Cat’s Claw Review
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a perennial vine harvested from forests and rarely cultivated.
Its botanical name is Uncaria with its two species being Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis.
Both types contain varying active compounds that yield different medicinal properties, and these differences are conveyed in their chemical structure.
Of the two, our concern here today is with the former- Uncaria tomentosa- which is primarily used in manufacturing commercial preparations such as tablets, capsules, teas, tinctures, and liquid extract.
The plant gets its name from its claw-like thorns which resemble those of a cat’s. The outer bark of this plant possesses superficial longitudinal fissures, while the inner bark is fibrous.
There is a watery sap inside that comes with an astringent taste. It is from the bark of the vine that most commercial concoctions are made and that’s where most of its therapeutic value comes from.
The traditional use of this herb goes back through generations of various indigenous groups in tropical South America.
Of these several, two that have gained notice are the Peruvian tribes of Ashaninka and Yanesha.
These tribes used cat’s claw extensively for treating inflammation, urinary tract infections, and gastric ulcers. Also, the plant was also used for washing wounds, blood purifications, cleansing the kidneys, and recovering from childbirth.
Cat’s claw also held spiritual significance among the indigenous tribes as it was used to remove disturbances between the body and spirit believed to be the main cause of physical ailments.
Some indigenous populations only use the water stored in the stem as a restorative drink to quench their thirst.
Cat’s Claw Benefits
This powerful herb is the perfect blend of anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
Alongside these features, it also possesses immune-modulating properties that can help restore and strengthen an impaired immune system.
Based on these health-promoting attributes, cat’s claw can offer several health benefits.
1. Cat’s Claw Treats arthritis
This is one area that has received a lot of attention and research regarding the use of cat’s claw.
Since this herb was also used by ancient civilizations for treating inflammatory issues, the practice carried over and is now considered as a non-pharmacological way to improve osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Some preliminary studies have explored the effect of using cat’s claw for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  
It gets this anti-inflammatory potential from a compound known as pentacyclic oxindole alkaloid (POA).
For osteoarthritis, one study worked with 100 mg of freeze-dried cat’s claw taken daily for four weeks. When compared to the placebo group for the same study, participants receiving cat’s claw reported more effective pain relief and an overall improvement in their condition.
The herb has also been suggested as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis given its anti-inflammatory action.
Given its traditional use for the same condition, the study used 20 mg of cat’s claw extract administered three times daily for 24 weeks to RA patients.
Results showed the group receiving cat’s claw extract to experience a more significant reduction in painful joints compared to the placebo group.
However, while the cat’s claw may help with reducing inflammation, there is no evidence to support that it can stop joint damage from worsening.
And given the small number of sample subjects, it is recommended that more extensive studies are conducted to confirm these benefits.
2. Cat’s Claw Can Boosts Immunity
Studies on animal and human subjects have brought forth cat claw’s powerful immune-boosting potential.
One study indicated that white blood cell count significantly elevated when participants were given 700 mg of cat’s claw daily for two months before receiving pneumonia vaccination. 
Another similar study revealed that receiving cat’s claw extract for six weeks presented similar results. 
Researchers believe that this immune-boosting prowess comes from the herb’s anti-inflammatory activity.
3. Cat’s Claw Anti-cancer Activity
Some preliminary test-tube studies indicate that the POA content in cat’s claw may possess anti-tumor properties.
Researchers believe that POA is toxic to specific cancer cells while having a smaller impact on healthy cells damaged by chemotherapy.
One 2001 in vivo study showed the bark of the plant, preventing the growth of human breast cancer cells by exerting an antiproliferative and antimutagenic effect on cancer cells. 
Another later study looked at its impact on fighting leukemia.
Four alkaloids present in the bark of cat’s claw showed potential to inhibit the proliferation of human leukemia cells. Of these, two called pteropodine and uncarine F were most potent in not only stopping the growth of leukemia cells but also inducing the affected cells to undergo apoptosis or programmed cell death. 
A more recent study on the subject suggested that using the herbal extract for advanced cancer patients may help improve their quality of life and reduce cancer-related fatigue (CRF). 
And while the evidence is there, the studies are still scarce. This means that cat’s claw may be a potential natural treatment for cancer, but a lot more research is needed before it can be established as a treatment mode for cancer.
