Hailed as a wonder-herb from deep within the Amazonian rainforest, Cat's Claw is a scrambling liana that can climb up to 30m high into the canopy. It derived its name thanks to the little claw like protrusions along its stem which indeed look like cat's claws. Also known as 'Una de Gato' (Cat's Claw in Spanish), has long been used as a traditional medicine of the Ashaninka Indians and other tribes of Peru who have employed it for a wide range of conditions. But it was an Austrian Doctor who became aware of this plant and started his own research into its healing properties. His findings were most interesting and suggested that Una de Gato could be usefully employed to treat many degenerative conditions that plague modern life. It did not take long for the fabulous tale of this wonder herb to make its way around the world. Today, Cat's Claw preparations come in every conceivable form, but few places offer the raw inner bark itself.
Una de Gato can be described as an alterative, a remedy that helps the body to regulate its functions and restoring proper balance rather than affecting bodily systems with some kind of shock effect. Native people describe it as a gate opener, referring to its properties of clearing obstructions of the gasto-intestinal system. It can therefore be used as a supportive medicine in many chronic conditions, as well as a supportive cancer remedy that helps to alleviate negative side-effects of chemotherapy while supporting the healing process with its own anti-tumor and immune system enhancing properties. The plant seems particularly useful in the treatment of chronic problems of the digestive system and has helped where other herbs have failed to break patterns of digestive disorders, especially if these involve cramps and convulsions, as the plant has a relaxant effect on the smooth muscles of the digestive tract. Cat's Claw has proved useful as an antioxidant, preventing cell damage from scavenging free radicals and showed antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. While it does not appear to reduce the swelling of arthritic joints, it does reduce their painfulness. Today it is employed in a wide range of chronic conditions, including stomach ulcers, Crohn's disease and other intestinal and bowel disorders, genital herpes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer and HIV. He found 4 oxindole alkaloids that Una de Gato enhanced the immune system by extending the half-life of the lymphocytes, the white blood cells responsible for fighting infection, rather than having a direct effect on their proliferation. They also seemed to enhance their actual ability to fight disease causing organisms.
Peruvian shamans regard Una de Gato as a balancer that can restore equilibrium to a system that has become unhinged. It clears obstructions from he various channels, physical and spiritual, that block our flow, the harmonious flow of 'Chi' as the Chinese doctors would say. It can help restore the spiritual balance and release old ties that bind.