Uncaria tomentosa (Willd.) DC.--ethnomedicinal use and new pharmacological, toxicological and botanical results

J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Jan;64(1):23-34. doi: 10.1016/s0378-8741(98)00096-8.


The medicinal system of the Asháninka Indians in Perú is portrayed. Three categories of medical disorders and healers are recognized. A human is viewed to consist of a physical and a spiritual being who communicate with each other by means of a regulating element. The significance of Uncaria tomentosa (Willd.) DC. (Rubiaceae), locally known as unã de gato, in traditional medicine is emphasized by its exclusive use by priests to influence this regulation. Pharmacological and toxicological results obtained with extracts or isolated compounds are summarized. Pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids stimulate endothelial cells in vitro to produce a lymphocyte-proliferation-regulating factor. Tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids act as antagonists. A significant normalization of lymphocyte percentage was observed in vivo although total leucocyte numbers did not change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Alkaloids / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Cell Line / drug effects
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Indians, South American
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Mice
  • Peru
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Alkaloids
  • Plant Extracts