An herbal supplement company often has, at its heart, one singular plant that connects back directly to its founders’ story and mission — a botanical that was instrumental in helping the company evolve while supporting the health and wellness of its customers.
For NutraMedix, that plant is Samento.
Years before Tim Eaton, co-founder of NutraMedix, tasted his first Samento, a small group of scientists from an Austrian pharmaceutical company stumbled upon a rare form of cat’s claw in the Amazon rainforest. It was a cat’s claw that looked like any other, but when analyzed it contained no tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids (TOAs).
An oxindole alkaloid is a compound that has many different potentials, and they interact with a person’s biological processes. What the Austrian scientists understood is that TOAs counteract most of the immune-supporting factors in cat’s claw, and not having them would make their cat’s claw all the more effective.
But there was a problem. While in the jungle, they could not distinguish the cat’s claw that contained TOAs from the cat’s claw that did not — the vines all looked the same, and the vast majority of their samples had TOAs. They soon recognized that they could not come close to getting the supply they needed to make it commercially available.
The Austrian pharmaceutical company then embarked on a multi-year process to develop an extraction method that would remove the TOAs from their cat’s claw.
Meanwhile, hiding in plain sight was a naturally-occurring TOA-free cat’s claw that was growing wild throughout the Amazon basin, benefiting the indigenous peoples who lived there.
In his twenties, Tim Eaton volunteered for a missionary aviation group, serving the countries of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. By the mid-1980s he considered himself the luckiest guy in the world, serving God and flying to remote areas in Peru.
Part of Tim’s training was to undergo a simulated crash survival test for three days in the Amazon jungle. All he had were his wits, his prior experience, and local tribesmen that would guide him on what he could and could not eat or drink.
Water, of course, is critical for survival, and he was introduced to these vines that were growing up into the canopy, which had hooked claws and ranged in diameter from two to three inches to a foot or more.
“Cut into the vine,” they told him. “It is a good source of water. You won’t get sick.” Upon cutting it, the water poured into Tim’s mouth, clear looking and tasting woody and bitter, as though it flowed through a bark filter.
And so, for the first time in his life, he tasted cat’s claw. What he didn’t know was how that moment would change his life.
During these early years in the 1980s, Tim would frequently touch down in the jungle, doing God’s work, drinking from cat’s claw and sharing many teas with the indigenous people of the Amazon, including teas made with the cat’s claw bark.
He spent many days and nights with the tribes, learning about their customs and sharing beliefs and stories. They taught him how to hunt, and when gathered around the fire amidst the laughter and camaraderie, he learned more about cat’s claw, that it was used for many things, and that it was an essential part of the Amazonian pharmacopeia.
While in Peru, Tim met and fell in love with his future wife, Bertha. In the early 1990s, the newly married Eatons moved to Florida, bringing with them a vision for their new company NutraMedix. They had clarity in how it would manifest itself: it would be God’s company and they would be its stewards.
The goal was to offer healing remedies from Peru to the U.S. public, and then utilize the profits to fund projects that addressed the physical and spiritual needs of the Peruvian people. The early projects focused on rescuing street children and supporting pastors and workers.
And the first botanical they would offer would be cat’s claw.
They began by bringing in very small quantities into the U.S. New to the business of herbal remedies, they eventually found Phillip Steinberg in Wisconsin who ground the bark into a powder, ready to be put in a capsule. A certified nutritional consultant, Phillip used it himself and was so impressed that he wrote many articles and a book about it: “Cat’s claw: Uncaria tomentosa, the wondrous herb from the Peruvian rainforest.”
News about NutraMedix’s cat’s claw began spreading, and the company began offering it in other forms: tea, pieces of bark, and a powdered extract. The early success allowed them to expand and be the first to introduce the Peruvian Maca root to the U.S. market. But that is another story.
From 1995 to 1999, they brought in 1,000 metric tons of cat’s claw, selling it direct to consumers and acting as wholesale suppliers to many of the world’s major supplement and herbal brands. Fifty percent of the profits were then donated to their missionary projects. A powerful virtuous cycle between the two Americas.
In the late 1990s an interesting request came from a wholesale client. They had received a shipment of NutraMedix cat’s claw, and soon after receipt they wrote, “We want a lot more of that, but it has to be the same type.” They also wanted more QC testing on the chemical analysis of each delivery.
It just so happened that at the same time the lab that NutraMedix was using for its chemical analysis gave Tim a call. The head of the lab said, “I'm driving down. I have some exciting news to report.” Two hours later he told Tim that NutraMedix had an extremely rare form of cat’s claw and proceeded to show what he had found: that the cat’s claw was naturally TOA-free.
Further study showed that a vast majority of cat’s claw contains TOAs which counteract most of the immune-supporting factors found in the vine. All-natural TOA-free cat’s claw acts differently and as a result, it is able to help maintain optimal immune system health without stimulating it.
It was at this moment that NutraMedix saw how its cat’s claw could lead to providing the needed funding for so many projects. Much to the disappointment of their wholesale accounts, the decision was made to only sell NutraMedix cat’s claw direct to consumers and healthcare professionals.
