Cat’s claw is native to the Amazon and tropical areas of South and Central America. It is a thick woody vine that has hook-like thorns that form a pattern along the vine resembling a cat’s claw. The two most common types of cat’s claw are Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis.
This plant has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Certain Peruvian tribes – the Asháninka tribe of Peru and the Cashibo tribe of eastern Peru – have used the cat’s claw bark to treat certain ailments including asthma, inflammation and believed that it could cleanse the body.
Research and studies conducted by Klaus Keplinger has helped study the benefits of cat’s claw since the 1980s. Today, cat’s claw is used to treat a number of ailments and has, to an extent, proven to be effective for many.
7 Health Benefits Of Cat’s Claw
1. Treats Arthritis
There are many studies that have established that cat’s claw, alone or in combination with other herbs or supplements, is useful
There is a study that shows that a cat’s claw extract called vincaria when combined with a natural mineral supplement, sierrasil, relieved osteoarthritis symptoms, in particular of the knee. This suggests that cat’s claw can be used in treating osteoarthritis.1
Cat’s claw also finds its use in treating rheumatoid arthritis. It helps reduce inflammation, one of the main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. A study about the extract of cat’s claw shows that the pentacyclic chemotype of the plant had a significant effect in treating rheumatoid arthritis.2
Although cat’s claw can be used to treat arthritis, there is no evidence
2. May Relieve Cancer Symptoms
Cat’s claw has anti-inflammatory, mutagenic, and antimutagenic properties. There is a study that investigated the effects of the extracts obtained from the bark of the plant. This study showed the antiproliferative effects of the extract on the growth of a human breast cancer cell line.3
Another study showed the antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of highly purified oxindole alkaloids obtained from uncaria tomentosa on human leukemia cells.4
These studies suggest an effective use
3. Enhances DNA Repair
Many studies have been conducted to prove that cat’s claw has the ability to repair DNA. An animal study involving female rats was conducted. The rats were fed a water-soluble extract of Uncaria tomentosa (C-MED-100) for a couple of weeks. It was reported that there was an increase in white blood cells and there were significant improvements in the repair of DNA single strand and double stand breaks with negligible signs of toxicity.5
The effect of the extract – C-MED-100 – was examined in a human volunteer study. The results report that there was a significant decrease in DNA damage and a significant increase in DNA repair.6
Because of its anti-inflammatory and DNA repair properties, studies have shown that it may be used to protect the skin from cell death due to the exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV). Based on these results, cat’s claw may be used as a natural plant extract in sunscreens.7
4. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Rhynchophylline, an alkaloid in cat’s claw, has shown an ability to prevent platelet aggregation. This means that it may be useful in preventing strokes and reducing the risk of heart attacks by lowering the blood pressure, increasing blood circulation, and inhibiting the formation of plaque on arterial walls and formation of blood
Because of its benefit in reducing high blood pressure, cat’s claw can be used in the treatment of hypertension.
5. Boosts The Immune System
Cat’s claw is a powerful immune system enhancer. The extracts of this herb were tested on a few HIV-infected patients and it showed some positive effects. However, further investigation is required to substantiate the use of cat’s claw in treating AIDS.9
The presence of the unique alkaloids in cat’s claw is one of the main reasons why it can enhance the immune system. The principal alkaloids are isopteropodine and rynchophyiline.
There is another study that reports the effective use of the herb in reducing symptoms in AIDS patients in Austria.10
6. Treats Lyme Disease
There is a particular cat’s claw that have been used in the treatment of Lyme disease. Though it may not be as effective as other treatments, cat’s claw has benefited those suffering from Lyme disease.
This unique cat’s claw is called T.O.A-free cat’s claw. This type of cat’s claw is devoid of tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids (T.O.As). This cat’s claw has antibiotic and other healing properties.
A research was conducted on 28 Lyme disease sufferers. The study was 10 days long and included specific diets, detoxification, and nutrition components. The results show that many of the patients showed improvements.11 Because of the positive effects on Lyme disease patients, it has been used in the treatment of the disease.
