysentery,
  • Skin infections,
  • Stomach ulcers.

Other medicinal effects pau d’arco

  • Pau d’arco has blood purifying qualities and is for this reason used for rheumatic disorders and skin diseases.
  • Externally, pau d’arco can be applied to a large number of skin diseases such as athlete’s foot or athlete’s foot, atopic eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections, vaginitis, dermatitis and skin tumors.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • Alcoholic extract: 1.5 to 3.5 grams per day or 3 to 7 ml per day (1:2 in 45% ethanol).
  • Decoction: Boil 10 grams of bark gently in 600 ml of water for 10 minutes, drink throughout the day.

Some thoughts:

  • Because fresh bark contains too few active ingredients, it is recommended to only take standardized preparations of pau d’arco.
  • Naphthaquinones are less soluble in water but more soluble in alcohol.
  • Preparations of pau d’arco have no side effects, but isolated lapachol and betalapachone are toxic in too high doses.
  • Few side effects are known at therapeutic doses, but mice were found to be unable to become pregnant due to excessive doses.
  • There are possible interactions with blood thinners such as warfarin.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant mentioned in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.