Previous Article ] Menu ] Next Article ]


Cat's Claw & Essiac
Mother Nature's Wondrous Healers

by Phillip N. Steinberg, CNC
Health Store News, Oct/Nov. 1996

    By now most of you have heard of Cat's Claw, a remarkable herb being imported from the Peruvian Amazon. After almost three years of working with and writing about this miracle from the rainforest, I have become increasingly convinced of its tremendous healing power. It seems to have the ability to help people suffering from many different illnesses both acute and chronic, sometimes in just a matter of a few days. I have personally received testimonials from alternative practitioners, health stores and individuals from all across the United States and other countries, who claim that Cat's Claw, also known as U–a de Gato or in Latin as Uncaria tomentosa Willd DC, has literally changed their patients, customers and personal lives.

    Though most of these claims are anecdotal in nature, they nevertheless give us reason for optimism. Based on these reports, there is evidence that Cat's Claw can help, at least in some cases, people suffering from tumors and growths, arthritis, bursitis, gout, fibromyalgia, asthma, hay fever, allergies, chemical and environmental sensitivities, multiple sclerosis, shingles, canker sores, chronic fatigue and depression, candidiasis, parasites, dysbiosis, Crohn's disease, ulcers, gastritis, hemorrhoids and inflammatory bowel, prostate problems, diabetes, hypoglycemia, PMS and menstrual irregularities, circulatory problems and various viral and bacterial infections, including secondary infections in AIDS patients. There have also been reports of Cat's Claw's effectiveness in reducing the side effects of both radiation and chemotherapy when used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments. Will all this stand up to scientific scrutiny? I believe that in time it will; however, we will have to wait until the appropriate clinical trials have been completed. For now, at least, Cat's Claw seems to be virtually non-toxic and safe to use up to as much as 20 grams per day for several weeks to several months at a time. This is the amount generally used by the indigenous people of Peru, who boil inner bark and/or root in a liter of water for 30 minutes, then consume this decoction throughout the day for a variety of illnesses.

    Here in the U.S. individuals with minor illnesses have often responded with as little as 2-4 grams per day in capsule or tablet form. I personally have been taking 1 gram (1,000 mg.) three times per day almost every day for the past three years. I have found this amount to virtually eliminate the pain and discomfort in my lower back associated with an arthritic condition that developed as a result of two car accidents.

    I have also witnessed Cat's Claw's ability to clear-up sinus, ear and throat infections in 48 to 72 hours and I have used drops of tea in the eyes to clear-up conjunctivitis and powdered herb between toes to clear-up athlete's foot.

    So, what is it that makes Cat's Claw such a powerful natural medicine? The answer lies in the herb's unique phytochemical make-up. In all, the herb contains five different groups of beneficial plant compounds. These include: alkaloids, polyphenols and proanthocyanidins, triterpines, glycosides, and phytosterols. Laboratory research in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, England and Peru has demonstrated that these compounds possess immune augmenting, anti-microbial, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-ulcer, anti-oxidant and adaptogen properties.

    Because Cat's Claw has been referred to as an adaptogen and anti-oxidant herb, it is suitable to be used on a daily basis by those seeking to maintain maximum resistance to the stresses and strains of modern life. Is Cat's Claw an herb for everyone? No, there is a small percentage of people who should not use the herb. These include: anyone taking anti-ulcer medications, transplant patients or those being injected with foreign proteins as a part of their therapy. Cat's Claw can also cause uterine contractions and therefore, should not be taken by pregnant women or women seeking to conceive.

    What about side affects? In a small number of people, Cat's Claw will cause constipation or diarrhea and in rare occasions a slight fever or recurrence of former symptoms as it drives a deep seated pathology out of the body. These usually pass or normalize within two weeks. I have also heard of a few people who have broken out in a rash after taking Cat's Claw. For these reasons, I always suggest starting out with a lower dose and then gradually increase the amount over a ten to 30-day period.

    If side effects are going to occur, they will generally do so within the first week. It is important to keep in mind that these side effects are rare and that the vast majority do not experience any at all.

    Today, there is a wide variety of Cat's Claw products available in capsule, tablet, tea, liquid and powdered extract forms. Most products are made from the inner bark of the vine, however, I recently learned that a small amount of root & root bark is being harvested legally and ecologically in Peru and is now available in various products. Recent assays have determined that Cat's Claw root and root bark contain a significantly higher alkaloid content. There is also a highly specialized pharmaceutical extract developed from the root that is currently being used to treat cancer, AIDS and other diseases in Austria and Germany. The pharmaceutical has not been approved for sale in the U.S.; however, more products containing root and root bark will soon become available from health food stores, mail-order and network marketing companies.

Essiac and Cat's Claw
    Something new and promising is the prospect of using Cat's Claw with other medicinal herbs and plants. One such product has recently been introduced that combines Cat's Claw with watercress, burdock root, sheep sorrel, turkey rhubarb root and slippery elm bark. The last four herbs are what make up the original formula from Canada known as Essiac.

