What is Pau D’Arco?

Paul Darko (impetigo or Corvidae) is an herbal supplement made from the inner bark of several Tabebuia trees that grow in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest as well as in the rainforests of Central and South America. In herbal medicine, the bark has been used to treat a variety of ailments.

Now widely available in dietary supplement form, pau d’arco extract contains a potent antioxidant called Quercetin considered to affect health. Pau d’arco is also rich in naphthoquinoneplant compounds with antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.

Pau d’arco (“bow tree” in Portuguese) is so named because the indigenous people of Brazil used it to make bows and arrows.This tree is also called Daxibao and iperoxo. The bark inside can make tea, called Rapacho.

This article looks at the many uses of pau d’arco in traditional and herbal medicine, including the results of current research. It also explains how to use pau d’arco safely and some of the side effects and risks associated with this ancient folk remedy.

This video has been medically reviewed by Meredith Bull of North Carolina.

What is Pau D’Arco for?

In folk medicine, pau d’arco is used to treat a variety of ailments, including anemia, asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, eczema, enlarged prostate, flu, intestinal worms, sexually transmitted infections, skin infections, urinary tract infections, and even cancer . Evidence to support these claims is often lacking.

That being said, there is some evidence that pau d’arco can help treat certain conditions. Here are some key findings:


According to published in Journal of EthnopharmacologyThe study, involving laboratory mice with medically induced edema (swelling of tissue), showed that a water-based extract of pau d’arco was able to block the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called prostaglandin.

Prostaglandins are produced at the site of tissue damage or infection, causing inflammation, pain, and fever during the healing process. By countering this effect, pau d’arco may be able to reverse swelling and pain associated with inflammations such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate).

To date, few studies have investigated the use of pau d’arco to treat any of these inflammatory diseases.

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Tabebuia trees have several unique properties. Among them, the bark is highly resistant to rot, mold and other common tree pathogens. It has long been thought that these properties may benefit humans, whether by preventing or treating common bacterial, viral or fungal infections.

Scientists have been able to isolate compounds called naphthoquinones in pau d’arco, including two Lappaol and β-Lapachone Can kill a variety of microorganisms.

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A 2013 study in Brazil found that Lappaol was able to neutralize many disease-causing bacteria in test tubes, including potentially serious bacteria such as Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, Cryptococcus gattii, and Paracoccidia brasiliensis.

Similar research suggests that it may have the same effect on viruses associated with the common cold (adenovirus), the flu (flu virus), and cold sores (herpes simplex virus).

An earlier study was published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology pau d’arco was also found to be effective in neutralizing Candida albicans (The fungus that causes thrush and vaginal yeast infections).

Despite the positive findings, the doses used in many test-tube studies were toxic to humans. Further investigation is required.

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Despite the bold claims, the compounds in pau d’arco are thought to inhibit tumor growth, at least in test tubes.

published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Scientists conclude that beta-lapachone found in pau d’arco triggers apoptosis (programmed cell death) in certain types of cancer cells.

As background, all normal cells undergo apoptosis, so old cells can be replaced by new ones. Cancer cells, however, are “immortal,” replicating endlessly. By triggering apoptosis, cancerous tumors could theoretically be controlled or reversed.

Although there is no evidence that pau d’arco extract can prevent or treat cancer, the study does hint at possible pathways for future cancer drug development.


Some people believe that pau d’arco can treat a variety of infectious diseases, inflammations (such as arthritis or enlarged prostate), and even certain cancers. To date, there is no evidence that pau d’arco can prevent or treat any disease.

possible side effects

Little is known about the long-term safety of pau d’arco. Common side effects include dizziness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The risk and severity of side effects tend to increase with dose.

When taken in doses greater than 1.5 grams (1,500 mg), pau d’arco can become toxic and cause kidney or liver damage. Excessive use of pau d’arco can cause severe vomiting, abdominal pain, fainting, and blood in the stool.

Pau d’arco might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using pau d’arco for at least two weeks before any type of surgery.

