You should know pau d'arco

Ever struggle with athlete's foot? Maybe all you needed was a nice cup of pau d'arco tea... for your feet! This South American tree bark (from a very lovely tree) is best known for its fungus-fighting abilities, but that's just one of the qualities that make it such a powerful healer.

 The super tea you've never heard of

Pau d'arco has two components -- lapachol and beta-lapachone -- that take out fungus. Those same components also show natural antibacterial activity and kill some viruses and parasites too.

If you're dealing with athlete's foot or a yeast infection, you can apply pau d'arco to your body -- either as a foot soak or as an ingredient in a medicinal douche.  But it has a number of healing properties when taken internally, too: from boosting your mood to healing gastric ulcers.

The bark also acts as an anti-inflammatory and painkiller, and a couple of its compounds are even being studied as potential cancer treatments.

Something to keep in mind

All those medicinal qualities make pau d'arco good for you -- but they haven't necessarily been as good for the pau d'arco tree, because it's now listed as endangered.

In an extra wrinkle for shoppers, sometimes supplements labeled as pau d'arco actually contain bark from a different tree. Because the supplement industry doesn't have any uniform regulation, make sure any pau d'arco bark you buy comes from a trusted source.

Too much of a good thing?

As healing as pau d'arco can be, you shouldn't take it long-term or in very large doses -- just like you wouldn't take acetaminophen or blood-pressure meds every day "just because." That's because large amounts of pau d'arco can be toxic . (If you're pregnant or nursing, you shouldn't take it at all.) Dangerous side effects from high doses can include vomiting or uncontrolled bleeding.

And finally, because pau d'arco affects your blood's ability to clot, if you're on any blood-thinning medications you should check with your doctor before using pau d'arco internally.