Traditionally used as an immune stimulant, for colds, flu, and other upper-respiratory infections
Traditionally used to treat systemic candidiasis and localized vaginal yeast infections and vaginitis
Traditionally used for psoriasis
The inner bark of pau d'arco is one of many botanical treasures native to the Amazonian rainforest region. Native South Americans have used the inner bark for at least 1,000 years for many conditions. The Huastec Mayans in particular still use the plant as a douche for cervical, vaginal and uterine cancer. They also take the decoction internally for the treatment of cancer, ulcers and malaise. Other traditional uses include malaria, anaemia, respiratory problems, colds, cough, flu, colitis, fungal infections, fever, arthritis and rheumatism, poor circulation, snakebite, boils and carbuncles and syphilis.
In 1967, Brazilian Dr. Walter Accorsi discussed his experiences with pau d'arco in a magazine article, affirming that, "From my first experiments with Ipe Roxo, I learned two important things that greatly encouraged me in regards to cancer: First, that it eliminates the pain caused by the disease; and second, that it multiplies the number of red blood cells."
"The therapeutic effects of the inner bark are likely to be mild and the herb should not be relied upon as a sole treatment for cancer or infections," state herbalists Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, who add that, "One qualification of this is the immune-enhancing potential of pau d'arco, which could lead to a revaluation of its therapeutic potential."
Modern laboratory research has corroborated pain reducing, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, anti-psoriatic, and anti-cancer abilities. A review by Jacqueline Hart, MD and co-authors notes that, "Taking this early data, combined with information collected about traditional uses, herbalists may recommend pau d'arco to treat or prevent a number of conditions, including candidiasis (a yeast infection of the vaginal or oral areas), herpes simplex virus, influenza, parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, bacterial infections such as brucellosis, and inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) or the vagina (vaginitis)".
Brazilian Indians also used the bark as a poultice or decoction for treating skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections and skin cancers. Further investigation of the antipsoriatic properties of pau d'arco has found that the inner bark exhibits "potent activity against the growth of human keratinocytes". These scientists conclude that, "Pau d'arco appears to be promising as an effective antipsoriatic agent".