What is Pata de Vaca?
Pata de Vaca has several names it goes by, including Pezuña de Vaca, the Brazilian Orchid Tree, Cow’s Foot, and its scientific name Bauhinia forficata. This flowering tree is native to several South American countries, including Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay. The tree’s branches are densely packed with green leaves, and it possesses white flowers with five petals each. The leaves are said to resemble a hoof, hence the common name “Cow’s Foot.” It is a shorter tree, reaching approximately 10-15 feet in height, and it is often found in rain-forests.
When used for medicinal purposes, typically the leaves are harvested to make an oral supplement or tea. However, recent research also suggests it may have practical applications when used topically. Additionally, out of all the plants used as a medicinal herbal remedy, Pata de Vaca ranks as one of the top twenty used in the world, according to a study conducted in 2002. This makes Pata de Vaca a fantastic economic resource for the country of Brazil and an easily accessible herbal treatment. It is said to have a mild flavor that is well complimented by the addition of cinnamon when ingested as a beverage.
Pata de Vaca Benefits and Uses
The most common and most well-documented use of Pata de Vaca is as an anti-diabetic treatment. This use was investigated in a study conducted in 2002 when a concoction of 150 grams of leave were mixed with 1 liter of water and given to diabetic rats for a period of one month. At the end of the trial, the rats showed to have lower serum and urinary glucose levels. The rats also appeared to have an improved carbohydrate metabolism, although the mechanism behind this was not fully understood at the time of the study. Although several studies in the early 2000s report similar results in other animal models, a small human clinical trial conducted in 1990 showed no difference in hypoglycemic index between the treatment (Pata de Vaca) and the placebo. More investigation still needs to be conducted on humans to determine if those results were true or if there were other confounding factors that were not taken into account.
Pata de Vaca may also improve bad cholesterol levels. In fact, many of the studies that report that the plant may have benefits for diabetes also report improved cholesterol levels. While its anti-cholesterol effects have not been the sole subject of study, the results seen in many of the diabetic rats warrant further study in this area. Its potential use to lower cholesterol is supported in its traditional use in many South American cultures. Thus, it may benefit those with bad cholesterol who are not necessarily diabetic.
Aside from treating diabetes, one of the more traditional uses is to treat kidney and urinary disorders, particularly kidney stones. A series of three studies were conducted in 1994 (one study) and 1999 (two studies) that analyzed the compounds found in Pata de Vaca and the effects they may have on the human body. Although animal studies and clinical trials have not been conducted yet, these early studies predict that Pata de Vaca may help to relieve and prevent the formation of kidney stones. Additionally, the plant was shown to have compounds that may repair kidney damage. Potentially, some people have suggested that Pata de Vaca helps to heal the kidney by increasing urination, which in turns cleanses the body. However, this has not been scientifically investigated yet.
In a study conducted in 2005, aqueous extracts from Pata de Vaca were shown to have a reaction to snake venom that may prove useful for humans. In this study, the extracts from the leaves neutralized clotting activity from two species of pit vipers, Crotalus and Bothrops. When the extracts were exposed to human plasma, clotting time reduced significantly, and edema that occurs from Crotalus was inhibited. This work is very promising in that it may provide another source of anti-venom for these two snakes and potentially other species of pit vipers.
In 2013 a study was conducted to determine if Pata de Vaca could be used to reduce the motor function-related symptoms of antipsychotic drugs. The plant was tested on rats, and a minor result of the experiment showed that the plant had antioxidant properties which prevent vacuous or unnecessary chewing movements. Much more research needs to be conducted to evaluate the antioxidant properties, but there may be beneficial repercussions for the research of locomotor activity.
Pata de Vaca Dosage
Pata de Vaca is commonly consumed as a tea. To make your own tea, take 20 grams of dried leaves and combine with 4 cups of purified water. The mixture should be boiled for 20 minutes and then can be consumed as needed. It is recommended to drink 1 cup of tea 2-3 times a day.
Conversely, a 2 gram tablet can be consumed 2-3 times a day. Multiple sources suggest using this treatment for a period of approximately two months to treat diabetes, although this treatment has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Pata de Vaca Side Effects, Safety, Dangers and Warnings
Not enough information is known at this time to determine if Pata de Vaca if safe for pregnant women. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is safer to avoid consuming Pata de Vaca. Additionally, there is not proven safe or effective dose for children.
Pata de Vaca is known to interfere with blood sugar levels. If you are diabetic, use with caution and consult with a medical professional before ingesting. Do not use Pata de Vaca in place of insulin, as it has not been shown to have any effect on insulin levels. Because it can affect blood sugar control, do not take Pata de Vaca two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
If you are hypoglycemic, you may want to avoid Pata de Vaca, as it will lower your blood sugar even further.
Pata de Vaca may increase the risk of bleeding when taken in combination with other blood thinners.
Toxicity has only been evaluated in an animal study involving diabetic rats. However, in that study Pata de Vaca did not have any toxic effects.