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Cat's Claw - Uncaria tomentosa

This herb grows in the highlands of the Peruvian Amazon. The native Ashanica Indians have used this herb for many years to relieve various illnesses associated with the immune and digestive systems.

In addition to providing critical nutritional support for the immune system, Cat’s Claw is important for the healthy function of the intestinal system. The prized bark detoxifies the intestinal tract and encourages intestinal microflora balance.

In July of 1989, a U.S. patent was issued to a research scientist for isolating six oxindole alkaloids from the root of the Cat’s Claw herb. This patent states that all but two of the alkaloids “are suitable for the unspecific stimulation of the immune system”. According to the patent, Isopteropodine is the most immunologically active of the alkaloids and it has shown to have a profound affect on phagocytosis, which is the ability of the white blood cells and macrophages to attack and digest harmful microorganisms, foreign matter and debris. Cat’s Claw contains several of the polyphenols, in addition to triterpines and the plant steroids, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol. These compounds exert powerful antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties.

The traditional application of cat's claw has been to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The herb is also used for stomach ulcers, gastritis, eczema, "break-bone fever," and liver diseases. Recent clinical studies find that the herb is useful for relieving knee pain. Since the 1980's, cat's claw most common use in modern herbal medicine is an immune stimulant. The oxindole alkaloids in cat's claw strengthen the immune system and also improve circulation by lowering blood pressure. The master rain forest herbalist Leslie Taylor has used cat's claw tinctures and teas to treat cancer and HIV with remarkable success.

Some ingredients appear to act as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer agents. As a herbal treatment, Cat's Claw is used to treat intestinal ailments such as Crohn's disease, gastric ulcers and tumors, parasites, colitis, gastritis, diverticulitis and leaky bowel syndrome, while manufacturers claim that U. tomentosa can also be used in the treatment of AIDS in combination with AZT, the treatment and prevention of arthritis and rheumatism, diabetes, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome, prostate conditions, immune modulation, Lyme disease and systemic lupus erythematosus. A 2005 review of the scholarly literature on Cat's Claw indicates there is supporting evidence toward its use in treating cancer, inflammation, viral infection and vascular conditions, and for its use as an immunostimulant, antioxidant, antibacterial and CNS-related agent

Cat's claw has been used in Peru and Europe since the early 1990s as an adjunctive treatment for cancer and AIDS as well as for other diseases that target the immune system. In herbal medicine today, cat's claw is employed around the world for many different conditions, including immune disorders, gastritis, ulcers, cancer, arthritis, rheumatism, rheumatic disorders, neuralgias, chronic inflammation of all kinds, and such viral diseases as herpes zoster (shingles). Dr. Brent Davis, D.C. has written several articles on cat's claw and refers to it as the "opener of the way" for its ability to cleanse the entire intestinal tract and its effectiveness in treating stomach and bowel disorders (such as Crohn's disease, leaky bowel syndrome, ulcers, gastritis, diverticulitis, and other inflammatory conditions of the bowel, stomach, and intestines). Dr. Julian Whitaker, M.D. reports using cat's claw for its immune-stimulating effects, for cancer, to help prevent strokes and heart attacks, to reduce blood clots, and for diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Uncaria tomentosa is a liana deriving its name from hook-like thorns that resemble the claws of a cat. U. tomentosa can grow up to 30 m (100 ft) tall, climbing by means of these thorns. The leaves are elliptic with a smooth edge, and grow in opposite whorls of two. Cat's claw is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, with its habitat being restricted primarily to the tropical areas of South and Central America.

Cautions for Cats Claw

Women should avoid use of this herb when trying to get pregnant. It may be best to avoid use of this herb if you have any chronic health condition resulting from over-stimulation of the immune system, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis or scleroderma.
This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.