Pau d'arco is a tree that grows in the Amazon rainforest. Pau d'arco wood is dense and resists rotting. The name "pau d'arco" is the Portuguese word for "bow stick," an appropriate term considering the tree's use by the native South American Indians for making hunting bows. The bark and wood are used to make medicine.
Though possibly unsafe, especially at higher doses, pau d'arco is used to treat a wide range of infections. These include viral respiratory infections such as the common cold, flu, and H1N1 (swine) flu; sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and syphilis; infections of the prostate and bladder; ringworm and other parasitic infections; yeast infections; and infectious diarrhea.
Pau d'arco is also used for cancer. Interest in this use was intensified by extensive research in the 1960s that focused on the possible anti-cancer activity of lapachol, one of the chemicals in pau d'arco. However, research studies were stopped because, at the amounts needed to be effective against cancer, pau d'arco might well be poisonous. Among other things, it can cause severe internal bleeding.
Other uses for pau d'arco include diabetes, ulcers, stomach inflammation (gastritis), liver ailments, asthma, bronchitis, joint pain, hernias, boils, and wounds. Because some people see pau d'arco as a "tonic and blood builder," it is also used to treat anemia.
Pau d'arco is applied directly to the skin for Candida yeast infections.
Commercial products containing pau d'arco are available in capsule, tablet, extract, powder, and tea forms. But sometimes it's hard to know what is in pau d'arco products. Some studies have shown that some pau d'arco products sold in Canada and Brazil do not contain the active ingredients in the correct amounts.
How it works
Early research shows that pau d'arco might prevent cancer cells from growing. It might also slow tumor growth by preventing the tumor from growing the necessary blood vessels. However, the doses needed to cause anticancer effects seem to cause serious side effects in humans.
Not ProvenYeast infectionsCommon coldFluDiarrheaBladder and prostate infectionsIntestinal wormsCancerDiabetesUlcersStomach problemsLiver problemsAsthmaBronchitisArthritis-like painSexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhea, syphilis)BoilsOther conditions
Pau d'arco is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in typical doses. Talk with your healthcare provider before you decide to take it
Pau d'arco is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in high doses. High doses can cause severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and internal bleeding.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Duringpregnancy, pau d'arco isPOSSIBLY UNSAFEwhen taken by mouth in typical amounts, andLIKELY UNSAFEin larger doses. Not enough is known about the safety of applying it to the skin. Stay on the safe side and avoid use if you arepregnant.
There is not enough reliable information available about the safety of taking pau d'arco if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bleeding disorders: Pau d'arco can delay clotting and might interfere with treatment in people with bleeding disorders.
Surgery: Pau d'arco might slow blood clotting and could increase the chance of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
ModerateMedications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Pau d'arco might slow blood clotting. Taking pau d'arco along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.