    In case you haven't heard of Essiac, here's the scoop: Rene Caisse, a registered nurse living in Canada learned of the original four herb formula from a patient in a hospital she had been working in. The patient reportedly had been cured of breast cancer by using this herbal preparation which had been given to her by an Ojibway Indian. In 1922 at the age of 33, Rene left the hospital and moved to Bracebridge, Ontario, where she began administering this formula to all who came to her. Later she named the formula Essiac, which is her last name spelled backwards.

    The majority of her patients were referred by physicians who certified them as being terminal or incurable by the accepted methods of treatment. Nurse Caisse prepared the herbal remedy in her own kitchen and administered it both orally and by injection. In cases where there was severe damage to life support organs, her patients died. However, many of them lived far longer than the medical professionals had predicted and more significantly, they lived free of pain. Others who were listed as hopeless and terminal, but without severe damage to life support systems were cured and lived 35 to 45 more years.

    Unfortunately, Caisse sold the rights to the name Essiac to a company in Canada which no longer prepares the individual herbs as she did and there are many knockoff products under different names, that do not prepare the herbs as she did either. In order for the herbs to be most effective, sheep sorrel must never be boiled or its medicinal properties will be destroyed. It must be simmered for 20 minutes at no higher that 140. Burdock root and turkey rhubarb root must be boiled for 20 minutes and slippery elm bark needs to be boiled for 20 minutes, allowed to cool and then boiled again for another 20 minutes. This is a tedious procedure that must be followed religiously if one expects to see the kind of results experienced by nurse Caisse's patients.

    A few years before her death, Caisse came to the United States and worked with Dr. Charles Brusch, the former personal physician to John F. Kennedy. Together they modified the original formula by adding a specific amount of watercress. This was done because the original formula contains a high level of oxalic acids which can contribute to forming kidney stones. Brusch and Caisse determined that the correct amount of watercress would help the kidneys flush the acids out of the system. Later this new five herb formula was given to Dr. Bill Maclean who began preparing all the herbs individually in order to maximize their effectiveness.

    Recently, Dr. Maclean began adding Cat's Claw to the formula and it is now being offered commercially under a number of different names. Though it is too soon to know how effective this new product will be, preliminary reports suggest that it may be helpful with cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and even AIDS. It is certainly a product worthy of further investigation by the wholistic health community.

    I suspect that over the next five years the potential of this product will become realized as more doctors and individuals begin using it. For now I am content in knowing that this product exists and is readily available to anyone who needs it.

Why Commercial Essiac and Most Essiac Knock-Off Products Are Only Partially Effective
(Author's addendum to the above article as follows):
    The original Essiac Formula given to Rene Caisse can be traced back to the native Ojibway Indians of Canada. It is a formula that she later simplified utilizing four herbs: Burdock root, Slippery Elm bark, Turkey Rhubarb root and Sheep Sorrel. Of these four, the first three are referred to as hard tissue herbs (roots and/or barks) while the fourth is a soft tissue herb (leaves and/or flowers). Hard tissue herbs must be boiled in order to release all of their medicinal properties, while soft tissue herbs must be simmered at a temperature not exceeding 140 degrees.

    The majority of these products available commercially today have all the herbs mixed together with instructions to either boil or simmer them and they cannot be prepared separately. If all herbs are boiled, the enzymes and other medicinal properties in the Sheep Sorrel will be destroyed. If all herbs are simmered together, much of the medicinal properties in the Burdock root, Slippery Elm bark and Turkey Rhubarb root will not be released.

    This is the reason why many people do not experience the same results that Rene Caisse did, with her 50 plus years of using the formula in Canada.

    I know of two commercial products available in the United States that have prepared the herbs according to the directions of Dr. Charles Brusch, the personal physician to John F. Kennedy, who later modified the formula with Rene Caisse, to include a specific amount of watercress. These products are known as Ezzeac Plus and Ezzeac Plus Cat's Claw.

    With the advice of Dr. Brusch, Dr. Bill Maclean created Ezzeac Plus and then later Ezzeac Plus Cat's Claw. Both are ready to use preparations, where the hard tissue herbs are boiled separately and the soft tissue herbs, including Watercress, are properly simmered. This is a labor intensive, more tedious procedure, resulting in a more expensive commercial product, at a higher cost to the consumer; however, when faced with a problem that this product might address, which product would you choose?

    There is no doubt in my mind. I would choose the product where all the herbs have been prepared in the proper manner: Ezzeac Plus or Ezzeac Plus Cat's Claw.

    Please note: The above information is the opinion of the author, based on interviews with Dr. Bill Maclean and anecdotal reports from both health practitioners and individuals who have used one or more of the products discussed.

Phil Steinberg, Editor/Publisher
Amazon Herb & Nutrition News
President - Wildfire Consulting &
Natural Health products
P.O. Box 1078
Washington, Missouri 63090 USA
Phone/Fax 314-390-0246
360-385-0699 (f

1983-2002 Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients
All Rights Reserved.