Cat’s Claw is an herb that has received very favorable but limited press. Word of mouth has boosted its appeal somewhat, but too few know enough about this miraculous yet inexpensive Peruvian mountain rain forest herb. Consider this article as a primer or introduction to Cat’s Claw and its tremendous healing capabilities.
Those capabilities include acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, stimulating the immune system, cleansing the intestinal tract, and enhancing the action of white blood cells. Cat’s Claw is taken for bacterial and viral infections, intestinal problems, and has helped people with AIDS, Lyme disease, arthritis, cancer and tumor metastasis, and ulcers. According to USDA research, Cat’s Claw seeds contain an enzyme instrumental in converting saturated fats to unsaturated fats.
This vine was named for the hooked thorns on its twigs that resemble cat claws. Cat’s Claw, or una de gato, is botanically known as uncaria tomentosa. It has been used traditionally for many centuries by Peruvian medicine men for a variety of ailments.
Cat’s Claw’s bark and roots provide most of its immune boosting qualities via oxindole alkaloids. These alkaloids enhance white blood cells’ ability to engulf pathogens and destroy them. However, there are two forms of these alkaloids.
The POA/TOA Controversy
Many consider pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids or POAs to be the more beneficial alkaloid form. It’s claimed that these POAs are hampered by the other type of alkaloids known as tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids or TOAs.
The hybrid (not GMO) TOA-free version of Cat’s Claw supposedly contains more quinovic acid glycosides. Quinovic acid glycoside compounds are used to manufacture antibiotics. But they are safer and less problematic in their natural herbal forms, yet powerful enough to provide significant direct antimicrobial effects for Lyme Disease.
However, TOA free Cat’s Claw is pricier. And there is a strong argument that Cat’s Claw’s natural alkaloid balance has been healing for ages. This argument goes further because there is no proof of TOA-free Cat’s Claw’s superiority.
Practically all of the international research proving Cat’s Claw’s efficacy was done with the original plant source containing both types of alkaloids. Most herbalists and naturalists agree that whole herb Cat’s Claw exceeds all other known immune enhancing or modulating herbs, including Reishi, Echinacea, Siberian ginseng, and Astragalus.
Nevertheless, many practitioners now tend to use or recommend TOA-free Cat’s Claw for the extreme issues of Lyme and Crohn’s Disease. Because of the Bb (Borrelia burgdorferi) bacteria that manages to hide so well once one is infected, the most dramatic results on Lyme Disease (LD) have come from Cat’s Claw.
The standard of care for LD is based on an insistence that if antibiotics don’t clear it up in a month, it isn’t Lyme Disease. Of course, this restriction is probably insurance driven, but it could be a blessing in disguise. While thousands of LD patients protest antibiotics being cut off after a month’s treatment, a few health practitioners and LD patients have discovered Cat’s Claw’s ability to root out and get rid of the pesky Bb bacteria naturally.
Cat’s Claw can be taken as often as needed at less cost and without prescriptions. But it’s wise to consult a holistic MD, naturopath, or herbalist.
Using Cat’s Claw
Cat’s Claw can be taken in capsule, tea, or tincture forms. It is an adaptogenic immune regulator, so it provides both immune boosting and immune dampening as necessary. Too much of an immune response does cause problems. For example, a vaccination can cause a cytotokine storm, an overreaction from the immune system that results in seizures or paralysis, even death. Most allergies are essentially milder hyper immune system responses that react to otherwise normal influences.
The converse is obvious. If the immune system is weak, disease can invade undeterred. So Cat’s Claw can adapt to either situation as needed.
Originally, Cat’s Claw was used to effectively handle digestive problems such as gastric or duodenal ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and leaky bowel syndrome. Cat’s Claw has demonstrated a capacity for flushing out pathogens and irritants from the gastro-intestinal tract.
Its anti-inflammatory properties have been useful for relieving the pains from rheumatism or arthritis. Cat’s Claw is also useful for various fungal problems, including Candida and yeast infections. Cat’s Claw’s anti-viral qualities have been used for treating Herpes as well. Using Cat’s Claw can benefit almost any autoimmune or inflammatory issues.
CAVEAT: Make sure your Cat’s Claw plant source is uncaria tomentosa and not uncaria guianensis. The latter is easier to find and harvest, but uncaria tomentosa is the better source of Cat’s Claw. Pregnant women are advised against using Cat’s Claw, as it can cause a miscarriage. There are contraindications with blood thinning drugs or drugs that are meant to suppress the immune system.
Sources for more information include:
(1) POA/TOA Controversy pdf http://www.wholeworldbotanicals.com/pdfs/CTCL_POA_TOA_Controversy.pdf
(2) Lyme Disease and Cat’s Claw http://healthnews.benabraham.com/html/lyme_disease_-_cause__spread__.html
(3) An anecdotal account of curing from Cat’s Claw http://www.healthherbs.com/researchreports/8625-newsletter.php
(4) Cat’s Claw for Yeast Infections http://www.yeastinfectioncure101.com/cats-claw-for-yeast-infection-treatment.html