6 magnificent properties of cat’s claw

properties of cat's claw

A high intake of vitamins and vegetables boosts our immune system. With the infusions of cat’s claw, we can still strengthen it more at the worst times of the year.

There are times when winter comes and temperatures drop, our defenses get to work. Sometimes they do not fully fulfill their mission and we go on a streak where we are colds or costipados every 2 by 3.

We blame it on a poor diet and that «we have low defenses«. If due to the daily life of our lives or the eating habits we carry, added to work or family stress, we can not provide our body with everything we need, this medicinal plant can help us to be up to the task.

We like to be up to date with natural remedies and get to know each of the plants and natural remedies thoroughly. Therefore, we try to delve into each of them by adding more aspects apart from mentioning what it is for and how it works. Let’s move forward with the cat’s claw.

Curiosities of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)

What is the cat’s claw plant like?

Uncaria tomentosa it is a bright green climber and helical spines. It has resistant and elastic stems and is typical of humid environments such as jungles.

Cat’s claw belongs to the family Rubiaceae. Medium-sized shrubs grouped into 600 genera and up to 10,000 species (a family considered large).

Their lianas grow in areas with a high percentage of organic matter (leaves and stems decomposing in moist soils), reaching great heights if they rest on larger trees. Their lianas and plant tissues can reach sizes greater than 10 meters in height.

It is a recently recognized species if we compare it with other plants that were already known in Roman and Egyptian times. In this case, Uncaria tomentosa was “discovered” in 1830, and taken with much more interest from 1850. However, to discover all the natural remedies of this plant you have to enter the twentieth century…

Growing environment

Cat’s claw is characterized by inhabiting humid soils, with high percentages of nutrients typical of organic matter and warm environments. Practically some jungles of South America are defined, including the Amazon, the Andes mountain range and common areas.

Common names associated with this plant:

  • Cat’s claw
  • Scribble
  • Paraguayan
  • Cat vine
  • Chocó

Cat’s claw flower

The cat’s claw plant often suffers mistakes in terms of its denomination since by that name there are many plants that are called that.

To get away from doubt, when referring to Uncaria tomentosa, the plant does not stand out precisely for its flowering, since it is an evergreen that grows in specific areas of the Amazon.

Cat’s claw is also known as Carpobrotus edulis, which has a very characteristic violet flowering and especially adapted to saline (coastal) climates.

However, it is not related from the point of view of use as a medicinal plant with cat’s claw in this article, Uncaria tomentosa.

Medicinal properties and benefits of cat’s claw

Chemical composition of cat’s claw

The richness of its properties is given by the perfect combination of its components. Among those analyzed, are the following:

  • Oxyndol alkaloids: autoimmune, anticancer and antimutagenic activity.
  • Procyanidins: flavonoid found in the leaves, stems, bark and wood of U. tomentosa, which has antioxidant properties, Antiinflammatory and anti-cancer.
  • Quinovic acid: triterpenic acid compound extracted from the cortex that reduces the heart rate.
  • Uncaric acid: triterpene extracted from the bark and is effective against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (H37Rv strain).
  • Quinine acid: it has antioxidant properties, improves DNA repair and has neuroprotective effects on the brain.
  • Rhynchophyline: alkaloid isolated from the bark, which helps with seizures, lightheadedness, numbnessfoundation and hypertension.
  • Hirsutin: Alkaloid found in young leaves, which has antihypertensive properties, relaxes blood vessels and reduces overall blood pressure.
  • Mitraphylline: alkaloid which is usually found in older leaves and has anticancer effects, causing cell death in sarcoma and breast cancer.

It contains more than 30 known components, including at least 17 alkaloids, along with glycosides, tannins, sterol fractions and other compounds.

Medicinal properties of cat's claw

How it acts on the body

  • Decreases inflammatory molecules TNF-α and NF-κB
  • It blocks the release of iNos, an enzyme that creates free radicals as part of the immune response.
  • It blocks the release of COX-1 and COX-2, enzymes that play a crucial role in inflammation and pain.

1.- Stimulates the immune system and activates the defenses

The alkaloids among which much more importance is given to oxindol, present in cat’s claw, has been found to activate the production of white blood cells, which in general terms are those that reduce the progression of diseases and the development of bacteria.

In this sense, we are working openly to try to improve the quality of life of sick people (AIDS, tumors in the final state, etc.). Currently there are no serious conclusions for the case of AIDS because it interferes with commercial retrovirals, which can harm the state of health.

However, for catarrhal periods or lowering of defenses when temperatures drop, the cat’s claw plant used in infusions is enormously effective. It is used as an adjunct together with other drugs to reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy, herpes, systemic candidiasis, Kaposi’s sarcoma, etc.

In patients recovered from cancer, the number of leukocytes after chemotherapy-induced damage to DNA increased above normal levels with the consumption of this medicinal plant.

2.- Reduces the growth of tumor cells

Several parallel trials are being initiated where they study the behavior of tumor cells when a patient undergoes a medication procedure with cat’s claw.

