Una de Gato is a woody vine that grows up trees in the Highlands of Peru. It is called Cat's Claw because of its thorns, which resemble a cat's claw grasping the tree. It may take twenty years to mature and climb over 100 feet.
In the early 1970s, research first began on Cat's Claw after amazing stories of cancer recovery surfaced. Mr. Klaus Keplinger, an Austrian, spearheaded the research, and in 1989 Mr. Keplinger filed the first US Patents on alkaloids isolated from Cat's Claw.
In the short amount of time that Cat's Claw has been researched, scientists have found alkaloids that enhance the immune system and quinovic acid glycosides within Cat's Claw also back up the immune system.
Cat's Claw also contains triterpenes which are similar to the body's natural steroids. While the exact effect of the triterpenes in Cat's Claw is unknown they may have something to do with Cat's Claw's reputation with strengthening the female system.
Alkaloids are the active organic compounds found in herbs/plants. It is from alkaloids that plants derive there potent power. It is also alkaloids that are the focus of the majority of pharmaceutical research.
Six oxindole alkaloids are prevalent in Cat's Claw bark. These alkaloids are what seem to give Cat's Claw its unique healing benefits and the ability to enhance the immune system and gastro-intestinal tract. Preliminary studies have shown these alkaloids to be anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, immuno-stimulating, and act as antioxidants. Rynchophylline, one known alkaloid identified in Cat's Claw, has the potential for reducing the occurrence, even preventing, strokes and heart attacks. Rynchophylline reduces the build up of platelets (plaque) in the arteries, thus reducing clot formation. Studies from the Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine have demonstrated this ability, and also have concluded that it may be helpful in lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation.
The Townsend Letter For Doctors (May 1994) published an article noting Cat's claw's effectiveness in treating numerous gastrointestinal disorders, including candidiasis, colitis, Crohn's, diverticulitis, fistulas, gastritis, hemorrhoids, intestinal flora imbalances, leaky bowel syndrome, parasites, and ulcers, as well as allergies, arthritis, bursitis, cancer, environmental poisoning, HIV, menstrual problems, PMS syndrome, and rheumatism.
Other alkaloids identified possess remarkable healing potential also. Four of the alkaloids have been shown to have a pronounced enhancement effect on phagocytosis (the ability of the white blood cells and marophages to attack, engulf and digest harmful organisms, foreign matter, and debris). This research sparks much attention on Cat's Claw's possible ability to cure/heal AIDS, cancer, and a myriad of other diseases. The World Preservation Society book, Powerful and Unusual Herbs from the Amazon and China, stated, "Una de Gato from the Peruvian rainforest is a favorite for stimulating the immune system. Worldwide research done on this powerful herb has led scientists to patent many of the single chemicals found in it for use in healing cancer, arthritis, AIDS, and other diseases." The society also points out that "traditional wisdom shows that using the whole plant can be far more powerful than any one isolated ingredient."
The Peruvians have used the Cat's Claw as a healing tonic for centuries, trusting in its cleansing abilities. Cat's Claw has a profound ability to cleanse the intestinal tract and provide relief from problems in the stomach and bowels.
Because of its wide range of healing potentials, Cat's Claw is gaining popularity. The Peruvian government has enacted laws to promote the productive harvest of Cat's Claw and protect the plant itself. The government is hoping to encourage harvesting of crops such as Cat's Claw over drug crops such as cocoa. The government is also implementing stronger enforcement of its laws banning the extraction or harvesting of the root of the plant.
Although European studies show Cat's Claw exhibits low toxicity, even in large doses, expectant mothers, lactating women, or anyone having received a transplant should avoid it's use. Some individuals may experience diarrhea or a change in bowel consistency with use.