Published in Healthy & Natural Journal, October 1994

Herbal Treasures from the Amazon

by Dr. Donna Schwontkowski

Part 1:
Blood-Sugar Regulating and Immune-Enhancing Herbs

July 30, 1994
The following is the first in a three part series:
Case History: Anne
Anne, a distraught 54-year-old woman, had just returned from an annual check-up that uncovered a fasting blood sugar level of 190 mg/dl (normal levels are 80-120 mg/dl). Although she had no symptoms other than occasional fatigue, she was told that she has a prediabetic condition; a condition which, if left unchecked for long periods of time, can result in diabetes mellitus.

Diabetes mellitus affects about 14 million Americans and is the fourth leading cause of death by disease in the United States. Diabetes takes the lives of more than 150,000 people each year. It is a major cause of heart disease, stroke and kidney dise ase, and is the number one cause of new cases of blindness and amputations in the U.S.

Everyone knows that there is no cure for diabetes and that once told they have it, patients must learn to live with the disease. The overall objectives of treatment are to prolong life and improve the quality of life as much as possible. Treatment is directed specifically toward: (1) relieving the symptoms; (2) improving the body's ability to metabolize glucose and correcting faulty metabolism; (3) preventing or correcting complications; and (4) assuring adequate nutrition.

Anne's doctor sent her home with advice to lose weight, exercise, and "hope that next month's blood sugar levels will return to normal." The Midwestern winter, however, prevented her from long, regular outdoor walks-her only feasible method of exercise . She felt she needed additional help.

Anne came to me with the hope that somewhere in the deepest jungles of the Amazon were plants that the natives had discovered to treat similar conditions. She was willing to use these plants on a trial basis to prevent diabetes from becoming a reality.

Help From the Amazon Rainforests

My own research into the medicinal effects of Brazilian and Peruvian herbs had uncovered several plants with reported activities of lowering blood sugar levels, normalizing the frequency of urination, and eliminating glucose in the urine of diabetics. Much of the research was ethnobotanical; however, several scientific studies showed the effectiveness of these herbs in cases of adult-onset diabetes in reducing blood sugar levels, sometimes up to 35%. These herbs were true treasures for Anne.

Anne took a combination of the herbs Pata de vaca, Pedra hume caa, Stevia and Cashew plant daily in-between meals when her blood sugar levels needed regulation. (See Table 1 for scientific names of these plants.) The results were qu ite exciting. After one month, her blood sugar level fell to 140 mg/dl. After two months, it was down to 110 mg/dl (within normal range), and it stayed there for her next annual checkup. She hadn't lost any weight through dietary modification or exerc ise.

Other Medicinal Effects Reported from Plants in the Amazon

Plants with blood sugar-regulating activity are only one category of helpful herbs with medicinal effects from the Amazon. Of the more than 200,000 plant species in the Amazon, many have been found to have antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial a ctivity - activity which stimulates the body's immune system.

The most powerful immune-enhancing herb is Una de gato. Research from 1970 through the present (by Klaus Keplinger and others in Austria, Germany, England, Hungary and Italy) has shown beneficial effects of Una de gato in the treatments f or cancer, genital herpes, systemic candidiasis and AIDS. Six alkaloids isolated from the plant root have been found to significantly enhance the ability of the white blood cells to attack, engulf and digest harmful micro-organisms or foreign matter, th us assisting the process of phagocytosis in the body.

