Uncaria

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Uncaria is a genus of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae, native to Asia, Africa, and South America. They are known colloquially as Gambier, Cat's Claw or Uña de Gato.

Indonesian Gambier (U. gambir) is a large tropical vine with typical leaves, which are opposite and about 10 cm long. At the base of the leaves is a cat-like claw, so the South American U. tomentosa is called Uña de Gato. There is also a Chinese species, U. sinensis. The flowers also originate at the base of the leaves; each pair of leaves may have a pair of globular inflorescences.

Uses

Cat's claw (U. tomentosa) and the Chinese species are used medicinally. The glycosidic compounds have recognized anti-inflammatory properties, while the alkaloids increase the reactivity of lymphocytes, granting higher response to viral infection. Cat's claw has two varieties depending on whether the alkaloids have four rings or five. The five-ring alkaloid variety is medicinal and is called "savéntaro" by the Asháninka.

Gambier (U. gambir) is used in Indonesia for chewing with areca and betel, for tanning, and for dyeing. It contains many catechins which are known to have many medicinal properties and are components of Chinese herbal remedies and certain modern medicines. To make gambier, the leaves are first boiled in water. They absorb it and turn brownish in color. The leaves are then pressed mechanically to squeeze and extract liquid. This liquid is then dried into a semi-solid paste and molded into cubes, which are dried in the sun. Gambier is generally packed in 50 kilogram multilayered packing (PP Bags inside and gunny bags outside).

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