Pau d’arco. What’s that strange name … and what does it have to do with your dog?
Pau d’arco is a traditional South American herbal remedy used for many health issues. They range from pain and inflammation to yeast infections and even cancer. So I want to tell you how it can help your dog.
What’s Pau D’arco?
Pau d’arco is a tall, pink-blossomed South American tree from the Bignoniaceae family. The tree’s botanical name is Tabebuia (usually avellanedae or impetiginosa).
And a little trivia … the Portuguese name pau d’arco means “stick of bow” or “bow stick.” That’s because its hard wood was once used to make hunting bows.
Pau d’arco is also the name of a supplement made from the inner lining of the tree’s bark, called “phloem.” Other names for the supplement are lapacho or taheebo.
It’s a potent supplement in managing a wide range of health conditions. So here are some important details you need to know about pau d’arco.
What’s In Pau D’arco?
Pau d’arco contains two main healing compounds called lapachol and beta-lapachone. They’re in the naphthoquinones group of organic infection-fighting compounds. Naphthoquinones are secondary metabolites from many plants.
There’s been a ton of research into these pau d’arco compounds. And studies show they are …
In fact, pau d’arco has been used therapeutically for centuries by native tribes. In the 1960s, a Brazilian magazine touted “miracle cures” of leukemia and cancer using pau d’arco tea. In South America the supplement is popular for cancer. And people use it for rheumatism, bronchitis and gastrointestinal issues. Topically it helps with fungal infections, eczema and other skin conditions.
So what can pau d’arco do for your dog?
How Pau D’arco Can Help Your Dog
Veterinarians Drs Susan Wynn and Barbara Fougère discuss pau d’arco in their book Veterinary Herbal Medicine. They suggest that the best uses for pau d’arco for dogs, whether topically or internally, are …
- Fungal infections, including yeast
- Bacterial infections
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Other inflammatory and infectious conditions
There’s tons of research on pau d’arco supporting several of these uses.
1. Yeast, Fungal And Skin Infections
Yeast overgrowth causes all kinds of problems. It can trigger chronic skin issues, intestinal problems, ear infections and more. So managing yeast, a fungus, is a challenge for many dogs.
Pau d’arco has a long tradition of helping with fungal problems. That’s because of its constituent lapachol. Lapachol may disrupt the electron transport system of the fungal infection. It can also affect the fungus cell’s ability to “breathe.”
Pau d’arco’s antifungal ability may be as good as the drug ketoconazole. Or perhaps better! One 2018 study found that 7 naphthoquinones were “promising candidates” against fluconazole-resistant Candida albicans.
So pau d’arco is deservedly popular in managing vaginal and other yeast infections on the skin. That includes common fungal skin infections like athlete’s foot in people. And it’s a great remedy to consider if you have a dog with stubborn yeast issues.
Pau d’arco’s antimicrobial properties make it useful for other types of skin conditions as well. Studies show it can work well for staph infections as well as atopic dermatitis. And it can also benefit wound healing, helping to prevent infection.
Its antiviral properties can stop warts, used topically on the warts.
RELATED: Managing yeast infections in dogs …
2. Inflammation And Pain
Most chronic disease stems from uncontrolled inflammation. So … managing inflammation can help prevent and heal long-term health issues.
Pau d’arco is an effective anti-inflammatory.
One 2014 study showed it activates Nrf2 inflammatory pathways.
Nrf2 is a protein messenger that’s in the body’s cells. It’s known as the master regulator of the body’s protection system. Nrf2 can detect cellular damage. So it signals the DNA to produce antioxidant enzymes and anti-inflammatory proteins. This helps the body to heal itself.
And the constituent beta-lapachone downregulates COX-2 inflammatory activity. COX-2 are cyclogenase enzymes that create prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause pain and inflammation.
These two actions means pau d’arco can be a powerful ally against chronic disease. It can help manage chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis. And that can lead to pain relief as well.
RELATED: Managing chronic inflammation …
3. Gastrointestinal (GI) Problems
Pau d’arco can have potent effects against intestinal bacteria. This includes H. pylori and other stubborn intestinal pathogens. These toxic bacteria can wreak havoc in the gut … and be hard to get rid of.
Pau D’arco can help control any kind of bacterial infection. So, when your vet suggests antibiotics for diarrhea or other GI issues … say no thank you and try pau d’arco as a safer antibacterial alternative.
Pau d’arco can even help heal gastric ulcers. One study in rats showed pau d’arco increases mucus content. This helps lower the acetic acid that can contribute to ulcer formation.
