Meet a powerful natural antibiotic: Lapacho.

The development of resistance to antibiotics in the treatment of various infections is forcing the scientific community to consider novel alternatives in the search for biologically active compounds that have been ignored until now. For this reason, there has been a growing interest in the study of various medicinal plants used as natural remedies for hundreds of years.

The indigenous South Americans have inherited ancestral knowledge over countless generations that have allowed them to take full advantage of the benefits offered by the Amazon rainforest they inhabit. The use of lapacho as a natural antibiotic is proof of it.

At a medicinal level, lapacho has traditionally been used in the treatment of pain, ulcers and arthritis. As well as cancer and inflammatory diseases of the skin such as: eczema, psoriasis and fungal infections. In addition, due to the quality of its wood, the lapacho tree is used in the creation of bows for hunting.

In the following sections, we will tell you in detail about the components and therapeutic properties of this Amazonian plant.

The lapacho ( Tabebuia impetiginosa or T. avellanedae ) is a native tree of the Amazon rainforest and It can be found in Central and South America. It has purple or pink flowers and can grow up to 20 meters high. Its bark is cracked, hard and dark brown in color.

It is popularly known by various names, the most common being: lapacho, pink lapacho and palo de arco. The latter is due to the use of its wood in the manufacture of hunting bow. It can also be found as: pau d’arco (French), taheebo (English) and ipé rôxo (Portuguese).

The inner part of the bark of the lapacho is what is usually used as a natural remedy through infusions, pills or syrups. Although its leaves, combined with the bark, are also used as poultices.

As we mentioned previously, South American indigenous people have been using lapacho for centuries to treat diseases such as dysentery, arthritis, cancer, inflammation of the skin and many more.

Main components of lapacho

The chemical composition of lapacho and its biological action has been studied by scientists for more than 20 years. Among its main components are naphthoquinones, furanonaphthoquinones and anthraquinones. As well as benzoic acid, benzaldehyde derivatives, flavonoids and other compounds.

However, naphthoquinones represent the chemically active group with the highest presence in the plant. For this reason, the biological and therapeutic properties of lapacho have been attributed to these compounds. Lapachol and α and β-lapachone are the three naphthoquinones present in the bark of the lapacho that have received the greatest interest so far.

Among the various therapeutic effects, lapachol has been shown to have potent anticancer properties against various tumor cells , as it affects their proliferation. Similarly, β-lapachone exhibits cytotoxic activity in vitro against various human cell lines. In addition, both compounds have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Pharmacological properties of lapacho

As previously mentioned, lapacho has a considerable number of bio and pharmacological effects.Some of the properties attributed to it are: antifungal, analgesic and antiparasitic action As well as an anti-inflammatory and antitumor effect.

A natural antibiotic

Infections, especially those involving the skin and mucosa, are a serious health problem. These types of infections tend to develop with greater prevalence in patients with a compromised immune system. For example, patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or even patients with chemotherapy or radiotherapy are prone to developing superficial mycoses such as candidiasis, cryptococcosis and aspergillosis.

Lapacho is a medicinal plant that can contribute to the treatment of infections caused by microorganisms. That is why, within its many traditional uses, its intake or topical use is recommended for the treatment of different conditions.

Through its phytocomponents, lapacho inhibits the growth of harmful intestinal bacteria in humans ( study ). Likewise, they have an inhibitory action in vitro against strains of Helicobacter pylori ( study ) and strains of Staphylococcus aureus methicillin resistant ( study , study ) and penicillin ( study ).

Additionally, lapacho also has antimicrobial action against some species of Candida ( study ) and other strains of fungi ( study ). Furthermore, in vitro and animal studies have shown a potential antimalarial activity of lapacho, as well as a beneficial effect against the protozoan parasites that cause trypanosomiasis ( study ).

Finally, lapachol and β-lapachona present in the bark of the lapacho have been shown to have an antiviral action. Β-lapachone has an inhibitory effect ( in vitro ) of reverse transcriptase against some retroviruses, and lapachol interferes in the enzymatic mechanisms necessary for the replication of viruses such as Herpes simplex (type I and II), polio and others.

Lapacho and its anticancer action

This medicinal plant is not only a powerful antimicrobial agent of natural origin. Lapacho also has great anticancer potential, as has been shown in various scientific studies. The natural components of lapacho, especially lapachol and β-lapachone, are capable of inhibiting the cell growth of various types of cancer.

A study performed with human oral squamous cell carcinoma cells, demonstrated inhibition in vivo of tumor growth thanks to the action of the lapacho. Similarly, a cell cycle arrest and apoptosis mediated by reactive oxygen species (ROS) was evidenced in these cells, thanks to β-lapachone ( study ).

The anticancer effects of this Amazonian herb have also been demonstrated in cells of colorectal lung metastasis ( study ), malignant melanoma ( study ), lung cancer ( study ) and breast ( study ). Furthermore, lapacho could potentially inhibit the progression and metastasis of cellular hepatocarcinoma, by inhibiting the invasive capacity of these cells ( study , study ).

Likewise, the phytochemical components present in lapacho have antiangiogenic potential ( study ). The creation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) is vital for the development and growth of tumors.Therefore, by reducing neovascularization, lapacho contributes to reducing the supply of nutrients and oxygen to cancer cells

In case the aforementioned studies leave room for doubts about the broad anticancer action of lapacho, there are also studies on its action in leukemia ( study , study ), bladder cancer ( study ) and prostate ( study ).

Anti inflammatory activity

Inflammation is part of the range of responses our immune system has to tissue damage and attack by microorganisms. This defense mechanism is mediated, in the first instance, by the activation of macrophages.

However, the inflammatory response also induces the production of inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and tumor necrosis factor Alpha (TNFα).

The aqueous extract of lapacho is capable of blocking the production of PGE2 and NO, as well as reducing the expression of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) in vitro e in vivo ( study ). COX-2 is an enzyme that is linked to inflammation and many inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis.

Additionally, the β-lapachone present in the lapacho cortex also inhibits the activation of the nuclear transcription factor kappa-B (NF-κB), a key factor in the activation of pro-inflammatory genes. At the same time, other chemicals in lapacho suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines ( study ).

Consequently, lapacho is a natural product with great therapeutic potential in the treatment of inflammatory diseases, such as flammable bowel disease ( study ). By reducing the action of pro-inflammatory substances and the cellular responses associated with them, lapacho manages to modulate inflammation, generating an improvement in symptoms.

The ideal way to consume lapacho

When it comes to natural therapies, especially with the use of natural remedies, it is very important to consider the dosage. This may vary depending on the presentation used.

According to an article by Alonso, JR, published in the Journal of Phytotherapy , in 2000, os We recommend taking into account the following guidelines when integrating lapacho as a therapeutic treatment:

  • Decoction: it is recommended to boil 15-20 g of inner bark in 500ml of water for 5-15 minutes, take 2 or 3 times throughout the day.
  • Powder: in case of having this presentation, the daily consumption of 25mg / Kg is recommended. This should be done after meals, preferably in 4 doses throughout the day.
  • Tincture (1: 5): 50-100 drops are recommended, 1 to 3 times a day.
  • Fluid extract (1: 1): 20 to 40 drops are recommended, 1 to 3 times a day.

Finally, we hope that the information shared in this blog will encourage you to try the action of this powerful medicinal plant from the Amazon rainforest. The therapeutic effects of lapacho have been maintained for centuries thanks to the ancestral wisdom of indigenous South American populations and today they are proven by rigorous scientific studies .

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