Cat’s claw is native to Central and South America and has been used for hundreds of years in folk medicine for an array of health concerns. Scientists and researchers all over the world have found that this little-known botanical plant has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that support DNA repair, joint health, immune function, and normal cell division.
Uncaria guianensis, mostly used for wound healing, and Uncaria tomentosa, which has numerous medicinal uses and is most commonly found in supplements are the two known species of cat’s claw. Cat’s claw is also an abundant source of phytochemicals with more than 30 known constituents including at least 17 alkaloids, along with glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, sterol fractions, and other compounds. Scientists previously attributed the efficacy of cat’s claw to compounds called oxindole alkaloids; more recently, however, water-soluble cat’s claw extracts that do not contain significant amounts of alkaloids were found to possess strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Cat’s Claw Antioxidant & Anti-inflammatory Benefits
According to research and laboratory analysis, the potent antioxidant power of cat’s claw surpasses that of many extracts of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and medicinal plants.
Cat’s claw extract inhibits the production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, an inflammatory messenger that sets the stage for both acute and chronic inflammation. Cat’s claw likewise inhibits the activation of nuclear factor-kappa beta, an inflammatory “switch” associated with cancer and other deadly diseases. Cat’s claw also decreased the experimentally induced release of prostaglandin E2, an inflammatory mediator associated with conditions such as arthritis.
Cat’s Claw and Arthritis
Cat’s claw extracts ability to inhibit inflammation helps to promote healthy joint structure and function, as well as relieving the pain and discomfort of arthritis.
Scientists have discovered that cat’s claw may even protect cartilage. When human cartilage cells were exposed to joint-destroying interleukin-1 beta, cat’s claw helped restore levels of joint-protective insulin-like growth factor-1. By suppressing inflammatory agents that can degrade cartilage, while activating a cartilage-protective biochemical, cat’s claw may help to preserve healthy cartilage in aging joints.
Cat’s Claw What You Must Know
- In the Amazon rainforest, indigenous people have long used cat’s claw to treat inflammation, arthritis, stomach ulcers, and infections, and scientists believe this Peruvian vine holds great potential as a botanical therapeutic agent for human health.
- Scientists have proven that cat’s claw provides powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and may thus help manage illnesses associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Cat’s claw helps protect joint cartilage and is efficient in relieving joint pain, indicating it is possibly helpful for people with arthritis.
- Cat’s claw extract improves markers of immune system health in animals and humans, suggesting that it may help guard against infectious invaders.
- Cat’s claw protects cellular DNA against damage and supports the repair of damaged DNA. This protection is considered essential in protecting against cancer.
- Cat’s claw may aid the fight against cancer by promoting healthy cell division, promoting the death of leukemia cells (cancer of the blood), and inhibiting the proliferation of breast cancer cells.
- Cat’s claw is generally considered safe, but should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, young children, people taking antihypertensive medications (see below), those with autoimmune conditions, or individuals undergoing organ or tissue transplants.
Safety of Cat’s Claw
Cat’s claw is considered non-toxic and is usually tolerated by most people with the most reported side effect being diarrhea. Because of cat’s claw ability to stimulate the immune system, it should be avoided by those undergoing organ transplants, skin grafts, and immunosuppressive therapy.
While evidence suggests that cat’s claw may benefit rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, it should not be used on a long-term basis in people with autoimmune disorders (such as lupus or multiple sclerosis) until further studies have been done. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under the age of three should avoid the use of cat’s claw.
Cat’s claw preparations can vary in dosage and standardization of active constituents. The usual dosage of a cat’s claw preparation is up to 350 mg daily, standardized to contain 8% carboxy alkyl esters.
NOTE: Some commercially available cat’s claw preparations contain compounds called tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids (TOAs) and pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids (POAs) at levels that may have an anti-hypertensive effect, and thus should not be used with antihypertensive (blood-pressure-lowering) drugs. However, this warning does not apply to cat’s claw extracts that use a process to remove high-molecular-weight TOA and POA compounds and limit their maximum concentration to 0.05%.
Health Benefits of Cat’s Claw
- powerful antioxidant
- supports immunity
- relieves arthritis discomfort
- protects cellular DNA
- supports the repair of damaged DNA
- promotes healthy cell division
- displays activity against leukemia cells
- fights infections
- inhibits the production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha
- anti-viral properties
- supports intestinal tract cleansing
- supports healthy circulation
- promotes healing of wounds
- useful for gastric ulcers
- anti-fungal properties
- anti-parasitic properties
- supports a healthy urinary tract
- kidney cleanser
- helps with gout
- strengthens respiratory system
Cat’s Claw Tea Recipe
Pour purified boiling water into a cup and add a few drops of lemon juice. The acid from the lemon juice will release the tannins in the tea.