Because pau d’arco slows blood clotting, it should not be used with blood thinners such as coumarin (warfarin) or Plavix (clopidogrel).

The same applies to NSAIDs such as Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), and Voltaren (diclofenac), where the use of pau d’arco may increase the risk of stomach bleeding and ulcers.

Due to lack of safety studies, pau d’arco should not be used in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. It should also be used with caution in patients with kidney or liver disease.

To avoid interactions or potentially serious side effects, always tell your healthcare provider about any herbal supplements or traditional medicines you are taking.


Common side effects of pau d’arco include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. At higher doses, pau d’arco can cause liver or kidney damage. If you use blood thinners or NSAIDs, you should avoid Pau d’arco because it may increase your risk of bleeding.

Dosage and Preparation

Pau d’arco is available as capsules, tablets, dried bark tea, bark powder and alcohol tinctures. There are no guidelines for its proper use. Most pau d’arco supplements are sold in capsules of 500 to 550 mg, and are considered safe within this range. As a general rule, never exceed the dose printed on the product label.

The safety of pau d’arco bark is less certain because you cannot control the dose. To be safe, make tea by adding no more than a teaspoon of dry pau d’arco powder to a cup of hot water. Strain the tea before drinking and discard the remaining bark.

Pau d’arco supplements, tinctures and powders can be easily found online and in a growing number of supplement and natural food stores. Unless you are an experienced herbalist, it is best to avoid dried bark pieces.


There is no recommended dose for pau d’arco. Pau d’arco supplements in capsule form may be safer than teas, tinctures, or powders because you can better control your dosage.

what to look for

Dietary supplements are largely unregulated in the United States. Therefore, the quality of supplements can vary widely. This is especially true for herbal medicines whose active ingredients are imported from overseas. Without routine testing of these products, you’ll never really know how safe they are, or whether they contain what they say they are.

To better ensure quality and safety, choose a well-known supplement brand with established market presence. While many vitamin manufacturers voluntarily submit their products to independent certifiers (such as the US Pharmacopeia, Consumer Labs, and NSF International) for testing, herbal manufacturers rarely do so.

Certification of a supplement does not mean it is effective. This simply means that the product is pure and contains only what is listed on the product label.

Whatever pau d’arco product you buy, read the label carefully to make sure it contains Corvidae or impetigo as an ingredient.


To better ensure purity and safety, choose supplements certified by independent agencies such as the US Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab, or NSF International.


Pau d’arco is the bark of several trees native to the rainforests of Central and South America, believed to have medicinal properties.

Some people believe that pau d’arco can prevent or treat a variety of unrelated diseases, including anemia, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, eczema, enlarged prostate, respiratory or urinary tract infections, and even cancer. To date, there is little solid evidence to support these claims.

Pau d’arco may cause dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting in some people. At higher doses, it can cause liver or kidney damage. Due to a lack of safety research, pau d’arco should not be used in children or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It should also be avoided if you take blood thinners or NSAIDs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can pau d’arco treat cancer?

    Although it has been suggested that pau d’arco may be active against breast and prostate cancer cells, there is no evidence of any such effect in humans. So far, the research has been limited to test-tube studies and some small animal studies.

  • What does pau d’arco do to the body?

    Pau d’arco relieves pain and inflammation from arthritis and helps reduce swelling from benign prostatic hyperplasia. It may help prevent bacterial, viral, or fungal infections and treat yeast infections. However, more research is needed before pau d’arco can be recommended for the prevention and treatment of any disease.

  • Can pau d’arco help you lose weight?

    Some animal studies suggest that pau d’arco can treat obesity by preventing the accumulation of fat-storing cells called adipocytes. Even so, no studies in humans have demonstrated this effect.

  • Are the pau d’arco trees endangered?

    The popularity of pau d’arco in traditional medicine has raised concerns about the species’ sustainability. As the crown tree of the Amazon, it is one of many species facing extinction as deforestation continues to wreak havoc on Brazil’s rainforest.a related species, called Tabeibua Guayacan, Already on the endangered species list.

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