Although it has been used for centuries, its fame really began in the 1960s. Dr. Theodore Meyer learned about the use of pau d'arco (pronounced powdy arco) by natives of the tropical rain forest of the Amazon. They had used the inner bark of this hardwood tree as a medicine. Dr. Meyer followed their lead and claimed he successfully cured five advanced cases of leukemia with it. The herb suddenly rose to fame! A decade later however, the National Cancer Institute determined that the quantity needed of the cancer curing drug in the herb would have too many dangerous side effects. As a result, the "miracle drug" lost its place of prestige.
In spite of this negative report, pau d'arco has since been used successfully to treat such things as fevers, arthritis, infections, malaria, skin problems, cancers, and even complications of AIDS. Two reasons for the discrepancy between the research and reality are these.
First, the research isolated the chemical lapachol in the herb that they treated cured the cancer. Since then Researchers have isolated over 20 active chemicals in pau d'arco. Some feel it is a combination of some or all these together that makes it effective. Second, it has been shown that the use of the whole herb does not create the side effects that extracted lapachol causes.
Pau d'arco has effectively treated malaria, yeast infections, tuberculosis, strep, and dysentery. Taken in small dosages increases immune system activity and in large doses suppresses some immune responses such as inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory work have given pau d'arco promise as a treatment for arthritis, allergies, ulcers, skin problems, and other similar conditions. Add to that list diabetes, flu, lupus, parasites, and skin diseases, and it is easy to see why it was once toted as a 'wonder drug.'
This herb is available in health food stores in capsules, tinctures, and as dried bark. The recommended dosage is one to two capsules or one to two droppers of tissue taken one to four times per day, depending on the condition and patient.
Tea can be made from the bark by adding one tbsp of bark for every three cups of water. The tea should be boiled for twenty minutes or longer in a non-aluminum pot. One cup of tea can be taken three or four times daily for acute conditions. One-half cup three or four times daily is recommended for other conditions. This herb tea has a cool, bitter flavor.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use this herb until it is adequately researched. It has been shown to have blood-thinning actions in some people, and may cause anemia when used long term. Possible side effects from ingesting too much pau d'arco include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and stomach cramps. Another precaution consumers should heed is assuring that the product they purchase is produced by a reputable manufacturer. Some tested have very few active ingredients. The pau d'arco imported from Argentina is generally considered to be the highest quality bark.