In the humid tropical forests, on poorly drained lands or in the proximity of the fluvial courses, from Panama to Bolivia and Brazil, grows a genus of plants well known and used by the indigenous peoples of the area.
They are cat's nails, of which two species stand out:Uncaria guianensis YUncaria tomentosa. The one with the greatest medicinal applications is the second, a liana up to 30 meters long, with branches armed with large thorns and lanceolate leaves.
- Native peoples have been using its bark for centuries to relieve digestive problems, diarrhea, gastritis, joint inflammation, small tumors, wounds, hemorrhoids and viral infections such as herpes.
- The knowledge of the shamans has not gone unnoticed by pharmacological research, and cat's claw has been subjected to clinical studies that have highlighted its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and immunostimulating properties. Alkaloids such as yohimbine, oxindoic acids, quinvoric acid, polyphenols, tannins, etc. have been isolated.
- The efficacy of cat's claw extract to stimulate the generation of white blood cells and boost the immune response has also been confirmed. It is indicated as a natural support to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Its activity to inhibit cancer cells in breast and colon tumors has also been explored.
- As an immune stimulant, it is used, at a preventive and palliative level, in allergic rhinitis, asthmatic and flu-like processes, states of weakness and convalescence, and viral infections such as herpes, or fungal infections such as candida and other mycoses.
- Cat's claw is also taken as a diuretic in case of fluid retention, kidney stones and to prevent urinary infections such as cystitis, ureteritis or prostatitis.
- It is used primarily as an anti-inflammatory in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout.
- As an immune stimulant: In these cases, the cat's claw is taken in powder (one level teaspoon is dissolved in yogurt or in water, twice a day) or the decoction of the bark (one tablespoon is boiled per half liter of water for 5 minutes, let it rest 10, strain it and take it during the day, with a few drops of lemon juice).
- Herbal tea for rheumatic pain: Cat's claw is combined with other anti-inflammatory plants such as harpagofito and calaguala, and star anise to improve the flavor, all in equal parts.
- How to prepare it: Boil a tablespoon for half a liter of water for five minutes, let it rest for 10 minutes and strain. It can be drunk during the day.
- It is contraindicated in pregnancy, lactation and in children under 12 years of age.
- It should also be avoided if antacids are taken, and consult your doctor if other treatments are followed, as it can show interactions with drugs such as fexofenadine, used in allergic rhinitis.
- High doses can also cause gastrointestinal problems, so it is necessary to adhere to the indications of the herbalist.
- In powder, dry and liquid extract, dry bark for decoction, alcoholic tincture and capsules.
By Jordi Cebrián. Advisor: J Mª Teixé, herbalist of «El Manantial de Salud»