Pau d’arco is native to South America, where it has been used to treat a wide range of conditions. There are reports of medicinal uses of pau d’arco tea dating back to 1873. Pau d’arco, also called tabebuia avellanedae, is a tree from the Bignoniaceae family with extremely hard wood; its name is the Portuguese word for “bow stick,” which is an appropriate term because the tree was actually used by native South American Indians for making hunting bows.
The bark and wood of the tree are used externally and internally to treat arthritis, pain, inflammation of the prostate gland, fever, dysentery, boils and ulcers, and various cancers. One of the easiest ways to use pau d’arco is by consuming a tea made from the inner bark of pau d’arco or applying the tea water to the skin.
Pau d’arco is an evergreen tree that has rose-colored flowers. There are nearly 100 species of pau d’arco, but only a few yield high-quality material; plus, it takes extremely skilled gatherers to know what species are the most effective. The medicinal part of the tree is the bark, specifically the inner lining of the bark, called the phloem (pronounced floam). Unfortunately, many companies use the whole bark, containing the dead wood too, and this naturally dilutes the activity of the material.