4. Cat’s Claw Ability For DNA Repair
Chemotherapy is a conventional cancer treatment that has several adverse side effects. One of these side effects manifests itself as DNA damage of otherwise healthy cells.
An earlier study conducted in 2001 examined the efficacy of a water-soluble cat’s claw extract used for eight weeks on participants having received chemotherapy treatment.
The results were highly promising as they demonstrated a significant reduction in cellular DNA damage. At the same time, DNA repair increased in the group receiving the supplement as compared to participants who didn’t receive the supplement.
Tying in with its immune-boosting properties, participants who received the cat’s claw supplement also experienced an increase in white blood cell generation.
This is significant in the sense that chemotherapy often lowers white blood cell counts and increases the risk of infection. 
5. Lyme Disease Treatment
An exciting and prospective new addition to Lyme disease treatment protocol, cat’s claw has been examined in one study for its effects on patients with a confirmed diagnosis.
Every participant in the study had had the disease for over ten years with progressive deterioration.
The study ran for 26 weeks in which the intervention group received cat’s claw while other pharmaceuticals were reduced or discontinued.
At the end of the study, the cat’s claw group reported more significant improvements than the control group in symptom management including joint and muscle pain, fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, and digestive disturbances among others. 
6. Cat’s Claw Lowers Blood Pressure
The herb has also been used as a treatment for lowering high blood pressure in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Acting in a blood-thinning capacity, a different variety of cat’s claw known as Uncaria rhynchophylla inhibits platelet aggregation and blood clot formation.
This activity can likely help ward off strokes and heart attacks by lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. At the same time, it inhibits plaque and arterial blood clot formation. 
Most of this activity is attributed to an alkaloid known as hirsutine. Hirsutine acts as a calcium channel blocker, which blocks calcium from infiltrating the walls of the blood vessels and the heart.
These calcium channel blockers can also relax and widen blood vessels on their own. This mechanism promotes blood flow smoothly and healthily.
Cat’s Claw Dosage
If you get the powdered variety of Cat’s Claw, you can use it to brew a tea as was traditionally done by the indigenous populations.
The only difference is that the indigenous people boiled the inner bark or root in water for half an hour to one hour, but you’d be working with dried cat’s claw powder.
Steep one teaspoon of the powder in one cup of boiling water for five to ten minutes. The flavor is woody and bitter, and some people prefer to mix in some honey and lemon to make the tea more palatable.
There are no recommended guidelines for the appropriate use of cat’s claw. Dosing recommendations typically come from the manufacturer and can vary from brand to brand.
Among the various types available, capsules are considered safe at doses of up to 350 mg a day.
Dosage for tinctures may vary by strength, but the most commonly taken dose is at 4 mm daily.
To play safe, never exceed the recommended dose as suggested by the manufacturer.
Cat’s Claw Side Effects
There isn’t sufficient research into the risks associated with using cat’s claw.
Most of the published clinical trials conducted have been between four weeks to a yearlong with relatively few side effects. As such, specific populations, including expectant women or nursing mothers, should avoid using this herb.
Also, others with certain medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases, blood pressure issues, leukemia, or kidney disease, should not use cat’s claw.
The herb can slow blood clotting, which can lead to easy bruising and bleeding. As such, anyone with bleeding disorders or people on anticoagulants should not use cat’s claw.
Likewise, anyone scheduled to have surgery should stop using this supplement at least two weeks before their surgery date.
Cat’s claw does contain a fair bit of tannins, which may cause symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or an upset stomach. However, this is only likely when the herb is consumed in amounts more significant than the recommended dose.
Typically, most of these symptoms do resolve on their own once use is discontinued.
Other than these symptoms, cat’s claw is considered safe for consumption if an individual does not take any medications.
Cat’s Claw Interactions And Safety Precautions
Cat’s claw can present issues when taken with specific medication as it tends to interact and interfere with some drugs.
These can include medications for blood pressure, cancer, cholesterol, and blood clotting.
Anyone using medication should always consult with their doctor before taking any supplements.
Like many other herbal supplements, cat’s claw is not subject to strict testing.
The result is often varying quality from one product to the next. So to ensure safety and quality, only purchase this supplement from established brand presence manufacturers.
Or, look for certified organic brands authenticated under USDA regulations.
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