7. Cleanses The Digestive Tract
Cat’s claw is also known to cleanse the digestive tract. It is recommended for those suffering from Crohn’s disease – a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the intestinal tract. Because of anti-inflammatory properties, it is said that 250 mg per day may reduce inflammation.12
A concoction (mixture) from the bark and roots of cat’s claw is used to treat inflammations associated with hemorrhoids.
It also used to treat other digestive issues like leaky gut syndrome, gastritis, urinary tract inflammations, gastric ulcers, and also helps with bowel and colon complaints.
It is always necessary to consult your doctor before you take cat’s claw. Keep the following precautions in mind before taking the herb as a tea or capsule.13
- The effects of cat’s claw has not been studied on children. Do not use the herb without consulting a doctor.
- Some side effects reported include dizziness, diarrhea, and nausea.
- Pregnant or nursing women should not take cat’s claw as it may cause miscarriage.
- People with autoimmune diseases, skin grafts, tuberculosis, or those undergoing organ transplants should not take cat’s claw unless prescribed by a doctor.
- Because of its benefit of lowering blood pressure, it is advised not to use cat’s claw if you already have an existing case of low blood pressure.
- Cat’s claw may increase the risk of bleeding if you are on blood-thinning medications like aspirin.
- It may also act as a diuretic. This helps your body to eliminate excess fluid. However, if you also take diuretic medications, you may experience electrolyte imbalance.
|↑1||Miller, Mark JS, Komal Mehta, Sameer Kunte, Vidyanand Raut, Jayesh Gala, Ramesh Dhumale, Anil Shukla et al. “Early relief of osteoarthritis symptoms with a natural mineral supplement and a herbomineral combination: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN38432711].” Journal of inflammation 2, no. 1 (2005): 11.|
|↑2||Mur, Erich, Frank Hartig, Günther Eibl, and Michael Schirmer. “Randomized double blind trial of an extract from the pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.” The Journal of rheumatology 29, no. 4 (2002): 678-681.|
|↑3||Riva, Luciana, Danila Coradini, Giovanni Di Fronzo, Vincenzo De Feo, Nunziatina De Tommasi, Francesco De Simone, and Cosimo Pizza. “The antiproliferative effects of Uncaria tomentosa extracts and fractions on the growth of breast cancer cell line.” Anticancer Research 21, no. 4A (2000): 2457-2461.|
|↑4||Bacher, Nicole, Martin Tiefenthaler, Sonja Sturm, Hermann Stuppner, Michael J. Ausserlechner, Reinhard Kofler, and Günther Konwalinka. “Oxindole alkaloids from Uncaria tomentosa induce apoptosis in proliferating, G0/G1‐arrested and bcl‐2‐expressing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia cells.” British journal of haematology 132, no. 5 (2006): 615-622.|
|↑5||Sheng, Yezhou, Carl Bryngelsson, and Ronald W. Pero. “Enhanced DNA repair, immune function and reduced toxicity of C-MED-100™, a novel aqueous extract from Uncaria tomentosa.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 69, no. 2 (2000): 115-126.|
|↑6||Sheng, Y., L. Li, K. Holmgren, and R. W. Pero. “DNA repair enhancement of
|↑7||Mammone, Thomas, Christina Åkesson, David Gan, Vincent Giampapa, and Ronald W. Pero. “A water soluble extract from Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s Claw) is a potent enhancer of DNA repair in primary organ cultures of human skin.” Phytotherapy Research 20, no. 3 (2006): 178-183.|
|↑8||Tabassum, Nahida, and Feroz Ahmad. “Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension.” Pharmacognosy reviews 5, no. 9 (2011): 30.|
|↑9||Singh, Gary. How To Boost Your Immune System Naturally? Lulu.com, 2008.|
|↑10||Steinberg, P. N. “Cat’s Claw: an herb from the Peruvian Amazon.” SIDAhora: un
|↑11||Rosner, Bryan. The Top 10 Lyme Disease Treatments: Defeat Lyme Disease with the Best of Conventional and Alternative Medicine. BioMed Publishing Group, 2007.|
Crohn disease. Penn State Health.
|↑13||Cat’s claw. University of Maryland Medical Center.|