In July of 1993 I 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 a n extract of this mystery plant and was successfully using it to treat patients with AIDS and cancer. He told me that, as a missionary pilot, he had many occasion to fly in and out of the Peruvian Amazon. Because of these travels he became aware of Uncaria tometosa’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 any of their reference books.
Finally, one company, which sold packaged herb teas, suggested that I contact a Dr. Brent Davis, who they believed was working with herbs from the Peruvian rain forests. Bingo! Dr. Davis not only knew about cat’s claw, he 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 “ 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’s article I became even more determined to learn everything I could about this remarkable plant. I spent sever 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. Her is what I found:
Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis are both commonly known as “una de gato” in Spanish and “cat’s claw in English. Both are woody vines that grow over 100 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 in the form of a decoction. According to Indian folklore the tea has been used to cure tumors and other serious diseases. Though 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 1970’s 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, rheumatism, all forms of herpes, allergies, ulcers, systemic candidiasis, diabetes, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, pre-mentrual syndrome and irregularities of the female cycle, environmental toxin poisoning, numerous bowel and intestinal disorders, organic depression and those infected with the HIV virus.
In fact, Uncaria tomentosa has so many therapeutic applications that it seems to far surpass such well known herbs as pau d’arco, Echinacea, goldenseal, astragalus, Artemisia annua, Siberian and Panax ginseng, as well as maitake, shiitake and reishi mushrooms and other natural products including, grapefruit seed extract, caprylic and lauric acids and shark cartilage.
Back in 1988, an international congress was held on traditional medicines in Lima, Peru where Uncaria tomentosa was discussed by a number of medical doctors. In these discussions one Peruvian physician spoke about his success and those of his colleagues with Uncaria tomentosa and other herbs in treating 14 types of accurately diagnosed cancer in 700 patients between 1984 and 1988.
In working with approximately 150 patients from 1988 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 and information, however, has come from Austria where Klaus Keplinger, the scientist and doctor first mention 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 1989 and July of 1990, it is explained how Dr. Keplinger extracted six oxinadole alkaloids from the root of Uncaria tometosa. It is also explained how four of these alkaloids have been shown in laboratory testing to have a pronounced effect on phagocytosis, (the ability of the white blood cells and macrophages to attach, engulf, and digest harmful mircor-organisms, foreign matter and debris). These four alkaloids are known as isopteropodine, pteropodine, isomitraphylline and isorynchophylline. Rynchophylline, a fifth alkaloid found in Uncaria tomentosa and another Uncaria species native to the Far East, has been studied at eh 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 suggest that this alkaloid may be useful in the prevention of stroke and reducing the risk of heart attack by lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation and 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 Uncaria tomentosa appeared in El Comercio, the major metropolitan newspaper in Lima, Peru. The first article stated that Uncaria tomentosahad been proven effective in the treatment of allergies and neurobronchitis. The article then went on to talk about Dr. Keplinger’s success in using U. tomentosa to treat genital herpes and herpes zoster. It ended with a discussion of his results in treating seven AIDS patients who displayed varius progressions of the disease. 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.
The second article spoke about how Immodal, a laboratory in Austria under the direction of Dr. Keplinger, is using a pharmaceutical developed from an extract of Uncaria tomentosa along with AZT. This combination is being used to imped the multiplication of the HIV virus in the blood, activate the cells of the immune system and stop the development of cancerous cells. The article went on to state that Immodal has commercialized this medicine under the name “Krallendorn” and has successfully been using it for the past six years to treat patients infected with the AIDS virus. According Immodal, practically none of the cases not yet showing symptoms of the disease developed further. The cases that displayed the first symptoms of the disease showed an improvement in blood analysis and disappearance of clinical symptoms within the first year; and , in Immodal’s own words, “a situation that continues to this day.” Finally the article mentioned that Krallendorn has also been effective in decreasing the unpleasant effects of both AZT and radiation therapy.
Besides containing oxindole alkaloids, Peruvian and Italian researchers have discovered a wealth of other beneficial phyto-chemicals inherent in the herb, including proanthocyanidins, polyphenols, triterpines, and the plant sterols beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol. The presence of these additional comnpoounds might further wexplain the antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties attributed to this herb. According to Cat’s Claw Quaterly 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 healers 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 beneficial for individuals with painful joints, who cannot take conventional radiation and chemotherapy to minimize nausea and other side effects associated with cancer treatments.”
Today, anyone can walk into a pharmacy in Peru and purchase una de gato (Uncaria tomentosa) either in capsule or tea form. Labels on the packaging written in Spanish state that the curative properties of unda de gato are almost unlimited. This is attributed to the herb being a powerful cellular reconstitutor. Instructions are given on how to use the herb to treat, cancer, arthritis, gastritis, female hormonal imbalance and other diseases.
In the words of Dr. Brent Davis, “Uncaria tomentosa is a word-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 A.K. therapies.”
At this time, I would like to share the steps that have been taken by the Peruvian government to insure the availability of Uncaria tomentosa in the future. Unlike Brazil and other South American countries which have allowed the continuous rape and destruction of their rain forest habitats, the government of Peru has passed legislation designed to prevent the extinction of both U. tomentosa and U. guianensis. Since the bark has been found to contain all of the medicinal properties attributed to both herbs, it has become illegal to use the root of either species. Harvesting the bark of both vines is an ecologically sound practice because the bark will grow back and replenish itself. However, digging up or cutting away the root causes the vine to die. Because the world-wide demand for both herbs has literally exploded, it has a been estimated that both species would become extinct within the next five years if this legislation had not been passed.
In closing, I would like to share my personal experience using the bark of U. tomentosa. Since September of 1993, I, along with my wife, children, some friends and associated have been experimenting with cat’s claw tea as well as capsules. We have found both to be effective in knocking out the flu, clearing up sinus, ear and upper respiratory infections, canker sores, one infection associated with TMJ, eliminating lower back pain associated with arthritis and eliminating the tired sore muscles associated with heavy physical work and exercise. I was even able to clear up a case of athletes foot by putting the powdered herb between the infected toes, my daughter’s conjunctivitis by putting drops of the tea in her eyes several times over the course of two days. Even more amazing is that all the above were accomplished within 48 hours after beginning use of the herb.
Finally, though I do not yet have the specifics, I have heard of other individuals who have had success with Crohn’s disease lupus, diabetes, hypoglycemia, lung cancer, prostatitis, fibromyalgia and one case of a patient who was able to reverse and overcome Karposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of skin cancer associated with AIDS.
According to the available research, three to six grams daily is considered therapeutic if using capsules, or four strong cups per day if using tea. However, in very advanced stages of pathology as much as 20 grams per day might be used for several weeks at a time.
In children under 12, one 350 mg. Capsule, three times daily seems to be quite effective on minor ailments and good for adults as a preventative measure.
Based on the available research and my personal experience with this wondrous and most astounding herb, I am convinced that Uncaria tomentosa has tremendous potential for alleviating much of the needless suffering being experienced by so many men, women, and children in today’s highly stressful and polluted environment.
Phillip N. Steinberg is a graduate of The Nutritionists Institute of America and has lectured and conducted workshops in alternative healing methods including acupressure and polarity therapy.