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Tabebuia impetiginosa (Mart. ex DC.) Toledo


Tabebuia impetiginosa (Mart. ex DC.) Toledo


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Lapacho, taheebo, purple lapacho, ipê-comum, ipê-reto, ipê-rosa, ipê-roxo-damata, lapacho negro, pau d'arco-roxo, peúva or piúva. 


Tabebuia  impetiginosa is a medium-sized, deciduous tree of the family Bignoniaceae.  The thinly barked trunk of T. impetiginosa can reach measures 20m in height in the wild, roughly two-thirds of the height of the entire tree.  The bark is dark brown or grey and very durable.  The crown of the tree grows to be broad, often reaching up to 15m across.  T. impetiginosa is briefly deciduous, as the small, dark, oval, palmately compound leaves exist on the tree for only a short time.  The defining characteristic of T. impetiginosa is perhaps its large crown of brilliant, pink flowers, which bloom in spring.  Each flower is trumpet-shaped, magenta in colour, roughly measuring 3cm to 5cm across, and appears in spring, soon before the leaves.  The flowers appear in dense bunches along the end of each branch.  The fruit of T. impetiginosa is drupe, slender seed pods, which remain on the tree year round.  Each seed pod is on average 10cm in length, brown in colour and contains small, winged seeds.

Origin / Habitat

T. impetiginosa is native to Central and South America and can be grown in habitats such as Florida as long as the conditions are similar to those in its native habitat.

Chemical Constituents

Quinone compounds, including lapachol, beta-lapachone, xyloidone (naphthoquinones) and tabebuin (anthroquinone); flavonoids including quercetin; glycosides including Iridoid, lignan, isocoumarin, phenylthanoid, phenolic; cyclopentene dialdehydes [1] [2] [3].

Plant Part Used

Inner bark [14].

Traditional Use

The historical use of T.  impetiginosa dates back to the time of the Inca civilisation.  Since that time, many indigenous tribes of the Rainforest have continued to value T.  impetiginosa for various purposes including for making tools such as bows for hunting.  Interestingly, tribes located hundreds of miles apart used T.  impetiginosa for the same purposes primarily for its antimicrobial properties.  Specific regional uses include coughs, colds and influenza in Amazonia; diarrhea and urinary tract infections in Argentina; cancer, colds, fever and snakebites in Costa Rica [4].  Brazil uses this herb for a great number of conditions including immune system disorders, upper respiratory infections, inflammatory conditions, women’s health and as an analgesic [5].



To support traditional uses of T.  impetiginosa for treatment of gastric ulcers, a laboratory animal study found that an extract of T.  impetiginosa bark protected the animals from gastric lesions and reduced gastric acidity (through antisecretory activity in gastric mucosa), which was further confirmed by enhanced gastric mucus production [14]. Isolated constituents from T.  impetiginosa have been reported in laboratory studies to be active against H. pylori infections [15]. 

T.  impetiginosa has been reported to have anti-inflammatory activity in laboratory animal studies, due to its negative modulation of macrophage-mediated inflammatory responses by suppressing PGE(2) production, suggesting a possible use in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis [16]. Lapachol, isolated from Lapacho, has also been reported to have COX-2 inhibiting activity [9]. Extracts also have antioxidant activity comparable to that of vitamin E [17].

Extracts of T.  impetiginosa have been reported in laboratory studies to exhibit antiproliferative effects in cancer cells, including estrogen receptor positive human breast, prostate, lung bladder, colon and liver cancer cells lines [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]. The mechanisms involves induction of cancer cell apoptosis through inactivation of NF-kappaB, inhibition of pRB phosphorylation, induction of p21, activation of caspase-3 and inhibition of tolemerase activity [11] [12]. Also, extracts are reported to have enhanced macrophage activity against tumor cells [13].


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

T.  impetiginosa extracts may also inhibit platelet aggregation, so use only under the supervision of a doctor in those with bleeding disorder or on anticoagulant drugs [19].

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

T.  impetiginosa has been reported safe in recommended doses. Discontinue if allergy occurs.



Do not use T.  impetiginosa if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

The isolated chemical lapachol has demonstrated abortifacient properties in animal studies [18].

