Categories: Cat HealthInfection

Pau d’Arco for Cats

Pau d’Arco for Cats

Pau d’Arco is recommended as a home treatment for cats but how safe is it? For instance, it is occasionally recommended as a natural cure for cat ear infections.

There is a trend towards home treatments of cat health problems. There are risks in doing this. Also some people prefer natural remedies. I am not decrying natural remedies or this product but “natural” does not necessarily mean good or safe.

Cat caretakers should only treat their cats for health problems when they are completely sure of what they are doing which includes knowing with certainty the potential harm that drugs can do. Essentially all drugs, natural or not, are potential poisons.

Pau d’Arco is a herbal remedy. It comes from the inner bark of the Tabebuia impetiginosa tree (lapacho tree) of S.America. This tree is endangered because of logging, which brings me nicely to the risks of using this remedy…

Some risks in using this cure

Quality…Firstly, are you sure of the quality of product. As the tree from which the product comes is endangered can we be sure that the product is not tainted with other ingredients from other similar trees? Also, were are told to be wary of imported Chinese herbs. No surprise there because the Chinese have a poor history of supplying defective and sometimes dangerous pet products.

Active ingredients…..So what is in Pau d’Arco that makes it such a wonder drug? It seems to be able to cure almost anything.

The active ingredient is lapachol. Another constituent is hydroquinone. Lapachol is not listed in a book I have on natural cat health care by Dr Fogle. Wikipedia says it currently has little potential for use in humans because of toxic side effects.

Applying lapachol in the ear, topically, will result in it being absorbed into the body because the skin of the ear is very thin. Sarah Hartwell says it can accumulate in tissue and the liver. There may be toxic side effects.

Sarah says that although hydroquinone is relatively safe in most species, cats are a special case because the cat’s liver is poor at metabolizing it (breaking it down). High levels of hydroquinone in a cat damages the central nervous system. Pretty serious stuff.

Do we know?…One of the biggest turn-offs for this herbal remedy is that my research indicates we don’t really know enough about it. If I am correct we should not be taking risks with our cat’s health.


I’d think twice about using Pau d’Arco as a herbal remedy for cat ear infections.

Alternative Herbal Remedies?

Dr Fogle mentions:

  • Vinegar/water mixture may be beneficial in killing yeast and loosening wax buildup (never stick cotton buds down cat’s ears).
  • Olive oil or almond oil may help to clear out residual wax after an ear infestation.
  • Witch Hazel may be used to clean ears damaged in a fight.
  • Aloe Vera can sooth ears burnt in the sun (think white cats who are most susceptible).
  • Marigold can be used to clean inflamed ear canals (extreme caution – see vet).
  • Ginger is said to reduce deafness by improving blood circulation to the ear.

Caution: over-use of herbal remedies can increase the possibility of an inflammatory sensitivity response.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

    • Wow! Interesting. What works for humans often works for cats ;) We have to be very careful though (and I know you'd agree) when treating our cats at home. On the internet there is a lot of rather carelessly produced information copied from some other site.

  • Very useful, shared to facebook, thank you Michael. <3

    And yes DEE, LIVER of a cat is very sensitive, true. We must be very careful about herbal meds. :(

    • This particular herb is discussed quite a lot by people recommending herbal treatments (as so called natural treatments) for cats but my research indicates there are dangers. We have to be super careful when using these products.

  • There are just a few herbal remedies that I have some belief in. But, tree bark isn't one of them.

    If there is anything that a caretaker needs to know, it is about the sensitivity of a cat's liver. Read, read, and re-read. The liver is an irreplacable organ. To keep insulting it will kill your cat.

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