Introduction of Cat’s Claw:
Its botanical name is Uncaria tomentosa. It is a woody vine found in the tropical jungles of South and Central America. In several languages it is known as cat’s claw because of its claw-shaped thorns (English cat’s claw, although that name is also used for other plants; Spanish uña de gato). It is also known as Vilcacora.
There are no cultivars offered in agricultural trade; however, two chemotypes have been identified of Peruvian U. tomentosa: a tetracyclic oxindole alkaloid type (tetracyclica) and a pentacyclic oxindole alkaloid type (pentacyclica). It has been found that the pentacyclic alkaloid type is immunopotentiating; whereas, the tetraacyclic alkaloid type is immunosuppressing. In the traded product, these chemotypes have largely been ignored. The subject of which chemical profile is better, the stem vs. the root, is largely irrelevant due to the difficulty of trade in the root material of cat’s claw. The leaves have not been found useful commercially, however, there are groups in Lima who are researching this for possible commercial uses.
Guisella T. Brell of the Agrarian University of La Molina is involved in the micropropagation of cat’s claw (see selected experts). Transgenic cat’s claw root has been micropropagated in bioreactors, but this technology is still in the developmental stage, and is not yet commercially viable.
Countries where it is found:
Thirty two species of Ancaria Genus are found throughout tropical Asia and Africa, only two live in South America, Ancaria Tomentosa and U.Guainesis. These are known as Una de gato or Cat’s Claw in that region. This woody vine climbs high in to the Amazon rain forest canopy with its cat’s like claw. Both species grow in Peru in large quantity. A little quantity is also found Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador. U. Guaenesis is exported to Europe in large quantity.