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Warashina T, Nagatani Y, Noro T. Constituents from the bark of Tabebuia impetiginosa. Phytochemistry. Jul2004;65(13):2003-2011.
  2. Warashina T, Nagatani Y, Noro T. Further constituents from the bark of Tabebuia impetiginosa. Phytochemistry. Mar2005;66(5):589-597.
  3. Koyama J, Morita I, Tagahara K, Hirai K. Cyclopentene dialdehydes from Tabebuia impetiginosa. Phytochemistry. Apr2000;53(8):869-872.
  4. Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:  A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinals. New York: Square One Publishers;2005.344.
  5. Duke JA. Medicinal Plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis; 2009.413.
  6. Mukherjee B, Telang N, Wong GY. Growth inhibition of estrogen receptor positive human breast cancer cells by Taheebo from the inner bark of Tabebuia avellandae tree. Int J Mol Med. Aug2009;24(2):253-260.
  7. Lee JI, Choi DY, Chung HS, et al. beta-lapachone induces growth inhibition and apoptosis in bladder cancer cells by modulation of Bcl-2 family and activation of caspases. Exp Oncol. Mar2006;28(1):30-35.
  8. Woo HJ, Choi YH. Growth inhibition of A549 human lung carcinoma cells by beta-lapachone through induction of apoptosis and inhibition of telomerase activity. Int J Oncol. Apr2005;26(4):1017-1023.
  9. Lee JH, Cheong J, Park YM, Choi YH. Down-regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 and telomerase activity by beta-lapachone in human prostate carcinoma cells. Pharmacol Res. Jun2005;51(6):553-560.
  10. Woo HJ, Park KY, Rhu CH, et al. Beta-lapachone, a quinone isolated from Tabebuia avellanedae, induces apoptosis in HepG2 hepatoma cell line through induction of Bax and activation of caspase. J Med Food. Summer2006;9(2):161-168.
  11. Choi BT, Cheong J, Choi YH. beta-Lapachone-induced apoptosis is associated with activation of caspase-3 and inactivation of NF-kappaB in human colon cancer HCT-116 cells. Anticancer Drugs. Nov2003;14(10):845-850.
  12. Choi YH, Kang HS, Yoo MA. Suppression of human prostate cancer cell growth by beta-lapachone via down-regulation of pRB phosphorylation and induction of Cdk inhibitor p21(WAF1/CIP1). J Biochem Mol Biol. 31Mar2003;36(2):223-229.
  13. Queiroz ML, Valadares MC, Torello CO, et al. Comparative studies of the effects of Tabebuia avellanedae bark extract and beta-lapachone on the hematopoietic response of tumour-bearing mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 8May2008;117(2):228-235.
  14. Twardowschy A, Freitas CS, Baggio CH, et al. Antiulcerogenic activity of bark extract of Tabebuia avellanedae, Lorentz ex Griseb. J Ethnopharmacol. 13Aug2008;118(3):455-459.
  15. Park BS, Lee HK, Lee SE, et al. Antibacterial activity of Tabebuia impetiginosa Martius ex DC (Taheebo) against Helicobacter pylori. J Ethnopharmacol. 21Apr2006;105(1-2):255-262.
  16. Byeon SE, Chung JY, Lee YG, et al. In vitro and in vivo anti-inflammatory effects of taheebo, a water extract from the inner bark of Tabebuia avellanedae. J Ethnopharmacol. 2Sep2008;119(1):145-152.
  17. Park BS, Lee KG, Shibamoto T, Lee SE, Takeoka GR. Antioxidant activity and characterization of volatile constituents of Taheebo (Tabebuia impetiginosa Martius ex DC). J Agric Food Chem. 1Jan 2003;51(1):295-300.
  18. Guerra Mde O, Mazoni AS, Brandão MA, Peters VM. Toxicology of Lapachol in rats: embryolethality. Braz J Biol. Feb2001;61(1):171-174.
  19. Son DJ, Lim Y, Park YH, et al. Inhibitory effects of Tabebuia impetiginosa inner bark extract on platelet aggregation and vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation through suppressions of arachidonic acid liberation and ERK1/2 MAPK activation. J Ethnopharmacol. 3Nov2006;108(1):148-151.

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