8 Cat’s Claw Health Benefits
1. Treats Arthritis
Multiples studies have confirmed using cat’s claw to naturally improve both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. In a 2001 study, 45 subjects suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee either took 100 milligrams per day of freeze-dried cat’s claw or a placebo for four weeks. Researchers found that “pain associated with activity, medical and patient assessment scores were all significantly reduced with benefits occurring within the first week of therapy.” Knee pain at rest or at night and knee circumference were not significantly reduced by cat’s claw during the short trial, but results led researchers to conclude that cat’s claw is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis with no significant side effects.
2. Fight Cancer
Scientific studies suggest cat’s claw may help kill tumor and cancer cells in test tubes. A 2001 in vivo study demonstrated that the bark of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) prevented the growth of human breast cancer cell line MCF7 by having antimutagenic and antiproliferative effects on the cancer cells.
Cat’s claw has also demonstrated its ability to fight against leukemia. A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Haematology was the first to investigate the antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of five highly purified oxindole alkaloids of Uncaria tomentosa, including isopteropodine, pteropodine, isomitraphylline, uncarine F and mitraphylline. Four of the five alkaloids inhibited the proliferation of human leukemia cells in the lab, but the researchers found that cat’s claw pteropodine and uncarine F both were especially impressive. These alkaloids were most potent in both inhibiting the growth of human leukemia cells from and inducing the cells to undergo programmed cell death or apoptosis. This points toward these specific alkaloids having significant potential to not only stop cancer from continuing to grow, but also killing the cancer cells themselves.
A 2015 study also found that the cat’s claw might be especially beneficial to advanced cancer patients by improving their quality of life and reducing fatigue.
3. Repairs DNA
In vivo studies have shown that water-soluble extracts of cat’s claw (C-Med-100) can enhance DNA repair, mitogenic response and leukocyte recovery after chemotherapy-induced DNA damage. Chemotherapy is a common conventional cancer treatment with many negative side effects, including damage to the DNA of healthy cells.
A 2001 study looked at the effects of using a water-soluble cat’s claw extract (250 and 350 milligrams per day) for eight weeks on adult volunteers who had previously received chemotherapy. The results were truly awesome. There was a significant decrease of DNA damage and an increase of DNA repair in both cat’s claw supplement groups compared to the non-supplement group. The supplement groups also had an increase in white blood cell proliferation, which is also a huge finding since chemotherapy commonly reduces white blood cell counts and increases infection risk.
A 2006 study wanted to evaluated the ability of a water-soluble cat’s claw extract to enhance DNA repair in human skin. Using skin cultures, researchers found that the extract protected human skin cells from death induced by ultraviolet radiation. How? By increasing the ability of skin cells to repair the DNA damage done by UV light. Researchers conclude that cat’s claw extract should be considered for use as a natural sunscreen.
4. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Studies of cat’s claw as a treatment for hypertension indicate that it may be helpful in naturally reducing high blood pressure. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a variety of cat’s claw (Uncaria rhynchophylla) has been used to lower blood pressure as well as improve various neurological symptoms. Cat’s claw has also been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation and blood clot formation. This means that cat’s claw could likely be helpful in warding off heart attacks and strokes by not only decreasing blood pressure and increasing circulation, but by also inhibiting the formation of plaque and blood clots in the arteries, heart and brain.
Cat’s claw’s ability to improve blood pressure has been attributed to an alkaloid called hirsutine. This health-promoting alkaloid has been found to specifically act at the calcium channels of the heart and blood vessels as a calcium channel blocker. Why is this significant? Calcium channel blockers can lower blood pressure by blocking calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. Calcium channel blockers also widen and relax the blood vessels themselves, which helps blood flow in a healthy, smooth manner.
5. Boosts Immune Function
Both animal and human studies have demonstrated cat claw’s powerful immune-boosting abilities. In one animal study, researchers gave subjects a water-soluble extract of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) for eight weeks. They found that this supplementation significantly elevated subjects’ infection-fighting white blood cell count. Researchers also observed a repair of DNA, both single and double strand breaks. These two highly impressive findings came with no signs of acute or chronic toxicity in the animal subjects.
Another human study had adults supplement with cat’s claw for two months before receiving pneumonia vaccination. The results showed “statistically significant immune enhancement” in the individuals taking the cat’s claw supplements compared to the untreated control group. While I’m by no means promoting pneumonia vaccinations (especially when there are great natural ways to prevent and treat pneumonia symptoms), it’s an impressive study of cat’s claw and its immune-boosting effects in humans.
6. May Aid in HIV Treatment
Some people with serious viral infections like HIV use cat’s claw as a dietary supplement. They choose cat’s claw because it has been shown to strengthen the immune system. In Southern Africa, HIV and AIDS are major health problems with an estimated 25.5 million people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. The use of traditional remedies like cat’s claw for HIV and AIDS is very common in Africa.
However, a 2011 study showed that natural remedies like cat’s claw can have “potentially significant reactions” with antiretrovirals conventionally used to slow down the progression of HIV. Until more substantial human research is conducted, combining cat’s claw with conventional medicines does not appear to be a good idea since it can may lead to unwanted interactions. Controlled clinical trials are also lacking, but at least one uncontrolled study has suggested a positive effect on lymphocytes (white blood cells) in HIV-positive individuals.
7. Combats Herpes
Cat’s claw also appears to have positive immune system effects when it comes to herpes. The herpes virus can live dormant inside a person’s immune system for a lifetime, periodically causing blisters that burst and turn into open cold sores or ulcers before healing.
A 2011 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology looked at the effects of different preparations of Uncaria tomentosa on herpes in vitro and found they exhibited antimutagenic and antiherpetic activities. The herpes-fighting ability of cat’s claw is associated with its polyphenols working synergistically with its oxindole alkaloids or quinovic acid glycosides.
8. Improves Digestive Problems like Crohn’s Disease
Researchers are looking into the possible benefits of cat’s claw for people suffering from Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Cat’s claw, specifically Uncaria tomentosa, is believed to be able to help fight the inflammation associated with Crohn’s. A dosage of 250 milligrams per day is a recommendation for Crohn’s sufferers. If you can naturally calm the inflammation, unwanted Crohn’s symptoms should improve greatly.
Cat’s claw is also used to treat a wide array of digestive disorders, including colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.
Possible Side Effects and Caution with Cat’s Claw
If you have Parkinson’s, you also should definitely check with your doctor before taking this herb. In 2008, there was one case report of Parkinson’s disease becoming worse after a man started taking cat’s claw, and he improved after he stopped taking cat’s claw.
Cat’s claw is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, and it should not be given to a child unless under a doctor’s supervision because its use has not been studied in children.
If you have surgery scheduled, it’s recommend to stop taking cat’s claw at least two weeks prior to surgery.
If you’re allergic to other plants in the Rubiaceae family, then you may be more likely to have an allergic reactions to cat’s claw. Discontinue use if a reaction occurs, and seek medical attention if necessary.