Cats Claw Benefits

Cats Claw
Latin Name

Uncaria tomentosa

Also Known As

Griffe du Chat, Liane du Pérou, Life-giving Vine of Peru, Samento, Uña de Gato, Uncaria guianensis, Uncaria tomentosa.

Origin

Mostly Peru; Pan Amazon Basin in general.

Parts Used

Bark, roots and Leaf.

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

With a lengthy history dating back to the Inca civilisation, Cat’s Claw has been used as a traditional medicine in the Andes to treat inflammation, gastric ulcers, rheumatism, dysentery, intestinal complaints and wounds.

The tribes of the Amazon have used this woody vine as a general tonic to promote good health for 1000’s of years – a tonic that can be used to bring anyone back to health. Its reputation as a “cure all” now seems to be validated by modern science, with numerous studies on the plethora of active compounds shedding new light on this ancient herb.

Cat’s Claw Benefits

Immune System

A recent study showed that Cat’s Claw significantly elevated the infection fighting white blood cell count in adult men who supplemented with this herb for 6 months. Researchers also noted a repair in DNA – both single and double strand breaks.

Its effect on the immune system appears to be two fold, with the ability to both boost and dampen immune response, depending on what is needed. Hyper immune responses can be contained, whilst a weak immune system that allows disease to advance undeterred is strengthened by supplementation with Cat’s Claw.

Arthritis Relief

Multiple studies have found that Cat’s Claw can be used to naturally improve osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. In a 2001 study, 45 subjects suffering from osteoarthritis were given either Cat’s Claw or a placebo for 4 weeks. Researchers found that “pain associated with activity, medical and pain assessment scores were significantly reduced within the first week of therapy”. Another study published in “Journal of Rheumatology” noted that treatment with Cat’s Claw extract resulted in a reduction in the number of painful joints compared with the placebo after 24 weeks of treatment.

This arthritis fighting effect is thought to be from a specific strain of Cat’s Claw containing pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids – compounds that seem to be immune system modulators.

Lowers High Blood Pressure

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has used Cat’s Claw for centuries to treat high blood pressure. Studies now appear to back this up, with a specific alkaloid - hirsutine - being attributed with this plant’s ability to keep blood pressure under control. This health promoting alkaloid specifically acts as a calcium channel blocker. This effect can lower blood pressure by blocking calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls, whilst widening and relaxing the blood vessels themselves. This in turn helps the blood to flow in a healthy, smooth manner.

Digestive Health

This versatile herb is also helpful in detoxification of the intestinal tract, whilst replenishing the friendly bacteria in the intestines. Also a powerful anti-inflammatory, Cat’s Claw is believed to fight the inflammation associated with a number of gastrointestinal problems.

It is also used to treat a wide array of other digestive disorders including; leaky gut syndrome, diverticulitis, colitis, gastritis and stomach ulcers.

Typical Use

The bark of the Uncaria tomentosa is considered to be the most medicinally useful. Both Leaves and roots have been proven to hold significant phytochemical content but not in such concentration as is found in the bark.

Traditionally the bark of Cats Claw is made into a tea or powder to be consumed over a given period depending on illness.

Folklore and History

For the Asháninka Indians Cat's Claw is the totality of their culture. Traditionally every adult from the tribe carries the bark with them in a little woven pouch. It is not just the plant they harbour as sacred, they also honour what it has done for their ancestors. The Asháninka are an Amazonian tribe that live deep in the jungle, far from habitation and other tribes. It is thought that the Asháninka taught all other Amazonian Indians in the area about the qualities of this amazing plant.

The Polish missionary Father Edmund Szeliga observed that the Uncaria tomentosa vine was as holy to the Incan people as it is to the Asháninka today. The latter consider the plant a god incarnate called ‘kug – kukjagui’ - the father of all other forest gods. The Incan royal families considered Cats Claw only fit for those of royal blood. Not only are the roots, bark and leaf made into concoctions, but the bendy vine is also used to make baskets and rattan furniture.

Nowadays, Cats Claw is still of major economic importance to the Asháninka Indians.

Cats Claw
Constituents

Cats Claw has many phytochemical elements that consist of oxidole alkaloids, quinovic acid glycosides, antioxidants, plant sterols and carboxyl alkyl esters. All of these are thought to have, in varying degrees, an action that can be attributed to the many benefits of Cats Claw.

Phytonutrients: Ajmalicine, akuammigine, campesterol, catechin, carboxyl alkyl esters, chlorogenic acid, cinchonain, corynantheine, corynoxeine, daucosterol, epicatechin, harman, hirsuteine, hirsutine, iso-pteropodine, loganic acid, lyaloside, mitraphylline, oleanolic acid, palmitoleic acid, procyanidins, pteropodine, quinovic acid glycosides, rhynchophylline, rutin, sitosterols, speciophylline, stigmasterol, strictosidines, uncarine A thru F, and vaccenic acid.

Precautions

Do not take Cat's Claw if on blood thinning medication. Large quantities can cause stomach upset because of the large number of tannins in the bark. It is recommended to increase dose in increments to lessen the symptoms of detoxification. It is not recommended to take Cat’s Claw if you have scheduled surgery. 

Always consult your healthcare professional if taking medication.