One small study has had remarkable success with a rare type of cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa). The benefits of most types of cat's claw are counteracted by tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids (TOA), which prevent the most active compounds, pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids (POA), from helping to boost the immune system. Even a tiny amount of TOA can undo most of the positive benefits of POA.
However, cat's claw from the Peruvian jungle, called prima u~na de gato, or samento, is virtually TOA-free. It also contains lavish amounts of acid glycosides, found in the latest quinolone antibiotics, the standard treatment for Lyme. The herb is a natural and selective antimicrobial - unlike conventional antibiotics - and also offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-infective effects. POA can repair the immune-system damage caused by Bb, and helps to ultimately overpower the infection.
In a pilot study of 28 patients conducted by noted US cardiologist William Lee Cowden, half carried on taking antibiotics, and half followed an alternative regime, including a personalised diet, detoxification and 600 mg/day of samento. Of the 14 patients taking the antibiotics, three improved slightly, three got worse and the rest had no change in their condition. In contrast, all but one (who dropped out for cancer treatment) of the samento-treated group reported dramatic improvements. At the end of six months, 85 per cent of the patients tested negative for Bb (Cowden WL et al., 'Pilot study of pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of Uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of Lyme disease', presented at The International Symposium for Natural Treatment of Intracellular Microorganisms, M"unich, Germany, 29 March 2003).
Scientists investigating TOA-free cat's claw suggest that it should be taken for eight to 12 months to kill all generations of spirochaetes in the body. The herb should also be combined with a wholefood diet and an extensive detox programme.