Black Tea Tree (Pau d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae)) is native to South America, where it has been used to treat a wide range of conditions, including pain, arthritis, inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis), fever, dysentery, boils and ulcers, and various cancers. As early as 1873, there are reports of medicinal uses of Pau d’arco.
Scientists have identified two active chemicals in pau d’arco. These chemicals are called naphthoquinones: lapachol and beta-lapachone. In lab tests, these chemicals kill some bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. But no one knows whether they will have the same effects when humans take them, and the usual dose required would have severe, toxic side effects.
Pau d’arco is sometimes used for the following conditions, although there is no evidence it works:
Candidiasis (a vaginal or oral yeast infection)
Herpes simplex virus
Parasitic diseases, such as schistosomiasis
Bacterial infections, such as brucellosis
Test tube and animal studies have looked at whether pau d’arco has any effect on cancer. These tests have shown mixed results. Even in studies where pau d’arco does reduce the number of cancer cells, the amounts used would be toxic to humans.
The same is true of some of the doses that might be needed to kill bacteria or viruses. For this reason, you should take pau d’arco only under your health care provider’s supervision.
The pau d’arco tree is an evergreen tree that grows in the warm parts of Central and South America. It is a broad leaf evergreen that grows to a height of 125 feet and has pink-to-violet colored flowers. The tree’s extremely hard wood makes it resistant to disease and decay. The inner bark of the tree is used medicinally. In recent years there has been an increasing demand for pau d’arco, causing the trees to be endangered.