One of the most important is the one made by British Journal of Hematology, where they found that some of the components of this medicinal plant (isopteropodin, pteropodin, isomitrafillin, uncarin and mitrafillin) inhibited the proliferation of human leukemia cells.

Likewise, and as we have mentioned before, the consumption of Uncaria tomentosa it is very interesting for terminal patients, improving the quality of life and reducing states of chronic fatigue or muscle aches.

3.- It is a powerful anti-inflammatory to treat osteoarthritis

We have spoken on several occasions of others plants effective in reducing inflammation. In this case, we have great potential with cat’s claw for problems derived from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and sciatica, reducing inflammations in the sore and congested parts.

Therefore, cat’s claw can be used in all kinds of conditions that are linked to inflammatory processes.

To treat this type of inflammatory processes, the bark of the plant and the root are used, also having analgesic and antioxidant activity.

In a 2001 study, 45 subjects suffered from knee osteoarthritis took 100 milligrams per day of freeze-dried cat’s claw or a placebo for four weeks. The researchers found that “pain associated with activity was significantly reduced during the first week of treatment.

In addition, a test carried out by the journal of Rheumatology analyzed the effects of cat’s claw in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who are currently taking conventional RA medications. In this double-blind study, 24 weeks of treatment with cat’s claw extract resulted in a reduction in the number of painful joints compared to placebo.

4.- Improves circulation and reduces thrombosis

Numerous studies carried out in different universities (one of them)At the prestigious Shaghai Medical College) have obtained satisfactory results from cat’s claw to reduce platelet aggregation and blood viscosity. This allows it to be used to reduce cardiovascular accidents, thrombosis and ischemia, such as the ultra-well-known pharmaceutical product simtrom (Acenocoumarol).

This potential is due to some of the alkaloids present in cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) as ryncophyline.

5.- Reduces stomach pains

Since cat’s claw has anti-inflammatory properties, many of the common and chronic diseases of the stomach are associated with this problem.

Therefore, the intake of natural extracts of this plant can help us with:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Colitis
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Gastritis
  • Leaky gut syndrome

6.- Reduces hypertension

From traditional Chinese medicine it is known that using a variety of cat’s claw (Uncaria rhynchophylla) had effects to lower blood pressure. These studies have been endorsed by modern medicine, acting as a blockade of calcium channels (so that it is indirectly possible to widen the blood vessels).

As a summary, cat’s claw can often be found combined with other herbs with similar healing properties, such as echinacea:

  • It reduces pain and inflammation from rheumatism, arthritis and other types of inflammatory problems.
  • It has antitumor and anticancer properties that inhibit the formation of cancer cells.
  • Promotes wound healing.
  • Treatment of gastric ulcers and intestinal complaints
  • Helps relieve chronic pain
  • Improves immunity by stimulating the immune system.
  • It helps people suffering from stomach and intestinal disorders, including colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, gastritis and duodenal ulcers, intestinal inflammation.
  • Helps fight viral and fungal infections, such as herpes and candida

How is cat’s claw prepared?

We move on to an important part of the article which is to know how we can take advantage of its properties.

For the consumption of cat’s claw topically, we can usually find 2 common forms, through infusion and decoctions or through capsules that concentrate all their extracts.

Cat’s claw capsules or pills

In the market and herbalists we can acquire different tablets based on cat’s claw extract.

They usually come in bottles of 50-100 tablets of 300 mg in powder extract, recommending the intake of 1 to 2 capsules daily for 3 months. Then it is recommended to rest periods of 1 to 2 weeks and restart the treatment.

In the market we can find many pills with different compositions, with tablets ranging from 300 mg to 500 mg.

As a supplement to the diet and the benefit of its medicinal properties, it is recommended to take 2 cat’s claw pills a day. The recommendations are: one in the morning, during breakfast, and another in the evening, during dinner.

Cat’s claw infusion

If we want to consume it through infusions, we will introduce 5 grams of bark U. tomentosa or we will buy the powder extract already prepared (there is it on the market) for every 200-300 ml of water, equivalent to one cup of infusion.

Let it boil for 10 minutes and rest for another 15 minutes, to promote the release of tannins and phenolic acids. take 1 or 2 cups a day for 2 or 3 months to improve anti-inflammatory action, circulation and activate defenses.

In this simple video we discuss how to prepare the cat’s claw infusion in a simple and fast way.  In this case, twigs of the plant are used, although you can also buy the already crushed powder.

Cat’s claw cream

Cat’s claw cream can also be used as a topical treatment for arthritis, rheumatism, and various muscle and joint problems.

Contraindications and side effects

Some of the tannins it contains may offer harmful effects if overused.

Generally, there are usually no complications derived from its consumption in usual concentrations.

However, depending on the consumer, the following symptoms or side effects of a cat’s claw may appear.

  • Diarrheal processes
  • Heartburn
  • Generalized allergy
  • Dizziness
  • Hives or dermatitis

Likewise, as with many other medicinal plants, its consumption is not recommended in children and pregnant people, and in general to any person without prior contact with a medical specialist.

Nor is it advisable to take an extract of this plant in people with hepatic and renal insufficiencies.

You may be interested in our article about Properties of apple cider vinegar (and contraindications)