Uncaria Tomentosa ("Cat's Claw"); Wonder Herb from the Amazon
In July of 1993 1 received a very interesting telephone call. A gentleman from Florida was calling to inquire as to my knowledge of a medicinal herb from Peru, scientifically known as Uncaria tomentosa, or more commonly in English as "Cat's Claw." When I replied that I had never heard of the herb, he proceeded to tell me about a doctor in Austria who developed a pharmaceutical from an extract of this mystery plant and was successfully using it. He told me that, as a missionary pilot he had many occasions to fly in and out of the Peruvian Amazon. Because of these travels he became aware of Uncaria tomentosa's long history of use as a traditional medicine by the Ashaninka Indians.
Having been involved in the ongoing study and promotion of natural products and alternative therapies for over 20 years, I immediately became interested and intrigued by what this gentleman had to say. As our conversation ended, I told him that I would do some investigating to find out if the herb was being imported into the United States. I began by calling over 25 bulk herb suppliers. To my surprise, not one of them had ever heard of Uncaria tomentosa or Cat's Claw. Even more surprising was the fact that none of them could find any mention of the herb in their reference books.
Finally, one company which sold packaged herb teas suggested that I contact Dr. Brent Davis, who they believed was working with herbs from the Peruvian rain forests. Bingo! Dr. Davis not only knew of Cat's Claw, but had been working with it since 1988, and had written an excellent article describing his experiences.
In the article, Dr. Davis refers to Uncaria tomentosa as "the opener of the way" because of its remarkable ability to cleanse the entire intestinal tract and help patients suffering from many different stomach and bowel disorders including Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, leaky bowel syndrome, colitis, hemorrhoids, fistulas, gastritis, ulcers, parasites and intestinal flora imbalance.
After reading Dr. Davis' article I became even met everything I could about this remarkable plant. I spent several days at the University of Wisconsin searching through their "med-line" database for any information I could find. From this and several other sources, I was able to come up with over 20 different references and articles about Uncaria tomentosa and another Uncaria species known as Uncaria guianensis. Here is what I found:
Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis are both commonly known as Uila de Gato in Spanish and "Cats Claw" in English. Both are woody vines that grow over one hundred feet in length as they attach and wind their way up through the trees of the Peruvian rain forests. For hundreds Of Years the native Indian tribes have used the inner bark and root to prepare a medicinal tea ill the form of a decoction. According to Indian folklore the tea has also been used for tumors and other serious diseases. Through both species have similar properties, the general consensus is, that Uncaria tomentosa is somewhat more valuable based on clinical evaluation and the experience of Peruvian physicians
Beginning in the 1970s and continuing through today, studies have been conducted at research facilities in Peru, Austria, Germany, England, Hungary and Italy suggesting that Uncaria tomentosa may be beneficial in the treatment of cancer, arthritis, bursitis, allergies, ulcers, systematic candidiasis, diabetes, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, Premenstrual syndrome, irregularities of the female cycle, numerous bowel and intestinal disorders and organic depression.
Back in 1988, an international congress was held on traditional medicines in Lima, Peru, where Uncaria tomentosa and other herbs were reported to treat 14 types of accurately diagnosed cancer in 700 patients between 1984 and 1988.
In working with approximately 150 patients from 1989 to 1992, Dr. Davis concluded that Uncaria tomentosa has the ability to break through severe intestinal derangements that no other available products can touch.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Satya Ambrose, co-founder of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. In just a few months of working with the bark of Uncaria tomentosa in capsule form, she has seen excellent results with Crohn's disease, ulcers, fibromyalgia and asthma.
The most exciting research, however, has come from Austria where Klaus Keplinger, the scientist and doctor first mentioned to me by my caller from Florida, has obtained two United States patents for isolating some of the herb's major components. In these patents issued in July of 1999 and July of 1990, it is explained how Dr. Keplinger extracted six oxindole alkaloids which have been shown in laboratory testing to have a pronounced enhancement effect on phagocytosis (the ability of the white blood cells and macrophages to attack, engulf and digest harmful microorganisms, foreign matter and debris). These four alkaloids are known as isopteropodine, pteropodine, isomitraphylline and isorynchophylline.
Rynchophylline, a fifth alkaloid also found in Uncaria tomentosa and another Uncaria species native to the Far East, has been studied at the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This alkaloid has been shown in laboratory testing to display an ability to inhibit platelet aggregation and thrombosis. This suggests that the alkaloid may be useful in the prevention of stroke and reducing the risk of heart attack by lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, inhibiting the formation of plaque on the arterial walls and the formation of blood clots in the vessels of the brain, heart and arteries.
On November 28, 1988 and June 17, 1993, articles about in Uncaria tomentosa appeared in El Comercia, the major metropolitan newspaper in Lima, Peru. The first article stated that Uncaria tomentosa had been proven effective in the treatment of allergies and neurobronchitis. The article then went on to talk about Dr. Keplinger's success in using Uncaria tomeiitosa to treat genital herpes zoster According to the article, he was not able to help two of these patients. However, the well-being of the other five improved to such an extent that their symptoms disappeared.
Besides containing oxindole alkaloids, Peruvian and Italian researchers have discovered a wealth of other beneficial phytochemicals inherent in the herb, including proanthocyanidins, polyphenols, triterpines, and the plant sterols beta- sitasterol, stigmasteral and carnpesterol. The presence of these additional compounds might further explain the antioxidant, antimicrobial, antitumor and anti-inflammatory properties attributed to this herb.
According to Cats Claw Quarterly published in the summer of 1989, Dr. Richard Gerber, author of the best selling book Vibrational Medicine, has spoken quite favorably about Uncaria tomentosa. Here is what he has to say: "Cat's Claw is a unique herbal remedy that has been used for many years by native eaters of Peru. The herb shows great promise for the treatment of arthritis when taken internally, either by making a tea or taking capsules of the herb. European research has found that the herb has very low toxicity even in large amounts. It may be especially benefizial for individuals with painful joints who cannot take conventional radiation and chemotherapy to minimize nausea and other side effects associated with cancer treatments."
In the words of Dr. Brent Davis, "Uncaria tomentosa is a world-class herb which has the power to arrest and reverse deep-seated pathology, allowing a more rapid return to health in the context of concomitant Applied Kinesiology therapies."
Reprinted with permission from Philip Seinberg.