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The Uña de Gato's Aid to the Fight Against Cancer

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Background:

I was ecstatic to visit the country Brazil last summer. I had heard about the stunning shores, the pleasant people, and the mouthwatering meals, but I was also slightly apprehensive because of the various illnesses that one may get from being in the country. Despite this, when we arrived at the hotel in Manaus Amazonas, a famous city in Brazil, I was eager to explore the grand city. However, I was still slightly uneasy. I don’t want to get sick! Maybe I should just stay inside the hotel… These thoughts scrambled through my mind, and I decided to tell the hotel help desk about my concerns. They gave me a pamphlet about a native Brazilian plant that many of the locals used to cure indigestion, and even gave me a glass of tea that was made using the plant. The rest of the trip, I didn’t have any issues regarding indigestions or pain anywhere in my body!

This plant is called “Uña de Gato,” also known as “cat’s claw.” It intrigued me so much that as soon as I got back home, I decided to research more about it online. I discovered the extraordinary health benefits it provides, as well as how the plant uses polyphenols to supply these health perks. Uña de Gato is known for its claw-shaped leaves the vine contains, and it can grow up to 100 feet tall. Uña de Gato (scientific name Uncaria tomentosa) belongs to the Rubiaceae family and was found in Central American and South American countries, indigenous to the Amazon Rainforest.

Health Benefits:

Cat’s claw is used in an extensive amount of traditional medicines, mainly for bone, gastrointestinal, and joint pain relief. This is why I didn’t receive any indigestion problems during my vacation to Brazil. Many people use the bark of the Cat’s Claw tree in aliments for its dietary and anti-inflammatory factors. There is scientific evidence that suggests that Cat’s Claw is good for providing relief/management for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to New York University's Langone Medical Center, “supplementation with una de gato for 24 weeks reduced the number of painful joints twice as effectively as a placebo. After another 28 weeks, the number of swollen joints also decreased.” This indicates the tremendous benefit it provides to arthritis patients to relieve the extensive joint pain they feel. In addition, there are several studies published indicating that Uña de Gato extract can provide anti-cancer effects against several types of cancer that may arise in the body, due to the herb’s ability to prevent and treat endocrine tumors. This bark has very strong properties that can help cancer diagnosis, because of its alkaline components it reduces the chemical proliferation of cancer cells. Last but definitely not least, Uña de Gato can be used to protect red blood cells from damage due to its capacity to prevent oxidation of lipids that make up the cell membrane of red blood cells, preserving the integrity of the membranes and increasing rigidity. All this information about the extraordinary health benefits the Uña de Gato herb provides makes the question arise, how does the plant do this?

Science Behind it:

Uña de Gato contains various alkaloids, which are organic molecules in plants that are the main defense against pathogens. It is demonstrated that these alkaloids produce immune-enhancing capabilities within the herb due to their ability to increase a process called phagocytosis. This is a process that allows harmful materials in the body to become engulfed by cells. The Uña de Gato also contains polyphenols like flavonoids and proanthocyanidins. Flavonoids have a multitude of functions in plants, such as regulating plant development, pigmentation, and other defense mechanisms of the plant. These flavonoids have a huge role in human diets, which is why the plant is able to provide such digestive benefits to us when the herb is ingested. Proanthocyanidins provide various protections to plants, such as defense against pathogens and predation from herbivorous animals. In recent years, proanthocyanidins were found to have extraordinary benefits for human health such as anticancer abilities, anti-inflammatory benefits, cardiovascular protective properties, and more.

Conclusion:

Overall, the Uña de Gato plant is a unique herb that is used across South and Central America for its health benefits such as cancer-preventing properties, anti-inflammatory properties, and not to mention the various benefits the herb can provide to human digestive and joint health. I hope to learn more about herbs like this one, and maybe even grow some myself!

Works Cited:

He, Fei, et al. “Biosynthesis and Genetic Regulation of Proanthocyanidins in Plants.” Molecules, vol. 13, no. 10, 28 Oct. 2008, pp. 2674–2703, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245171/#:~:text=Proanthocyanidins%20(PAs)%2C%20also%20known,units%20via%20the%20flavonoid%20pathway., https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules13102674. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

Mathesius, Ulrike. “Flavonoid Functions in Plants and Their Interactions with Other Organisms.” Plants, vol. 7, no. 2, 3 Apr. 2018, p. 30, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6027123/#:~:text=Flavonoids%20are%20structurally%20diverse%20secondary,signalling%20between%20plants%20and%20microorganisms., https://doi.org/10.3390/plants7020030. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

“Laboratoire THERASCIENCE.” Laboratoire THERASCIENCE, 2020, www.therascience.com/en_int/our-active-ingredients/plantes-et-champignons/u-a-de-gato#:~:text=The%20u%C3%B1a%20de%20gato%2C%20also,the%20base%20of%20the%20leaves. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

News, Fox. “Medical Benefits of Uña de Gato, or Cat’s Claw.” Fox News, Fox News, 13 Jan. 2011, www.foxnews.com/health/medical-benefits-of-una-de-gato-or-cats-claw. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

Ain, Qurrat-Ul-, et al. “Plant Alkaloids as Antiplatelet Agent: Drugs of the Future in the Light of Recent Developments.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 7, 22 Sept. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5032615/#:~:text=Alkaloids%20are%20small%20organic%20molecules,defense%20against%20herbivores%20and%20pathogens., https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2016.00292. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

‌“8 Best Elliptical Machines for Home Workouts.” Healthy Eating | SF Gate, 2022, healthyeating.sfgate.com/best-elliptical-machines-13771768.html. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Uncaria Tomentosa.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Aug. 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncaria_tomentosa. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

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