My own preliminary studies on the immune-enhancing properties of Una de gato have uncovered the following:

  1. An ability to stop viral infections in the early stages (when an individual feels an infection starting and/or already has a fever, fatigue, muscle aches and sore throat). One patient reported that his viral infection symptoms cleared within 8 hours after taking Una de gato.
  2. An ability to help patients who are chemically-sensitive, decreasing the fatigue which accompanies this problem and reducing the severity of symptoms.
  3. An ability to significantly enhance emotional stability, even in the midst of extreme stress from personal problems. One patient commented, "I just can't get depressed anymore, no matter what happens. It's this Amazon herb!"
  4. An ability to help the body fight infections better in AIDS patients. One patient reported, "I ran out of the fungicide for the skin rash on my face and used a bacteriocidal agent until I could get a new prescription. The bactericide didn't work an d the rash started coming back. I used Una de gato and after just three days, the rash cleared up on my face. I feel that it's my own body working against the fungus as a result of the Una de gato."
  5. An ability to decrease the visible size of some skin, tumor or cyst growths within two weeks.

Table 1
Scientific Names of
Blood-Sugar Regulating Amazon Herbs

Common Name Scientific Name
Pata de vaca Baujinia fortificata
Pedra hume caa Myrcia salicifolia
Stevia Stevia rebaudiana bertoni
Cashew Plant Anacardium occidentale


Una de gato also has anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. These properties explain its usefulness in the treatment of arthritis, bursitis, allergies and numerous bowel and intestinal disorders. There have been several case histories cited in literature where Una de gato has been linked with the remission of intractable brain and other tumors and give relief to the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Although Una de gato is probably the most powerful immune system enhancer from the Amazon, there are other herbs that can make a significant difference in immune status. When combined together, they can decrease the course of time that allergic reactions and infections normally run. They may clear up the sinus congestion which occurs with ragweed sensitivities. Immune-system enhancing herbs that work well together include Pau d'Arco, Espinheira Santa, Jatoba, Suma and Una de gato. (See Table 2 for the scientific names of these herbs.)

Table 2
Scientific Names of
Immune-Enhancers from the Amazon

Common Name Scientific Name
Pau d'Arco Tecoma impetiginosa
Espinheira Santa Maytenus ilicifolia
Jatoba Hymenaea courbaril
Suma Pfaffia paniculata
Una de Gato Uncaria tomentosa


Pau d' Arco is thought to eliminate toxins in the body and purify the blood, and it has anti-fungal properties. In an original weight loss research study performed in Chicago in 1992, 1 found that women's chronic yeast infections cleared up p romptly when Pau d'Arco was added to the formula. Pau d'Arco also has anti-inflammatory characteristics, making it useful in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Some researchers report its ability to increase red blood ce ll counts and eliminate some symptoms associated with cancer.

Espinheira santa's effects also include the elimination of toxins in the body. This plant is sometimes used as an anti-asthmatic agent. Espinheira santa benefits the intestinal tract and the immune system indirectly by inhibiting pathoge nic bacteria and helping restore the intestinal flora, a characteristic shared with Una de gato.

Suma, called "Brazilian ginseng," strengthens the immune system and reduces tumor formation. Of six pfaffic acid sugar compounds isolated from this plant, five of them were shown to inhibit cultured tumor cell melanomas. The nutrient compositi on of Suma shows it especially high in the trace element germanium, very important for proper immune system function. Suma is also a cellular oxygenator and contains two plant hormones, sitosterol and stigmasterol, which encourage estrogen produc tion and reduce high serum cholesterol levels. Some patients report an increased resistance to extreme highs or lows in the temperature of their environment from Suma.

These natural healing remedies from the Amazon are true treasures from the environment to those in need of blood sugar regulation or immune system enhancement, and many people find them very beneficial.

Dr Donna Schwontkowski obtained her doctorate degree in chiropractic medicine from National College of Chiropractic in Lombard, Illinois simultaneously with a Master's Degree in Nutrition from Northern Illinois University in 1990. Her long-standing interest in natural healing therapies and extensive experience in the field of nutrition prompted a research project in 1991 on the effects of an Amazonian herbal combination on weight loss in adults. She continues to research the Rainforest herbs and is currently on a nationwide radio circuit to educate people on how they may benefit from the use of these herbs. Her chiropractic practice emphasizes the natural healing treasures from the Amazon Rainforest.

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