Native to Central and South America, cat’s claw has been used for hundreds of years in traditional folk medicine to treat a variety of health complaints. The reputed health
benefits of this indigenous herb have led scientists in the United States and other countries to closely examine its effects in the body. Their findings suggest that this
little-known botanical agent exerts powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that support DNA repair, joint health, immune function, and normal cell division.1
Cat’s claw was first popularized by the German natural scientist Arturo Brell, who in 1926 migrated from Munich to Pozuzo, a small town founded by German colonists in
the Peruvian rainforest. Dr. Brell used cat’s claw to treat his rheumatic pain. He later treated another German colonist, Luis Schuler, who had been diagnosed with terminal
lung cancer. After other therapies had failed, Mr. Schuler began consuming cat’s claw root tea three times a day. He improved remarkably, and one year later was
apparently free of cancer.
The two known species of cat’s claw are Uncaria guianensis, used traditionally for wound healing, and Uncaria tomentosa, which has numerous medicinal uses and is most
commonly found in supplements. Cat’s claw is a rich source of phytochemicals: its more than 30 known constituents include at least 17 alkaloids, along with glycosides,
tannins, flavonoids, sterol fractions, and other compounds. Scientists previously attributed the efficacy of cat’s claw to compounds called oxindole alkaloids;1 more recently,
however, water-soluble cat’s claw extracts that do not contain significant amounts of alkaloids were found to possess strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This
finding led researchers to conclude that quinic acid esters are the active constituents of water-soluble cat’s claw extract
Cat’s claw extracts demonstrate powerful antioxidant effects in quenching the dangerous peroxyl and superoxide radicals. Laboratory analysis indicates that the antioxidant
power of cat’s claw exceeds that of many extracts of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and medicinal plants.3
Chronic inflammation underlies many diseases that plague aging adults, and cat’s claw is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Cat’s claw extract inhibits the production of
tumor necrosis factor-alpha, an inflammatory messenger that sets the stage for both acute and chronic inflammation.4 Cat’s claw likewise inhibits the activation of nuclear
factor-kappa beta, an inflammatory “switch” that is associated with cancer and other deadly diseases.5,6 Cat’s claw also decreased the experimentally induced release of
prostaglandin E2, an inflammatory mediator associated with conditions such as arthritis.
Arthritis can be one of the most physically disabling conditions associated with aging. Cat’s claw extract suppresses inflammation to promote healthy joint structure and
function, as well as relieve the pain and discomfort of arthritis.
Scientists recently discovered that cat’s claw may protect cartilage, the tissue that functions like a shock absorber at joint surfaces where bones meet. Loss of cartilage,
which is a defining characteristic of osteoarthritis, occurs when the breakdown of cartilage outpaces its regeneration. When human cartilage cells were exposed to
joint-destroying interleukin-1 beta, cat’s claw helped restore levels of joint-protective insulin-like growth factor-1. By suppressing inflammatory agents that can degrade
cartilage, while activating a cartilage-protective biochemical, cat’s claw may help to preserve healthy cartilage in aging joints.7
In a clinical trial, scientists found that cat’s claw offered relief for adults suffering from osteoarthritis. Forty-five patients with osteoarthritis of the knee participated in this
randomized, placebo-controlled, four-week trial. Those who received a cat’s claw preparation saw significant reductions in pain associated with physical activity. Within just
one week of starting the cat’s claw therapy, both physicians and patients recorded significant improvement in subjective assessments of osteoarthritis pain. The scientists
attributed the arthritis-relieving effects of cat’s claw to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
-CAT'S CLAW TEA:
Cat's claw is a plant. Two species of cat's claw, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis, are of primary interest for use as medicine. Uncaria tomentosa is most
commonly used in the U.S., and Uncaria guianensis is typically used in Europe. Medicine is made from the root and bark. Cat's claw was ranked as the seventh most
popular herb in U.S. sales in 1997. Be careful not to confuse cat's claw with cat's foot. Cat’s claw is most commonly used for improving symptoms of both osteoarthritis and
rheumatoid arthritis. It is also used for various digestive system disorders including swelling and pain (inflammation) of the large intestine (diverticulitis), inflammation of the
lower bowel (colitis), inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis), stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids, and leaky bowel syndrome. Some people use cat’s claw for viral
infections including shingles (caused by herpes zoster), cold sores (caused by herpes simplex), and AIDS (caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)). Cat’s claw is
also used for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), wound healing, parasites, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, hay fever, cancer (especially urinary tract cancer), a particular type of
brain cancer called glioblastoma, gonorrhea, dysentery, birth control, bone pains, and "cleansing" the kidneys. Cat's claw tea originated in South America, but has become
popular in North America in recent years. People drink it not so much for its taste as for its supposed health benefits. Advocates believe the tea is a powerful
anti-inflammatory and that it reduces cancer risk.
-HOW TO MAKE CAT'S CLAW TEA?
Pour boiling water into a cup and add a few drops of lemon juice. The acid from the lemon juice will release the tannins in the tea add the cat's claw to the cup. If your cat's
claw is ground, use 1 to 2 tsp. in a typical tea strainer. If you are using cat's claw bark, add one to two average-sized pieces. Let the cat's claw steep for five to 10 minutes.
Remove the strainer from the cup. If you are using bark, remove the bark with a spoon. Sweeten the tea to taste. Cat's claw tea does not have a very good natural flavor.
Consider adding honey or spices to improve the taste.