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Table of Contents > Herbs > Pau d'Arco
Pau d'Arco
Botanical Name:  Tabebuia avellanedae
Common Names:  LaPacho, Ipe Roxo, Taheboo tree
Plant Description
What's It Made Of?
Available Forms
How to Take It
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research


Pau d'arco, or the inner bark of the Tabebuia avellanedae tree, is native to Brazil, where it is used traditionally to treat a wide range of conditions including pain, arthritis, inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis), fever, dysentery, boils and ulcers, and various cancers. Preliminary laboratory research examining the properties of pau d'arco is beginning to suggest that the traditional uses may have scientific merit. Such laboratory studies have shown that pau d'arco has pain killing, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, anti-psoriatic, and anti-cancer abilities. Taking this early data, combined with information collected about traditional uses, herbalists may recommend pau d'arco to treat or prevent a number of conditions, including candidiasis (a yeast infection of the vaginal or oral areas), herpes simplex virus, influenza, parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, bacterial infections such as brucellosis, and inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) or the vagina (vaginitis). Pau d'arco may also reduce inflammation of the joints associated with arthritis.

Plant Description

The Tabebuia evergreen tree grows in the warm parts of Central and South America. Most pau d'arco comes from a tree in the Amazon rain forest called Tabebuia avellanedae. It is a broad-leaf evergreen that grows to a height of 125 feet and is distinguished by pink to violet colored flowers. Its extremely hard wood makes it resistant to disease and decay. In recent years, however, there has been an increasing demand for pau d'arco and, as a result, the trees are in danger of becoming extinct.

What's It Made Of?

Most of the chemical research on pau d'arco has been done on the wood and not the bark, although it is in fact the inner bark that has been used traditionally for medicinal purposes. In addition, there are a variety of Tabebuia species that have been tested for anti-infectious and anti-cancer properties, not only avellanedae. Therefore, it is difficult to know at this point what findings apply specifically to pau d'arco and which apply to other species of this plant. The heartwood of Tabebuia avellanedae contains chemical compounds called naphthoquinones such as lapachol, as well as significant amounts of the antioxidant quercetin.

Available Forms

Pau d'arco is sold as dried bark tea, alcohol extract, and nonalcohol (usually glycerin) extract. Most pau d'arco products are not standardized, however, therefore, it is not possible to determine whether or not they contain a consistent or appropriate amount of these active substances.

Some herbal teas that are labeled with pau d'arco are not actually made from Tabebuia trees. It is important to carefully read the label to make sure that the product actually contains Tabebuia avellanedae as an ingredient.

How to Take It


There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of pau d'arco. Therefore, this herb is not currently recommended for children.


  • Decoction (tea): Using 1 tsp of pau d'arco loose dried bark per 1 cup water, boil for 5 to 15 minutes. Drink 1 cup of this tea two to eight times a day.
  • Extract: Follow the directions on the product label.
  • Tincture (1:5): Solution made from herb and alcohol, or herb, alcohol, and water—take 20 to 30 drops, two to three times per day.
  • Capsules: 1,000 mg three times per day.


The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

It is generally safe to drink pau d'arco tea and take pau d'arco extract at the recommended dosages. Too much, however, may cause nausea.

Possible Interactions

There are no reports in the scientific literature to suggest that pau d'arco interacts with any conventional medications.

Supporting Research

Anesini C, Perez C. Screening of plants used in Argentine folk medicine for antimicrobial activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993;39:119-128.

Colman de Saizarbitoria T, Anderson JE, Alfonso D, McLaughlin JL.Bioactive furonaphtoquinones from Tabebuia barbata (Bignoniaceae). Acta Cient Venez. 1997;48(1):42-46.

Dinnen RD, Ebisuzaki K. The search for novel anticancer agents: a differentiation-based assay and analysis of a folklore product. Anticancer Res. 1997;(2A):1027-1033.

Kinghorn AD, Balandrin MA, eds. American Chemical Symposium Series. Human Medicinal Agents from Plants. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; 1992:16-17.

Miranda FG, Vilar JC, Alves IA, Cavalcanti SC, Antoniolli AR. Antinociceptive and antiedematogenic properties and acute toxicity of Tabebuia avellanedae Lor. ex Griseb. inner bark aqueous extract. BMC Pharmacol. 2001;1(1):6.

Muller K, Sellmer A, Wiegrebe W. Potential antipsoriatic agents: lapacho compounds as potent inhibitors of HaCaT cell growth. J Nat Prod. 1999;62(8):1134-1136.

Pinto CN, Dantas AP, De Moura KC, et al. Chemical reactivity studies with naphthoquinones from Tabebuia with anti-trypanosomal efficacy. Arzneimittelforschung. 2000;50(12):1120-1128.

Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 1999:967-974.

Portillo A, Vila R, Freixa B, Adzet T, Canigueral S. Antifungal activity of Paraguayan plants used in traditional medicine. J Ethnopharmacol .2001;76(1):93-98.

Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:246-247.

Ueda S, Umemura T, Dohguchi K, et al. Production of anti-tumour-promoting furanonaphthoquinones in Tabebuia avellanedae cell cultures. Phytochemistry. 1994;36:323-325.

Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; R. Lynn Shumake, PD, Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; David Winston, Herbalist (April 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG (April 1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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