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.
In fighting leukemia, cat’s claw has proven effective. A 2006 study in the British Journal of Haematology examined the antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of five oxindole alkaloids from Uncaria tomentosa. Isopteropodine, pteropodine, isomitraphylline, uncarine F, and mitraphylline were studied. Four of these alkaloids inhibited leukemia cell proliferation in the lab, but pteropodine and uncarine F showed exceptional results. These alkaloids not only halted cancer growth but also induced programmed cell death or apoptosis. Hence, these specific alkaloids hold significant potential in stopping cancer and eliminating cancer cells.
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.
In a 2001 study, adult volunteers previously treated with chemotherapy took water-soluble cat’s claw extract (250 and 350 milligrams per day) for eight weeks. The results were remarkable. Both cat’s claw supplement groups showed a significant decrease in DNA damage and an increase in DNA repair compared to the non-supplement group. Additionally, the supplement groups experienced increased white blood cell proliferation, a crucial finding as chemotherapy often reduces white blood cell counts and raises infection risk.
Another study in 2006 aimed to assess a water-soluble cat’s claw extract’s ability to enhance DNA repair in human skin. Using skin cultures, researchers discovered that the extract protected human skin cells from UV radiation-induced death. How? By enhancing the skin cells’ capacity to repair DNA damage caused by UV light. Researchers concluded that cat’s claw extract should be considered as a natural sunscreen option.
4. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Studies on cat’s claw as a hypertension treatment indicate its potential to naturally lower high blood pressure. Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizes a cat’s claw variety, Uncaria rhynchophylla, to improve neurological symptoms and reduce blood pressure. Moreover, cat’s claw inhibits platelet aggregation and blood clot formation. This ability not only decreases blood pressure and improves circulation but also prevents plaque and blood clot formation in arteries, heart, and brain, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The alkaloid hirsutine in cat’s claw plays a key role in improving blood pressure. This health-promoting alkaloid acts as a calcium channel blocker specifically targeting the heart and blood vessels. This significance lies in calcium channel blockers’ ability to lower blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. Additionally, calcium channel blockers widen and relax blood vessels, promoting smooth and healthy blood flow.
5. Boosts Immune Function
Cat’s claw has shown potent immune-boosting abilities in both animal and human studies. In an animal study, researchers administered a water-soluble cat’s claw extract (Uncaria tomentosa) to subjects for eight weeks. The supplementation significantly increased infection-fighting white blood cell count and repaired DNA, including single and double strand breaks. Notably, no signs of acute or chronic toxicity were observed in the animal subjects.
In another study, adults supplemented with cat’s claw for two months prior to receiving a pneumonia vaccination. The results demonstrated “statistically significant immune enhancement” in individuals taking cat’s claw compared to the untreated control group. Although not advocating pneumonia vaccinations, this study highlights cat’s claw’s impressive immune-boosting effects in humans and its potential for preventing and treating pneumonia symptoms naturally.
6. May Aid in HIV Treatment
Individuals with serious viral infections, such as HIV, opt for cat’s claw as a dietary supplement to bolster their immune system. In sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV and AIDS pose significant health challenges with an estimated 25.5 million cases, traditional remedies like cat’s claw are commonly used for HIV and AIDS.
However, a 2011 study revealed that natural remedies like cat’s claw can potentially interact with antiretrovirals, the conventional drugs used to slow down HIV progression. Combining cat’s claw with these medicines is not advisable due to possible unwanted interactions. Although controlled clinical trials are lacking, one uncontrolled study indicated a positive effect on lymphocytes (white blood cells) in HIV-positive individuals. More substantial human research is needed to validate these findings.
7. Combats Herpes
Cat’s claw displays positive effects on the immune system in relation to herpes. The herpes virus can remain dormant within the immune system, periodically causing blistering cold sores or ulcers.
In a 2011 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, different preparations of Uncaria tomentosa were examined for their effects on herpes in vitro. The study revealed that these preparations demonstrated antimutagenic and antiherpetic activities. The ability of cat’s claw to combat herpes is attributed to the synergistic action of its polyphenols and oxindole alkaloids or quinovic acid glycosides.
8. Improves Digestive Problems like Crohn’s Disease
Researchers are exploring the potential benefits of cat’s claw for individuals with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease causing inflammation in the digestive tract, resulting in symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Cat’s claw, particularly Uncaria tomentosa, is believed to combat the inflammation associated with Crohn’s. A recommended dosage of 250 milligrams per day is suggested for Crohn’s patients. By naturally calming the inflammation, significant improvements in Crohn’s symptoms can be expected.
Moreover, cat’s claw is utilized to treat various digestive disorders such as colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, and leaky gut syndrome.
Possible Side Effects and Caution with Cat’s Claw
Before taking cat’s claw, individuals with Parkinson’s should consult their doctor for proper guidance. In 2008, a case report highlighted a worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms in a man who started taking cat’s claw, but his condition improved after discontinuing its use.
Pregnant or nursing women should avoid cat’s claw, and children should only use it under the supervision of a doctor due to a lack of studies in this population.
If surgery is scheduled, it is recommended to cease cat’s claw intake at least two weeks prior to the procedure.
Individuals allergic to other plants in the Rubiaceae family may be more prone to allergic reactions from cat’s claw. Discontinue use if an allergic reaction occurs and seek medical attention if necessary.