Cat's Claw Health Benefits - What to Expect
Cat's Claw, aka Uncaria tomentosa has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
"These health-promoting attributes may make cat’s claw possibly helpful as a natural treatment for arthritis, allergies, asthma, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, viral infections and more," according to Dr. Axe.
"Cat’s claw is a tropical woody vine belonging to the Rubiaceae plant family. It clings to the sides of trees as it grows by using its claw-shaped thorns. The trees are typically 100 feet or taller. At least 20 plants with sharp, curved thorns are considered to be cat’s claw or uña de gato."
For medicinal purposes, the root and and bark of the cat’s claw vine are made into tea, tinctures, capsules or tablets. Cat’s claw is full of beneficial plant chemicals. It’s said to contain over 30 known constituents, including at least 17 alkaloids, along with glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, sterol fractions and other compounds."
Cat’s claw has a lengthy history in South America dating back to the Inca civilization. It’s been used as traditional medicine by indigenous peoples in the Andes to treat inflammation, rheumatism, gastric ulcers, dysentery and even tumors. It’s also been used in South American folk medicine to treat arthritis, intestinal complaints and wounds. One of the most impressive effects of cat’s claw is its scientifically proven ability to repair DNA. (2)
WHAT IS CAT'S CLAW USED FOR?
ARTHRITIS - CAT'S CLAW BENEFITS
The most common use of Cat's Claw is for pain associated with arthritis.
"Multiple studies have confirmed using cat’s claw to naturally improve both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. In a 2001 study, 45 subjects suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee either took 100 milligrams per day of freeze-dried cat’s claw or a placebo for four weeks. Researchers found that “pain associated with activity, medical and patient assessment scores were all significantly reduced with benefits occurring within the first week of therapy.” Knee pain at rest or at night and knee circumference were not significantly reduced by cat’s claw during the short trial, but results led researchers to conclude that cat’s claw is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis with no significant side effects." (3)
BLOOD PRESSURE - CAT'S CLAW BENEFITS
Cat’s claw’s ability to improve blood pressure has been attributed to an alkaloid called hirsutine. This health-promoting alkaloid has been found to specifically act at the calcium channels of the heart and blood vessels as a calcium channel blocker. (11) Why is this significant? Calcium channel blockers can lower blood pressure by blocking calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. Calcium channel blockers also widen and relax the blood vessels themselves, which helps blood flow in a healthy, smooth manner.
CAT'S CLAW FOR IMMUNE FUNCTION
Both animal and human studies have demonstrated cat claw’s powerful immune-boosting abilities. In one animal study, researchers gave subjects a water-soluble extract of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) for eight weeks. They found that this supplementation significantly elevated subjects’ infection-fighting white blood cell count. Researchers also observed a repair of DNA, both single and double strand breaks. These two highly impressive findings came with no signs of acute or chronic toxicity in the animal subjects. (11)
Another human study had adults supplement with cat’s claw for two months before receiving pneumonia vaccination. The results showed “statistically significant immune enhancement” in the individuals taking the cat’s claw supplements compared to the untreated control group. (12) While I’m by no means promoting pneumonia vaccinations (especially when there are great natural ways to prevent and treat pneumonia symptoms), it’s an impressive study of cat’s claw and its immune-boosting effects in humans.
How to Use Cat’s Claw
The traditional use of cat’s claw was to make a tea from the inner bark of the vine. You can buy cat's claw powder here.
HISTORICAL USAGE OF CAT'S CLAW
Cat’s claw is also called the “life-giving vine of Peru.” Its use for health purposes actually dates back to the ancient Inca civilization in Peru. Cat’s claw or uña de gato is also the most sacred herb among the Ashaninkas, Campo and other Amazonian tribes. According to indigenous Shamans, uña de gato serves as a bridge and balancer between the physical and spiritual worlds, which is helpful to health problems since they believe in spiritual causes of bad health.
Today, ethically harvested cat’s claw bark continues to be a significant source of income for many Peruvian and Brazilian villages.
Possible Side Effects and Caution with Cat’s Claw
Cat’s claw is generally well-tolerated by users and considered non-toxic. Few side effects have been reported when it’s taken in small amounts, but some people taking the herb have reported dizziness, nausea and diarrhea. However, diarrhea or loose stools are typically mild and subside with continued use of the herb.
Talk to your doctor before taking cat’s claw if you currently take any medication because cat’s claw is known to interact with several medications, including high blood pressure and immune-modulating drugs. Also, talk to your doctor first if you have any ongoing health concerns, especially any type of autoimmune illness (like multiple sclerosis and lupus), bleeding disorder, low blood pressure or leukemia.
This article was adapted from an original article on Cat's Claw. The original piece in its entirety can be found here.