4. Cancer … With Caution
This one is controversial. There are many studies showing that pau d’arco may …
- Reduce tumors
- Trigger apoptosis (cancer cell death)
- Prevent metastasis (cancer spread)
But many experts warn of the risks of turning to pau d’arco to manage cancer. Now … most of these warnings are from conventional sources. Like the American Cancer Society, which cites safety concerns. And we know conventional medicine doesn’t approve of natural treatment options.
What these sources point out is that many studies are in vitro … and may not translate to real life results.
But one expert is worth listening to. And that is Dr Demian Dressler, the well-known Dog Cancer Vet. Dr Dressler takes an integrative approach to cancer. So he advocates many natural therapies.
But Dr Dressler cautions against using pau d’arco for cancer.
Higher Risk Due To Higher Dose
He says pau d’arco side effects can be risky at the higher doses needed for cancer therapy. Specifically, he warns about:
- Fertility concerns
- Possible side effects: vomiting, blood clotting problems, diarrhea
- Potentially toxic hydroquinone content in some pau d’arco
- Lack of standardization … leading to varying lapachol content
- Low quality pau d’arco products due to its popularity
Dr Dressler admits that there are many safety concerns with conventional treatments too … like chemotherapy. But his point is that those are never done without medical supervision. So his main conclusion is this …
If you want to try using pau d’arco for your dog’s cancer, you must seek guidance from a qualified expert. Make sure you find a experienced holistic veterinarian or herbalist who really understands how to use the herb correctly and safely.
RELATED: Holistic approaches to cancer …
Choosing A Pau D’arco Product
Always buy from a reputable supplier. Because of the herb’s popularity, there are some poor quality products sold. Some of them may be from different species without pau d’arco’s benefits. So always look for Tabebuia avellanedae or impetiginosa.
The inner bark (“phloem”) is where the therapeutic value of pau d’arco is. Not the whole bark. So always make sure the product you buy contains just the inner bark.
Verify The Source
The key ingredient in pau d’arco, lapachol, varies from tree to tree. One study showed some supplements contained very little lapachol. And some pau d’arco supplements come from lumber mill sawdust! Be on the lookout for supplements that don’t have pau d’arco’s therapeutic compounds.
If You Choose Standardized Products …
Because of the variance in lapachol levels, some experts recommend products standardized to contain 2% to 7% lapachol. Holistic veterinarians may recommend standardized products because it’s easier to control the dosing.
But it’s probably better to look for a product with 3% naphthoquinones. That’s because it’s made from whole bark rather than isolated lapachol.
Most herbalists prefer whole herb formulations because of the synergistic healing benefits they offer. In this case, buy a dried herb or tincture from a reputable brand to be sure your supplement contains what it should.
Side Effects And Cautions
The powdered herb may cause skin or respiratory irritation.
Pau d’arco is an anticoagulant. So don’t use it in bleeding disorders or before surgeries. Avoid use in pregnant animals as it can be toxic to developing embryos. One study found reproductive toxicity in male rats with short-term treatment.
Drug interactions include anticoagulant drugs and possibly vitamin K (disputed by some sources). Avoid combining with Pau D’arco to be safe.
Keep this in mind when you read the research. Some studies use the isolated compound, lapachol. And in some cases they use a synthesized version. The synthetic isolate almost certainly gets different results from the whole, natural herb. And side effects are often more pronounced with a synthetic version.
Pau D’arco Dosing
Veterinary Herbal Medicine by veterinarians Susan G Wynn DVM and Barbara J Fougere BSc BVMS (Hons) offers these dosing guidelines. But the ranges are quite wide, so it’s best to consult your holistic vet or herbalist for the correct dose for your dog’s individual condition.
- Dried herb 25-300 mg/kg daily, divided in 3 doses
- Decoction 5-30g per cup of water. Give ¼ – ½ cup per 20 lbs daily, divided in 3 doses.
- Tincture 0.5 – 1.5 ml per 20 lbs daily, divided in 3 doses
To control yeast in your dog, canine herbalist Rita Hogan recommends this dosing.
Using a dried herb, give pau d’arco twice daily with food, in these amounts:
- 100 mg for extra small dogs
- 200 mg for small dogs
- 300 mg for medium dogs
- 400 mg for large dogs
- 500 mg for extra large dogs
Topical Use For Warts
To eliminate warts on your dog, use pau d’arco tincture diluted with a little water or vegetable oil. Apply daily directly to the wart. If the skin around the wart gets irritated, increase the dilution.
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