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 Cancer  Holistic-online.com

Herbal Remedies for Immunity

Pau d'arco or Lapacho (Tabebuia avellandedae, T. impetiginosa)

Pau d'arco or Lapacho, a South American herb, is a great immune system stimulant. It holds great promise for the treatment of cancers, such as leukemia, and of Candida and other troublesome infections. The medicinal part of the tree is the bark, specifically the inner lining of the bark, called the phloem.

The active ingredient of lapacho is called lapachol. Lapachol is one of a number of plant substances known as napthaquinones (N-factors). Anthraquinones, or A-factors, comprise another important class of compounds. It is very rare to find both N- and A-factors in the same species. Scientists have proposed that many of the remarkable properties of lapacho may be traced to the probable synergy between A- and N-factors.

Pau d'arco also contain ingredients such as: quercitin, xloidone and other flavonoids. These contribute to its effectiveness in the treatment of tumors and infections.

Lapacho is useful for the treatment of fevers, infections, colds, flu, syphilis, cancer, lupus, diabetes, Hodgkin's disease, Parkinson's disease, osteomyelitis, respiratory problems, skin ulcerations and boils, dysentery, psoriasis, gastrointestinal problems of all kinds, debilitating conditions such as arthritis and prostatitis, and circulation disturbances. (1)

According to Daniel Mowrey, author of Herbal Tonic Therapies, "Lapacho's use in many ways parallels that of echinacea in North America and ginseng in Asia, except that its actions appear to exceed them both in terms of its potential as a cancer treatment."

Lapacho has become a standard form of treatment for some kinds of cancer throughout Brazil. It had been successfully used in Paraguay to treat leukemia. It is a proven antiviral substance. Its potential use in treating AIDS is now being investigated.

Pau d'arco and Cancer

Proponents of lapacho says that it is one of the most important anti-tumor agents in the entire world. It has been found especially useful in the treatment of leukemia.

Lapacho is believed to stimulate the production of red blood cells in bone marrow. This improves the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. This, in turn, has important implications for the health of tissues throughout the body.

For maximum benefit, take the whole herb of lapacho, rather than the active ingredient separately. Lapachol, the active ingredient in lapacho, when used alone, was found to precipitate severe side reactions. When the whole herb was given, it produced clinical anticancer effects without the toxic side effects.(2,3)

Using the wood of the plant, several researchers have studied the effects of lapachol, alpha- and beta-lapachone and xyloidone on experimental cancer. As high as 84 percent inhibition was observed on Yoshida' s sarcoma, and no toxicity was found. (1)

In one clinical study, South American researchers administered lapachol to patients with various forms of cancer, including adenocarcinoma of the liver, breast and prostate, and squamous-cell carcinoma of the palate and uterine cervix. Taken orally, the substance resulted in temporary reduction of all conditions and in significant reduction in pain. Duration of treatment was anywhere from 30 to 720 days, with an average of about two months.

Antioxidant effect of Pau d'arco

In vitro trials show definite inhibition of free radicals and inflammatory leukotrienes by lapacho constituents. This property might underlie the effectiveness of lapacho against skin cancer, and its observed anti-aging effects.

Antioxidants, or free-radical scavengers, have emerged as premier candidates for the role of healers and disease preventers. Among the anti-oxidants few have greater potency than lapachol.

Antimicrobial/ antiparasitic effects of Pau d'arco

One of the strongest actions of lapacho is against viruses. The range of viruses inactivated by lapacho extends from those that cause the common cold to those that are responsible for AIDS.

Pau d'arco has been shown to actively inhibit, kill or stunt the growth of several dangerous viruses and bacteria. (4-6 )

Lapachol ( and N-factors it contains) were among the most promising antimalarial substances known, according to a review conducted in 1948. Lapacho's immunostimulating action is due in part to its potent antimicrobial effects.

Safety Data

Lapacho is highly toxic to many kinds of cancer cells, viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and other kinds of microorganisms. However, it appears to be without any kind of significant toxicity to healthy human cells. (1)

Most of the observed side effects of taking Pau d'arco were observed when isolated lapacho constituents were administered. These are: nausea and anticoagulant effects in very high doses, a tendency to loosen the bowels, and diarrhea in very high doses. No such side effects were detected when the whole herb was consumed at the recommended doses. The FDA gave lapacho a clean bill of health in 1981.

Other observed side-effects were:

Anti-vitamin K effect


Significant rises of metabolic and protein toxins in the bloodstream. 

These, however, diminish with time. Scientists think that lapacho initiates an immediate cleaning up effect on the body's cells. Once the cells are cleaned, the signs of toxicity disappear. Many herbal tonics show this behavior in cleaning our bodies of excess toxins.


1. Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph. D., Herbal Tonic Therapies, Wings Books, New York, 1996

2. Linardi, M.C.F., et. al., J. Med. Chem., 18, 1159, 1975

3. Hartwell, J.L., et. al., Adv. Pharmacol. Chemother., 7, 170, 1969.

4. Lagrota, M. et al. "Antiviral activity of lapachol." Rev. Microbiol., 14, 21-26, 1983.

5. Gilber, B., de Souza, J.P., Fascio, M. et al. "Schistosomiasis. Protection against infection by terpenoids." An. Acad. Brasil Cienc., 42(suppl), 397-400, 1970.

6. Schaffner-Sabba, K. et al. "B-lapachone: synthesis of derivates and activities in tumour models." J. Medicinal Chem., 27, 990- 994, 1984.

7. Austin, F.G. "Schistosoma mansoni chemoprophylaxis with dietary lapachol." Am. J Trop. Med. Hygiene, 23, 412-419, 1974.

8. Giojman, S.G. and Stoppani, A.O.M. "Oxygen radicals and macromolecule turnover in twanosoma cmzi." Life Chem. Rep., (suppl 2), 1984, 216-221.

9. Boveris, A., StopparA, A.O.M., Docampo, R. and Cruz, F.S. "Superoxide anion production and trypanocidal action of naphthoquinones on tzypanosoma cruzi." Gomp. Biochem. Phys., 327-329, 1978.

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