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Rainforest Herb

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By by Michael Antoniak • • July 1, 1996

As recently as five years ago the South American herb uila de gato, was unknown by the American public.

In the last two years, however, it become one of the most discussed and sought after herbs in the U.S. Americans are more familiar with this herb by its English translation: cat's claw. In retrospect, the herb's dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. comes as little surprise, considering the remarkable healing properties attributed to this herb by ancient tradition and modern research.

For centuries, the Indians of Peru's rain forest have relied on a tea made from cat's claw to treat tumors and diseases of tile digestive tract. Research conducted in Europe and South America during the past decade also suggests compounds found in the plant may offer effective treatment for immune system and digestive ailments, as well as arthritis, rheumatism, and diabetes.

How It Works

American researchers are only beginning to investigate the medicinal properties of uncaria tomentosa, a woody vine called cat's claw These plants take their popular name for the claw-like thorns at the base of their leaves, which the plant uses to grip as it climbs through the jungle forest. A single mature vine can stretch hundreds of feet. In the medicinal traditions of Peru's jungle tribes, a tea brewed from the inner bark of the vine or the root has been used both internally and externally to treat a broad range of maladies.

According to the writings of nutritionist Philip Steinberg, scientific research conducted in South America and Europe has identified alkaloid compounds which are considered to give this plant its curative properties. Studies also suggest the root of uncaria tomentosa is a more potent and reliable source of these compounds.

Four of these onindole alkaloids are said to support white blood cells in their ability to isolate, fight, and remove infection from the body. Researchers have also identified other phytochemicals they believe may be responsible for some of the other benefits attributed to cat's claw.

Reprinted with permission from VR, March 1996

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