What is lapacho and what uses has it been given?

Native to the intertropical zone, the trees of this genus stand out for their ability to treat infections and reduce inflammation. We show you other of its benefits, as well as its possible adverse effects.

Last update: September 01, 2021

Better known as Tabebuia, the lapacho is a genus of trees with an estimated 70 species. In general, they are distributed around the intertropical zone, that is, the geographical strip that is located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

In addition, They are characterized by being emergent trees, so their height can exceed 30 meters. The species of this genus also stand out for having beautifully colored flowers, ranging from white, yellow and lilac, to purple and red.

However, its uses can be very varied. There are species that are appreciated for decoration, while others are valued for their wood.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that it is a great ally of traditional medicine, used to treat infections, reduce inflammation and even as an aid in weight loss. We show you what else you should know about this genus of trees.

Benefits attributed to lapacho

As we have mentioned, the species of Tabebuia is it so associated with a significant number of health benefits. Let's see what science has to say about it.

1. It would fight inflammation

Although inflammation is a normal response of the immune system, when it reaches a chronic state it can cause obesity, heart disease and cancer. Fortunately, there is scientific evidence that lapacho might fight inflammation.

A study in rodents found that lapacho extract was able to inhibit chronic inflammation by 30 and 50%, which leads to believe that it could be useful in the treatment of diseases such as osteoarthritis. Similarly, another study in mice showed that the water-based extract of lapacho blocked the production of prostaglandins. However, more research is still needed.

As obesity has a chronic inflammation component, it is postulated that lapacho extract would help to lose weight.

2. It would treat infections

It is shown that lapacho has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Although it is not known how they work, there are theories that state that the species of Tabebuia they inhibit the oxygen and energy production processes of bacteria and fungi.

Likewise, an investigation published in Phytomedicine demonstrated that b-lapachona (bLAP), a chemical compound extracted from lapacho wood, is capable of blocking and treating the Staphylococcus aureus methicillin resistant (MRSA).

Similarly, a study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggested that the extract prevented the growth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that lives in the digestive tract and affects the lining of the stomach. Of course, it should be noted that it was less effective than common antibiotics.

3. It would help to lose weight

According to a study in rodents, the extract of Tabebuia is capable of inhibiting pancreatic lipase, an enzyme known to facilitate the digestion and absorption of fats. Another study in mice found that those given lapacho extract lost more weight than the placebo group.

Finally, a third animal study showed that the extract prevented weight gain in rodents on a high-fat diet. However, no human studies have been conducted, so its effectiveness is unknown.

4. Could help treat cancer

According to a review of studies published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the b-lapachona is capable of causing apoptosis or programmed cell death in some cancer cells. However, it must be taken into account that this is the only relationship of this genus of trees with cancer, so more research is imperative and cannot be considered a first-line approach.

Possible risks and side effects of lapacho

Although the long-term side effects of lapacho are unknown, there is scientific evidence that this genus of trees could cause the following complications:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea.
  • Anemia.
  • Abnormal color of urine

However, its consumption is not recommended if one is about to undergo surgery, as it can increase the chance of bleeding during and after the surgical procedure. Consumption should be stopped at least 2 weeks before. Its intake is also not advised if you are taking anticoagulant medications.

Although it is true that lapacho has potential as an oncological adjuvant, if the amount to be ingested to achieve an effect exceeds the recommended limit, it could be toxic. Lastly, the paucity of human research suggests that children, pregnant women, infants, and patients with kidney disease avoid the plant.

The lapacho tree is intertropical and its medicinal effects are not fully proven in humans.

Dosage and ways of using lapacho

Lapacho can be found in capsules, tablets, powder, and liquid extract. Below, more details of its presentations and doses:

  • Capsules and tablets usually come in 500 and 550 milligram presentations.. They are usually taken 1 to 2 times a day. However, exceeding 1500 milligrams can be toxic and damage the kidneys and liver.
  • With 2 or 3 tablespoons of lapacho powder you can prepare a tea. Just add them to the water and simmer for 15 minutes. Then, it is taken 3 times a day.
  • The manufacturers of the liquid extract suggest taking between 1 and 2 milliliters 3 times a day.

Promising, but still very risky

Without a doubt, the genus of trees Tabebuia noted for its potential health benefits. However, research in humans is still limited, without considering that it can have significant adverse effects. In that sense, the recommendation is to consult a specialist before beginning to ingest any of its presentations.