Uncaria tomentosa is a plant with immunostimulating properties , whose bark is used in phytotherapy to combat infections and inflammation .
The Andean populations call it "cat's claw" due to the similarity of its spines, curved like hooks, to the nails of this feline.
It is a large woody climber that can reach up to 30 meters in height: the original habitat is the humid and full of light of the North-West of the Amazon forest , where it grows spontaneously.
It has leaves covered with fluff that have 2 or 3 hook-shaped protuberances at the base, which it uses to support itself on other plants in search of increasingly luminous areas, and flowers of a lively yellow color.
Active components and properties
Traditional Andean medicine has been using Uncaria extracts for centuries to prevent infections and counteract the pains of the osteoarticular system .
In western phytotherapy, on the other hand, it has rather recently established itself as an immunostimulating plant, as some studies have confirmed its ability to promote the action of Natural Killer cells and lymphocytes to support the immune system in the fight against pathogenic microorganisms.
This immunostimulating action is due to the presence of active molecules called pentacyclic alkaloids , which induce the release of a factor in human endothelial cells that stimulates the production , maturation and activation of B and T lymphocytes responsible for the defensive response.
Among the other active ingredients present there are also the glycosides of quinovic acid , responsible for the anti- inflammatory properties (in fact they inhibit the production of inflammatory mediating molecules such as prostaglandin PGE2 and TNF-alpha), sterols and polyphenols , which make it an effective remedy with anti- inflammatory and pain- relieving action, useful in the treatment of rheumatism, inflammatory processes, osteoarticular and muscular pains.
For this reason it is an effective natural remedy also in the prevention and symptomatological treatment of colds with fever, cough and cold.
Historical notes and curiosities
The local tribes of the Peruvian Amazon attribute the power to give life to Uncaria. They take it in the form of a root or bark decoction at least 1-2 times a week, in the belief that it prevents disease and pain and prolongs life.
The tribe of the Ashanica Indians does not have a written language and from oral stories ethnobotanists and anthropologists have not been able to determine when the original medicinal use of this plant dates back - Scientists believe that its therapeutic use has a history however. pluricentennial .
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Budzinski JW, Foster BC, Vandenhoek S, Arnason JT. An in vitro evaluation of human cytochrome P450 3A4 inhibition by selected commercial herbal extracts and tinctures. 2000, jul 7.
Erowele GI, Kalejaiye AO. Pharmacology and therapeutic uses of cat's claw.Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2009 Jun 1.
Rosenbaum CC, O'Mathúna DP, Chavez M, Shields K. Antioxidants and antiinflammatory dietary supplements for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Mar 16.