In my search for Nature’s healing secrets, I’ve encountered some fascinating cultures. One of the most ancient and knowledgeable about healing herbs has been the Ashaninka people of Peru.
Since before recorded history, the Ashaninka have lived close to the land along the headwaters of the Amazon. I was one of the first Western doctors to visit them, and I’ll be telling you much more of that story in upcoming letters…
But today I want to talk to you about a closely guarded secret they revealed to me. You see, they are a fiercely independent people who hunt and farm sustainably across vast swathes of Peru’s rainforest. So they’ve come to understand the plants of the forest especially well. And there’s one they hold in special reverence.
It’s cat’s claw – or Uncaria tomentosa, as it’s known to science. The Ashaninka have understood its healing power for millennia. But we’re just beginning to discover its secrets.
And one of those secrets makes cat’s claw unique. You see, cat’s claw has a surprising effect on DNA.
DNA – which carries your genetic blueprint – is rather fragile. And it’s under constant attack from free radicals. Every day, thousands upon thousands of your DNA strands suffer damage from oxidation.
Normal antioxidants block a fair amount of this damage. But as you get older, your body’s antioxidant capacity shrinks. As your defenses weaken, DNA damage builds up, resulting in what we think of as the signs of aging.
Cat’s claw extracts contain powerful antioxidants. But where most antioxidants can only block damage, studies show cat’s claw also promotes DNA repair.
Your body can repair a limited amount of DNA damage. But if the repair can’t be made, one of two things happens. Either the cell self-destructs to prevent defective copies. Or else it goes rogue.
Skin cancer is a good example. Ultraviolet (UV) light generates free radicals in your skin cells. Your body’s antioxidant defenses mop up some of these destructive molecules. Others damage cell walls and other structures – including DNA.
Your body will try to repair any damage. But if the DNA can’t be repaired, the cell’s built-in self-destruct mechanism – called apoptosis – takes over. The cell dies, and thus can’t make defective copies.
It’s an elegant safety mechanism, but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, cells with damaged DNA survive. When they do, cell division may spin out of control. The defective cells start dividing out of control. The result is a tumor.
In the early 2000’s, science began to really take notice of cat’s claw. In Peru, studies showed it relieved the inflammation and pain of arthritis.1 Austrian researchers discovered cat’s claw could slow the growth of tumors – and even hasten the death of cancer cells.2 Other researchers found cat’s claw had a unique anti-aging effect.
Using human skin cells, scientists in New York showed cat’s claw can stimulate repair of DNA damaged by UV light.3 Doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center had similar results.4
But here’s the really important news: Researchers in Sweden showed that cat’s claw extract helps defend against DNA damage – and promotes DNA repair – in living, breathing human beings.5
The Swedish doctors used hydrogen peroxide to trigger free-radical damage in their volunteers. Some took cat’s claw extract, while others received a placebo.
The volunteers taking cat’s claw suffered less DNA damage… and also showed a much higher level of DNA repair.5
In the studies I’ve read, as little as 250 mg of cat’s claw daily promoted DNA defense and repair. None of these studies reported serious side effects, either.
I’ve got much more to tell you about cat’s claw and how you can use it for anti-aging, so look for more in my upcoming letters to you.
To Your Good Health,
1. Piscoya, J., et al, “Efficacy and safety of freeze-dried cat’s claw in osteoarthritis of the knee: mechanisms of action of the species Uncaria guianensis,” Inflamm Res. Sep 2001; 50(9): 442-448.