What is cat’s claw?
|What is cat’s claw?||Darrell Miller||11/11/05|
November 11, 2005 05:30 PM
Author: Darrell Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: What is cat’s claw?
Q. What is cat’s claw?
A. Cat’s claw might be one of the most confusing (and most effective!) nutritional supplements available in health food stores today-with some fairly good reasons.
First, its mere name can be bewildering. Currently, there are at least 16 plants in the world that are called cat’s claw. Sometimes these plants are referred to as “Una de Gato”, Spanish for cat’s claw. While Uncaria tomentosa is the Latin name of the plant most frequently sold as cat’s claw supplements, these products vary vastly. Some cat’s claw nutritional supplements contain cat’s claw bark, some contain cat’s claw stems, and others contain compounds from the leaves of cat’s claw. All of these claim to help the immune system.
However, it is the root of Uncaria tomentosa that actually contains the true cat’s claw health benefits. Scientists, who have extensively studied every part of the plant, discovered that only extracts made from cat’s claw root possess the healing power to treat and prevent disease. While it would seem that this vital understanding might help clear up some cat’s claw confusion, not all Uncaria tomentosa roots actually contain healing properties.
To determine which cat’s claw roots do have healing properties, we have to go to the rainforests of Peru. This is where Uncaria tomentosa thrives. It’s a woody vine that’s found at the base of tall trees in the rainforests. As the plant grows, it winds up and around the tree, attaching itself to the trunk with curved cat-like claws found at the junctions of its leaves. The Ashaninka Indians, who make these rainforests their home, have used the roots of the cat’s claw plant for thousands of years to cure illness and maintain health in the tribe.
Healers in the Ashaninka tribe attribute the healing properties in cat’s claw to the “good sprits” that live in the plant’s roots. In order to obtain these healing properties, the correct cat’s claw root must first be harvested. The Ashaninka healers know which cat’s claw to use; they can actually “see” the good spirits hidden inside the root of the plant before they collect them. Some cat’s claw plant roots have the good spirits. Some cat’s claw plant roots don’t. If the cat’s claw root with good spirits is mixed with any cat’s claw root without good spirits, the healing power is lost. While there are no visible differences in the plants or the roots, only certain cat’s claw roots possess the power to heal. And, only the Ashaninka tribal healers seem to be able to see them.
Amazingly, however, scientists who were given cat’s claw roots by the Ashaninka to study in the laboratory discovered that they were able to “see” the good spirits, too! Using high performance liquid chromatography, or HPLC, a laboratory process that identifies various chemical compounds, the good spirits of cat’s claw roots were revealed to actually be important medicinal compounds, called pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids (or POAs).
At the same time, the scientists studying cat’s claw found they could “see” the non-healing properties as well. Again, using HPLC, they also discovered the presence of tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids (or TOAs) in certain cat’s claw roots. While the POAs have very powerful effects in the immune system, the TOAs have different effects in the body, none of which help the immune system cells at all.
And, if the TOAs and POAs are mixed together (as, so often happens in the vast majority of cat’s claw products), the resulting product is useless to healing and health. The TOAs cancel out the action of the POAs, making the cat’s claw root extract ineffective. Even as little as 1% TOA content can cause POAs to lose their ability to beneficially modulate the immune system.
This means that cat’s claw supplements that contain only POAs (in other words, cat’s claw that is 100% TOA-free) from the root of the plant will provide powerful effects in the immune system.