Cat's Claw Health Benefits
Cat's Claw, aka Uncaria tomentosa has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Molly Helfend over at House of Citrine writes:
“Sacred herb of the Rain Forest. Life-giving vine of Peru. Uña de gato. These are all names used to describe the medicinal tropical vine known in western cultures as Cat's Claw. A member of the Rubiaceae family, Cat's Claw is a sacred plant traditionally used in Peruvian cultural medicine and more recently introduced into western herbalists’ armamentarium. Not much research has been done on this herb, but what has been found is astronomical. “Research has shown the plant contains immune stimulating alkaloids, which also enhance the parasympathetic nervous system” (Horne, 2010).
In simpler terms, it is an immune stimulating powerhouse that been proven to help eliminate free radicals that cause cellular damage. It curatively inhibits cancer growth and improves DNA repair. Some say, it works better than medicinal mushrooms! It is also used to relieve chronic pain and fantastic for curing intestinal inflammation and disorders. Because of its immunity enhancing properties, it is one of the “most sacred [herbs] 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” (Draxe, 2016). There is a certain supernatural ability and consciousness when ingesting this herb. What is also interesting, is that Cat's Claw looses its medicinal potency when absorbed directly through the tongue. Washing a tincture down with water or any other preparation with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar is key to allowing the magic to permeate into the jungle of your soma and soul.
Phytochemistry: Alkaloids, glycosides, procyanidins, saponins.
Herbal Actions: Adaptogenic, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antimutagenic immunostimulant,
How to Prepare: Tincture, tea, capsule, liquid extract, cream
What to Use For: Rheumatism, arthritis, inflammatory problems. cancerous cell formation, gastric ulcers, stomach and bowel disorders, colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut and bowel syndrome, gastritis, viral and fungal infections, Herpes, Candida.
Growing Conditions: Cultivated in Brazil, Peru and other Amazonian regions of South America, it requires more shade, which is why it is primarily managed in tropical rainforests. The trees themselves are typically 100 feet or higher.
Harvesting Methods: Because of the destructiveness to the tree organism, the root is not as commonly harvested. However, the inner bark is inexpensive and common amongst trade producers. Please leave the harvesting to the local indigenous farmers of South America. It is best to buy Cat's Claw from a local apothecary or sustainable and trusted fair-trade supplier.
Parts of Plant Used: Inner bark and root
Precautions: Very few side effects, but some people reported dizziness, nausea and diarrhea when taken in large amounts.
Molly’s “Superherb" Savory Chocolate Delight
1 cup Yerba Mate
2 tbs Cacao Powder
1 tbs Tocos
1 tbs Cat’s Claw
1 tbs Tigernuts
1 tbs Maca
1 tsp Chrawnaprash
1 tsp Vanilla Powder
Splash of Raw Coconut Milk
*Optional* - Dash of Peppermint Essential Oil
Steep 1 cup of Yerba Mate in boiling water for suggested time. If Cat's Claw is in dried bulk form, steep in 1 cup of boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes. (If it is in tincture or liquid extract, please put suggested amount directly into the blender). Once ready, pour both steeped teas into the blender with the cacao powder, tocos, tigernuts, maca, chrawnaprash and vanilla powder. Blend until smooth. Pour into mug or glass jar and add a splash of coconut milk. Enjoy!
"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.