Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis), a woody vine native to the jungles of South and Central America, has been used for centuries by the people from these regions for its anti-inflammatory properties. In Brazilian traditional medicine it is used for relieving the muscle and joint pains caused by the Dengue fever. Cat’s claw anti-inflammatory effects have been confirmed by recent scientific studies, along with other interesting therapeutic properties that could recommend it for the treatment of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, dental infections etc.
Uses confirmed by scientific studies
- Osteoarthritis (An article published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2007 discussed the mechanisms – antioxidative and inhibitory of TNFalpha – through which cat’s claw decreases the inflammation in osteoarthritis.)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (A randomized double blind trial of an extract from the pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of Uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 2002, showed that twenty-four weeks of treatment with the Uncaria tomentosa extract resulted in a reduction of the number of painful joints compared to placebo – by 53.2% vs 24.1%.)
- Cancer (Various studies, published between 2001 and 2013 in pretigious scientific journals, have demonstrated the antiprolilferative effects of certain substances contained in cat’s claw on cancers such as: breast cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma, bladder cancer, glioma, neuroblastoma, and promyelocytic leukemia.)
- Parkinson’s disease (A study of the neuroprotective effects of a standardized aqueous extract of Uncaria tomentosa (AC11), published in Neurochemistry International in 2013, concluded that its findings “encourage further investigation on AC11 and its active constituent compounds, as possible therapeutic intervention against Parkinson’s disease.”)
- Dental infections (A study published in Journal of Oral Science in 2010 demonstrated that Cat’s claw has “antimicrobial activity against microorganisms frequently found in infected root-filled teeth:” Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.)
- Birth control (The findings of a study published in Acta Chirurgica Brasileira in 2011 “suggest that Uncaria tomentosa has contraceptive effect”)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Hay fever
- Bacterial, viral and fungal infections (including gonorrhea, chicken pox, shingles, oral and genital herpes, and HIV infection)
- Gastritis, gastric ulcer, intestinal ulcer, colitis, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky bowel syndrome
- Intestinal worms
Preparation and administration
Add 1 tablespoon of finely cut dried root and bark in a cup of hot boiled water and let steep for 15-30 minutes. Drink 3 cups a day, before a meal.
Cat’s claw is known to have some side effects, especially if taken extensively and in large doses. Some of the most common side effects are fatigue, dizziness and diarrhea. You should seek medical advice if any of these symptoms persist for more than 3-4 days while taking cat’s claw. Other more severe side effects are quite rare, but they require immediate medical attention: allergic reactions (rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue), bleeding from gums, blood in urine or stool.
Cat’s claw should be taken with precaution by those suffering from low blood pressure (because it might lower it too much), high blood pressure (because it can exacerbate the effects of other hypotensive drugs or herbs) and auto-immune diseases (because it stimulates the immune system and can thus cause a worsening of some of the symptoms associated with these diseases).