( Uncaria tomentosa )
Una degato, paraguayo, garabato,
una de gavilan, hawk's claw
antioxidant, antiviral, antitumor, antibacterial, cytostatic
This plant -- technically
considered a vine -- grows in the jungle regions of the Amazon Basin in the
south to the high jungle areas of Junin. It is not unusual for an Uncaria
vine to take more than twenty years to reach maturity. Its intriguing name
evolved from the thorns which cover the vine and look very much like the
curved claws of a cat. These stout, hooked spines enable the vine to wind
itself up among the Peruvian trees as it seeks for more light amidst the
deep, shaded darkness of the canopied forest. The vine produces yellowish or
white flowers which bloom in pairs on opposite sides of the stem portion.
The glossy leaves of the plant are effectively protected by their hook-like
spines. Apparently, curious men have literally been caught up by the vine's
formidable hooks and have found themselves suspended in mid-air. Current
harvesting laws allow only the bark to be harvested. the roots and vines of
cat's claw are carefully protected in order to preserve future propagation.
Traditional rain forest use
Both the roots and the vine of
the cat's claw plant have historically been used by indigenous Peruvian
tribes as invaluable natural medicine. Peruvian folklore describes
decoctions made from the cat's claw vine and their extraordinary ability to
soothe arthritis, ease gastric upsets, and help inhibit the growth of
tumors. Considered a sacred botanical by the Ashanica, its bark, roots and
vines have been used for generations to treat dysentery and immune system
related diseases. Tribal legends tell of vine decoctions for colds, fever
and headaches. Bark poultices were utilized for painful joints and other
skin afflictions. Digestion and bowel disorders were also targeted by
preparations of cat's claw constituents.
Modern medicinal applications
Cat's claw is used to treat
allergies, arthritis, bursitis, cancer, candida, chronic fatigue syndrome,
Crohn's disease, female hormonal imbalances, fibromyalgia, inflammation,
intestinal disorders, immune system disease, lupus, parasites, ulcers, and
Recent evaluations of this
Peruvian rain forest herb have supported its value for treating serious
colon disorders. Keplinger's research also supports the use of cat's claw as
an immune system stimulant. two compounds contained in this herb have also
demonstrated the ability to inhibit the multiplication of some viruses.
Current studies are looking at cat's claw as a possible treatment for the
AIDS virus. Doctors in Peru have used this herb in treating fourteen types
of diagnosed cancer.
European studies have shown that
cat's claw has extremely low toxicity, even when taken in large doses. It
should not be taken, however, by anyone who has undergone a transplant, or
by pregnant or nursing women. Taking cat's claw may cause diarrhea or alter
bowel consistency in some individuals.