Cat’s claw is a plant that grows in the Peruvian Amazon, climbing on the trees of the rainforest, and at the base of the leaves it has two twisted thorns that are similar to cat’s nails. The herbal preparation obtained from the inner layer of the crust or root is called the cat’s claw. Although there are many related species, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis are collected for medical use (mainly in Peru and Brazil). It is common to see large pieces of crust of these plants in the rural markets of South America,.
How does it work?
Contemporary scientific research has revealed several active ingredients of cat’s claw that strengthen the immune system and relieve inflammation. This can explain why this plant is traditionally used in the treatment of cancer, arthritis, dysentery, ulcers and other contagious and inflammatory processes. However, it should be said that these effects are not clinically proven.
MAIN USEFUL EFFECTS: doctors in Germany and Austria prescribe cat’s claw to patients suffering from cancer to stimulate the immune system weakened by chemotherapy, radiation, and other conventional methods of treatment. Several ingredients of this plant, which have been tested for decades, are likely to have a beneficial effect on cancer treatment and immune enhancement. During the 1970s, researchers have isolated so-called procyanidin oligomers from the inner part of the crust and root, which slow down tumor growth in animals; in the next decade, in Germany, ingredients that strengthen the immune system by encouraging phagocytes to infiltrate viruses, bacteria and other agents, and then destroy them have been isolated. Then, in 1993, Italian scientists isolated the so-called quinone cids that have multiple effects – they are antioxidants that free the body from the work of free radical, but also kill viruses, reduce inflammation, and slow down the conversion of normal cells to cancer cells.
In addition to potentially useful work on tumors, cat’s claw can also help with infections such as sinusitis.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: traditionally, cat’s claw is used to treat pain. Due to anti-inflammatory properties, the preparations of these plants are effective in the treatment of joint pain (gout) and arthritis pain. However, further research is needed to more accurately determine its role in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Preliminary research has shown that the use of cat’s claw in combination with HIV medicines can help people infected with this virus because the plant boosts the immune response. Some researchers do not recommend the use of this plant in chronic diseases associated with the immune system (tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis) because they believe that excessive immune stimulation can exacerbate the symptoms of the disease. On the other hand, some doctors prescribe it in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Further research on this plant and its effect is needed.
How to take it?
DOSAGE: take 250 mg of the standardized tablet extract twice a day. Another possibility is to use 1 to 2 ml (20 to 40 drops) of tincture, also twice a day. Raw plant (grinded root or inner part of the crust in a non-concentrated form) is available in capsules of 500 or 1000 mg; they are taken twice a day, up to 2000 mg. Cat’s claw tea can be purchased in stores. According to the instructions on the package, pour one to two teaspoons of dried plants with a hot water cup. You can drink up to three cups of tea a day.
USE GUIDELINES: you can combine cat’s claw preparations with other herbal immune enhancers, such as rudbeckia, goldenseal, ganoderma, grifola frondosa, milk vetch or taheebo.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take cat’s claw preparations. In Peru, cat’s claw was used as a contraceptive; it stimulates cervical contractions in animals and may therefore cause abortion. The preparation of these plants should not be used as a contraception.
Possible side effects
Although only a few studies have been examining the safety of cat’s claw, there is no data on toxicity if the recommended doses are used. Larger doses, on the contrary, can cause diarrhea.
IMPORTANT: if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or if you breastfeed, do not take cat’s claw preparations. Its safety in these conditions has not been proven and can contribute to spontaneous abortion.