Pau D’arco is an indigenous South American tall tree in the Bignoniaceae family that typically grows in mountainous terrain. It is a large canopy tree that can grow upwards of 100 feet in height. In Peru and Argentina, it’s found growing at high elevations in the Andes, while in Brazil and Paraguay, it’s found growing in lowland areas. It’s saplings are quick growing and not frost hardy, preferring moist tropical soils. The nectar of the pink, spring and summer blooming flowers is an important food source for several species of bees and hummingbirds. The tree has a slow growth rate. Leaves are opposite and petiolate, lanceolate, with lightly serrated margins and pinnate venation. The leaves are palmately compound with usually 5 leaflets. Several varieties of Handroanthus, (sometimes classified as Tabebuia) species are used in herbal medicine, but the most effective varietal is Tabebuia avellanedae. The most commonly available varietals are Tabebuia impetiginosa and T. heptaphylla. Typically, the inner bark is harvested from wild trees, so when acquiring this herb make sure that it is from a sustainable harvest.
Dried, aged inner bark
Pau D’arco, as it is known in Brazil, or Lapacho, as it is known in Argentina, is an antibacterial, anti fungal, immune stimulant, alterative, bitter tonic, anti-inflammatory, and tonifying cleansing herb for the blood, liver, and lungs. It’s perhaps the best known South American remedy for a plethora of conditions and as a tonic herb. It’s shown to give relief from candida and a host of other infections and pain relief from chemotherapy and arthritis. It’s also helpful for clearing infections of the urinary tract. It demonstrates a marked anti-oxidant effect and has been shown to be an effective inhibitor of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.It’s been shown to be effective at treating candida, cystitis, inflammation of the cervix and prostate, inflammatory diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancers, and tumors. It is an immune enhancer and considered a cure all in South America. Brazillian researchers have suggest that the chemical constituents of the herb, mainly one called lapachol, counteract the growth of tumors in the body by inhibiting their growth and oxygen metabolism. Another Brazillian study indicated that the herb is useful in treating candida and penicillin resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus. This makes the tree an important herbal antibiotic against internal viral infections and external skin conditions such as psoriasis and ringworm.
Many Indigenous peoples of South America prize Pau D’arco, or Lapacho, as a cure all. The Incas and their descendants, the Callawaya of Brazil are reported to have used this herb in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, fevers, dysentery, intestinal inflammations, cancers, and snake bites. It’s occasionally used as an additive to the entheogenic drink Ayahuasca. In South American folk medicine it is also listed as a diuretic, sedative, decongestant, and hypotensive.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Cooling, dispersing, pungent, bitter, increases Vata, decreases Pitta and Kapha
In an ointment, apply freely to wounds. As a tincture, 2ml three times daily. As a decoction, the traditional South American preparation, a preparation of one ounce of bark per pint of water drunk two to three times daily to treat infections such as cystitis and candida.
Combine with more pleasant tasting herbs, such as corn silk, ginger, licorice, or spearmint.
(s) 3, 8, 10, 13, 15