Add the cat’s claw to the cup. If your cat’s claw is ground, use 1 to 2 tsp. in a typical tea strainer. If you are using cat’s claw bark, add one to two average-sized pieces.
Let the cat’s claw steep for five to 10 minutes. Remove the strainer from the cup. If you are using bark, remove the bark with a spoon.
Sweeten the tea to taste using a healthy sweetener. Cat’s claw tea does not have a very good natural flavor. Consider adding raw honey or spices to improve the taste.
WARNING: Avoid cat’s claw if pregnant or nursing. If taking prescription or over-the-counter meds, talk to your practitioner before using cat’s claw.
Resources & Reference
1. Williams JE. Review of antiviral and immunomodulating properties of plants of the Peruvian rainforest with a particular emphasis on Una de Gato and Sangre de Grado. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Dec;6(6):567-79.
2. Sheng Y, Akesson C, Holmgren K, Bryngelsson C, Giampapa V, Pero RW. An active ingredient of Cat’s Claw water extracts identification and efficacy of quinic acid. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jan 15;96(3):577-84. Covered by patent nos. 6,039,238 and 6,23,675.
3. Pilarski R, Zielinski H, Ciesiolka D, Gulewicz K. Antioxidant activity of ethanolic and aqueous extracts of Uncaria tomentosa (Willd.) DC. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Mar 8;104(1-2):18-23.
4. Piscoya J, Rodriguez Z, Bustamante SA, Okuhama NN, Miller MJ, Sandoval M. Efficacy and safety of freeze-dried cat’s claw in osteoarthritis of the knee: mechanisms of action of the species Uncaria guianensis. Inflamm Res. 2001 Sep;50(9):442-8.
5. Sandoval-Chacon M, Thompson JH, Zhang XJ, et al. Antiinflammatory actions of cat’s claw: the role of NF-kappaB. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Dec;12(12):1279-89.
6. Akesson C, Lindgren H, Pero RW, Leanderson T, Ivars F. An extract of Uncaria tomentosa inhibiting cell division and NF-kappa B activity without inducing cell death. Int Immunopharmacol. 2003 Dec;3(13-14):1889-900.
7. Miller MJ, Ahmed S, Bobrowski P, Haqqi TM. The chrondoprotective actions of a natural product are associated with the activation of IGF-1 production by human chondrocytes despite the presence of IL-1beta. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006 Apr 7;6:13.
8. Mur E, Hartig F, Eibl G, Schirmer M. Randomized double-blind trial of an extract from the pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of Uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2002 Apr;29(4):678-81.
9. Sheng Y, Bryngelsson C, Pero RW. Enhanced DNA repair, immune function and reduced toxicity of C-MED-100*, a novel aqueous extract from Uncaria tomentosa. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Feb;69(2):115-26.
10. Lamm S, Sheng Y, Pero RW. Persistent response to pneumococcal vaccine in individuals supplemented with a novel water soluble extract of Uncaria tomentosa, C-Med-100*. Phytomedicine. 2001 Jul;8(4):267-74.
11. Mammone T, Akesson C, Gan D, Giampapa V, Pero RW. A water soluble extract from Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s Claw) is a potent enhancer of DNA repair in primary organ cultures of human skin. Phytother Res. 2006 Mar;20(3):178-83.
12. Sheng Y, Li L, Holmgren K, Pero RW. DNA repair enhancement of aqueous extracts of Uncaria tomentosa in a human volunteer study. Phytomedicine. 2001 Jul;8(4):275-82.
13. Riva L, Coradini D, Di Fronzo G, et al. The antiproliferative effects of Uncaria tomentosa extracts and fractions on the growth of breast cancer cell line. Anticancer Res. 2001 Jul-Aug;21(4A):2457-61.
14. Bacher N, Tiefenthaler M, Sturm S, et al. Oxindole alkaloids from Uncaria tomentosa induce apoptosis in proliferating, G0/G1-arrested and bcl-2-expressing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia cells. Br J Haematol. 2006 Mar;132(5):615-22.
15. Hayakawa Y, Smyth MJ. Innate immune recognition and suppression of tumors. Adv Cancer Res. 2006;95:293-322.
16. Spellman K, Burns JJ, Nichols D, Winters N, Ottersberg S, Tenborg M. Modulation of cytokine expression by traditional medicines: a review of herbal immunomodulators. Altern Med Rev. 2006 Jun;11(2):128-50.
17. Life Extension Magazine. Cat’s Claw. March 2007.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.