The TOA-free cat’s claw was sold and marketed as a rare pentacyclic chemotype of Uncaria tomentosa, and with its sales in place in the U.S., the company went overseas to Europe to expand the market for its products and reach more people with its health-supporting benefits. Their Bulgarian distributor operated a large private clinic in the Balkans. NutraMedix sent an initial shipment of 2,000 bottles and heard nothing for several months. Then the orders started pouring in: 10,000 bottles a month. At the time Bulgaria was not a part of the European Union and its people were not restricted in what they could say about TOA-free cat’s claw like we are in the U.S. Word about its benefits spread, articles were written, and the book “Samento: Health for Everyone” was published and widely read. In the 20 ensuing years, the Bulgarian distributor has sold more than $50 million worth of the vine, a testament of how it has benefited so many people in this small country.
NutraMedix could not make many of the same claims in the United States, but what it could say was that the TOA-free cat’s claw offered many benefits: antioxidant support, blood sugar support, cardiovascular support, immune system support, inflammatory response support, microbial support, and neurological support. Bit by bit, more Americans discovered how it could support their health and wellness, and sales increased.
With all of these events occurring within such a short time, it was essential that the source of TOA-free cat’s claw be solidified. But would they be like the Austrians, and only find it occasionally, and by chance?
That did not happen, and for Tim and Bertha it was clear why. God was orchestrating this convergence, blessing the company’s intention with special access to this wondrous plant. Beyond sales, this product was helping those in need in not only South America, but on other continents as well. To honor its contribution, and distinguish it from other cat’s claw, Tim turned to God and remembered what the tribes in Peru called it: Samento.
Tim and his team at NutraMedix spend time throughout the year travelling across the globe, visiting projects they support, and sourcing botanical ingredients. They return to the Amazon rainforest frequently. Tim joins his former missionary pilot colleagues in their single engine aircraft, landing on tiny patches of clearing and reuniting with his friends in the jungle. He brings botanists who understand the local ecology, doctors versed in indigenous traditions and, when needed, guides who have developed a trusting relationship with the villages and tribes. When they can’t fly in, they drive to the river and then take a canoe with a small Briggs & Stratton motor attached to the back. Every visit is a new exploration.
Over the years of studying and sourcing Samento, NutraMedix has learned to appreciate its personality. One aspect is how it changes. A vine can be TOA-free, and a year later it’s not. It can vary in its TOA levels from 1% all the way to 20% and more. It can also become TOA-free after it was identified earlier as having TOAs. Studies have shown that even a small percent of TOAs can affect how cat’s claw supports a healthy immune system. So, finding TOA-free is essential, and mysterious.
Whenever Tim and his team are sourcing Samento, the question always arises, “Are we finding Samento — or is Samento finding us?” It is a relationship built on trust, between the plant, the Creator, and stewardship of NutraMedix.
The Samento products of today that come in the NutraMedix liquid bottles are not exactly the same as the capsules of yesterday. The ingredient is the same, but the proprietary extraction process has made for a more vibrant herbal remedy, which has been evaluated by universities in multiple countries.
Progress is integral to the stewardship of Samento. So is the care, intention and prayer that goes into sourcing, processing, and testing it.
This stewardship has attracted amazing people to enter the NutraMedix orbit.
One such man is the integrative physician William Lee Cowden, MD, MD (H). Years ago at a health conference Dr. Cowden met a young man with significant health challenges. Aware of Samento, Dr. Cowden recommended the man take it and within two weeks he was well. Samento clearly had special qualities, but what about the company that made and sold it? Was what it said about its mission true, or was it just marketing? Dr. Cowden requested a meeting with Tim and asked a wide range of questions that investigated the authenticity and integrity of the company and its founders. Once satisfied, he said, “I really want to work with you, and I'd love to help your company fulfill its mission.” This was the start of a professional and personal relationship that led to the development of the Cowden Support Program, a protocol utilizing 14 NutraMedix products for unresolved health challenges.
In 2018, the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru, began conducting research on NutraMedix products. For more than two decades the director of the research department Leon Villegas Vilchez had been testing cat’s claw. While this is becoming a familiar reaction of those first introduced to Samento, it never tires. He contacted Tim immediately and said, “I didn’t think this rare type of cat’s claw really existed. I thought it was a myth.” He went on to exclaim that in all his years of working with cat’s claw, NutraMedix Samento was the only cat’s claw that actually met the criteria of the U.S. Pharmacopeia, that it was the only cat’s claw where the tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids were actually non-detectable using their state-of-the-art high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) laboratory equipment. Soon NutraMedix sent other products to his lab, leading Leon to eventually say, “I've never seen a line of products from a company where they all do what you say they do.”
And Samento led Tim to meet Dr. Bill Bright. Bill was the founder of the Campus Crusade for Christ in the 1950s. In the early 2000s Bill was dealing with a long-term illness. By the time he heard about Samento, he had been told he only had months to live. Bill contacted Tim, who then went to meet him. What might have been a short acquaintance of a few months grew into deep friendship lasting two years before Bill passed. He inspired Tim to continue his work with Samento and other herbal remedies, and his work for those in need. He wrote to Tim saying, “Your many gifts of health-giving materials…have no doubt been used by our dear Lord to extend my life. I pray that the good seed which you have sown will bear fruit a hundred, yes even a thousand-fold in the future.”
Bill Bright also left him these words of wisdom. “Tim, if God can trust you, he'll continue to bless you. If God can trust you with His money, He'll continue to bless you, so you can bless others."
And so, what began as survival training in the Amazon, has flourished into a God-given, tangible, and measurable virtuous cycle. The water of Samento, though bitter and woody in taste, is one that offers sweet sensation, blessing not only Tim and Bertha, but millions of others.