In herbal medicine today, cat’s claw is employed around the world for many different conditions including immune disorders, gastritis, ulcers, cancer, arthritis, rheumatism, rheumatic disorders, neuralgias, chronic inflammation of all kinds, and such viral diseases as herpes zoster (shingles).
Dr. Brent Davis, D.C., refers to cat’s claw as the “opener of the way” for its ability to cleanse the entire intestinal tract and its effectiveness in treating stomach and bowel disorders (such as Crohn’s disease, leaky bowel syndrome, ulcers, gastritis, diverticulitis, and other inflammatory conditions of the bowel, stomach, and intestines).
Worldwide research is being conducted exploring the use of cat’s claw in the treatment of cancer and AIDS. The triterpenes in the herb boost T cell activity. Peruvian doctors have been using it in the treatment of fourteen kinds of cancer, and at least two compounds have been isolated for use in controlling viruses.
It has impressive anti- inflammatory properties, making it an excellent tonic for arthritis and fibromyalgia. It promotes colonic health but may give some people diarrhoea. It is used for inflammatory and ulcerative conditions such as gastritis, peptic ulcers, colitis, diverticulitis, haemorrhoids, minor diarrhoea. The alkaloids in the herb appear to target the immune system, the intestinal tract, and the cardiovascular system most effectively.
Herbal extracts should be blended with the whole herb for greatest efficacy.
Adding lemon juice or vinegar to the decoction when boiling will help extract more alkaloids and fewer tannins from the bark. Use about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar per cup of water.
The native tribes of Peru believed cat’s claw was a sacred herb because of its seemingly unlimited therapeutic qualities. Its Latin name, uncaria, is from the root uncus, which means “hook” (since its thorns resemble the claws of a cat). Although botanical references to the herb date as far back as the 1700s, it was only rediscovered in 1974 by a European scientist after a journalist travelling to Peru gave it to a relative who had cancer and was cured. It gained such great interest around the world that studies in at least seven clinics have conducted research on the herb in the past years. It is believed that cat’s claw was one of the principal herbs used by indigenous Amazon shamans.
Cat’s claw has a history of use going back to the time of the Incas, and it has been continuously used by indigenous peoples of South America for two thousand years. Cat’s claw has been used by the Ashaninka Indians of Central Peru to treat asthma, urinary tract inflammation, arthritis, and rheumatism.
Una de gato, hawk’s claw, paraguayo, garabato, garbato casha, samento, toroñ, tambor huasca, uña huasca, uña de gavilan, hawk’s claw, saventaro
AIDS, allergies, arthritis, asthma, bedwetting, bone pain, brain tumors, bronchitis, bursitis, cancer, candida, chemotherapy and radiation side effects, chronic fatigue, cirrhosis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, cysts, depression, diabetes, diverticulitis, dysentery, environmental illness, fatigue, fever, fibromyalgia, gastritis, gonorrhea, gout, growing pains, hay fever, hemorrhage, herpes, iritis, irregular menses, irritable bowel, leaky bowel syndrome, leukemia, lupus, neurodermatitis (itching with emotional origins), parasites, premenstrual syndrome, prostatitis, rheumatism, shingles, tumors, ulcers, and urinary tract infection.
Cat’s Claw has a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Swelling has been reduced by half in animal studies.
Austrian researchers have confirmed that cat’s claw supports a body affected by cancer by stimulating the immune system. The additional immune-system boost may allow some people to take the full course of chemotherapy needed to prevent recurrence of the disease. As an antioxidant, cat’s claw supports the body during chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and removes toxic metabolites. In one study two people—one a smoker and the other a nonsmoker—were given cat’s claw. The cat’s claw had no effect on the nonsmoker, but the smoker experienced a decrease in the genetic mutation activity that could lead to cancer, specifically lung cancer. The effect continued eight days after the treatment was withdrawn.
The advantage of cat’s claw for treating AIDS is that it helps the body produce T-cells and other white blood cells in normal numbers. This can prevent excessive immune stimulation that can provoke herpes outbreaks or give HIV opportunities to become drug-resistant. In a study of thirteen HIV-positive patients who took 20 milligrams daily of cat’s claw containing 12 milligrams per gram total of pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids for up to five months, the patients showed an increase in absolute lymphocyte count (part of the white blood cells). However, a marker of HIV infection—the T4/T8 ratio—did not change.
- A double-blind, randomised study assessed the effects of a freeze-dried aqueous extract of U. tomentosa on the mutagenic activity of urine collected from 12 smokers and 12 nonsmokers. A progressive decrease in mutagenic activity in the smokers’ urine was observed with increasing dose.
- In an uncontrolled trial, 13 patients with HIV took 20 mg/day of an aqueous hydrochloric acid extract of U. tomentosa root (containing 12 mg total POA/g) for 2.2 to 5.0 months. Although the total white blood cell count remained unchanged within the group, results indicated that low values were raised and high values were lowered. The lymphocyte count increased significantly to an average of approximately 35%. However, no significant changes in T4/T8 cell ratios were observed.
- Standardised U. tomentosa root extract was used in a long-term, open study involving 44 patients with AIDS. 1 The daily dose varied from 20 to 60 mg per day (the dried herb equivalent would be much higher), with some patients also taking azidothymidine (AZT). Patients who had CD4 lymphocyte counts of 200 to 500 × 106 /L demonstrated the best results for immunologic parameters:
- CD4 cells increased significantly for the first year of therapy, and the increase persisted for the first 3 years. Patients continued to show stable counts for as long as 4 and 5 years after beginning treatment.
- p24 antigen levels decreased.
- B lymphocyte counts increased.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Root: 3,000 – 6,000mg
• Tincture: 4.5 – 11mL (1:2)
• Cat’s Claw should not be consumed by those with Kidney problems.
• Cat’s Claw should not be consumed during Pregnancy or lactation (except under close professional supervision).
indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea, lymphocytosis, erythrocytosis, and aggravation of acne
Interactions with other drugs
• May reduce efficacy of immune suppressing medications
• May reduce adverse effects of chemotherapy.
Balch, P. A. Prescription for Herbal healing. New York: Avery, 2002.
Bone, Kerry. A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs: Herbal Formulations for the Individual Patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone, 2003
Herbalpedia 2013 (CD-ROM)
Mars, Brigitte. The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine: The Ultimate Multidisciplinary Reference to the Amazing Realm of Healing Plants, in a Quick-Study, One-Stop Guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub., 2007.
Skenderi, Gazmend. Herbal Vade Mecum: 800 Herbs, Spices, Essential Oils, Lipids, Etc., Constituents, Properties, Uses, and Caution. Rutherford, N.J.: Herbacy Press, 2003.
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