If there's one plant that remains an enigma after more than a decade in the marketplace it is pau d'arco, sourced from Tabebuia species, members of the Bignoniaceae primarily from the American tropics. After thirteen years of studying this plant group, Kenneth Jones has produced an excellent readable survey of pau d'arco, its development and use. The bark of these trees has been touted as a veritable cure-al -- used for everything from cancers to diabetes to ulcers and rheumatism. Jones's account begins with sensational stories in the Brazilian press about the plant's curative powers, beginning in 1967. The story then moves to Argentina, where once again clinical reports and sensational news coverage catapulted use of the herb into the popular mind. In introducing the story, Jones has ferreted out many obscure bits of information from contacts in South America, including dosage information and personal experience.
In the second chapter, "Pau D'Arco in the North," we are given an account of the herb's introduction in both the Canadian and American markets (beginning in 1981), with the barrage of anecdotal evidence and case reports of cancer remissions that were soon to follow. In chapter three, "Forest Pharmacy," we are given good background details on the botany, distribution, various source species, their biology, ethnobotany, and biological activity. The next chapter outlines more information on chemistry as well as more pharmacological data. The final chapter, "Thieves in the Forest," is an excellent general discussion of tropical conservation issues as the relate to Tabebuia, as well as the vanishing peoples who have utilized it from time immemorial. Finally, the book is referenced throughout with hundreds of citations in the end notes.
Ken Jones has unlocked the mysteries of the medical enigmas known as pau d'Arco. The reader comes away with a fulfilling sense of knowledge on the subject (and many tangential medicinal plant topics). This is the best single source of information on pau d'Arco, of use to all with an interest in the subject.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Steven Foster