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Cat’s Claw Bark

Cat’s Claw Bark

Cat’s claw, also known as “Uncaria tomentosa”, is a tropical vine that can grow up to 98 feet tall. It is found mainly in tropical areas of South and Central America and the Amazon rainforest. Its name is derived from its thorn, which resembles the claw of a cat. The root and the bark of cat’s claw is used for the treatment of a wide array of medical conditions such as inflammatory diseases, cancer, and various infections. Cat’s claw can be consumed in the form of liquid extract, capsule, powder, or tea.

Overall Health Benefits of Cat’s Claw Bark

  • Improves symptoms of diabetes [1-3]
  • Lowers blood pressure [4-5]
  • Speeds up wound healing [6-9]
  • Prevents Alzheimer’s disease (ad) and boosts cognitive health [10-16]
  • Fights cancer [17-28]
  • Treats inflammatory conditions [29-35]
  • Fights infection [36-40]

How Cat’s Claw Bark Works

Cat’s claw has antioxidant properties that help the body eliminate cell-damaging particles. Aside from this, cat’s claw is jam-packed with different phytonutrients (plant nutrients) such as alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, and sterols, which are known to exert potent medicinal properties.

Proven Health Benefits of Cat’s Claw Bark

Improves Symptoms of Diabetes

Evidence suggests that cat’s claw has anti-diabetic properties that can benefit people with diabetes mellitus and chronic elevations in blood sugar levels:

  1. In male mice, administration of cat’s claw extract prevented the progression of immune-mediated diabetes. [1]
  2. In obese mice, treatment with cat’s claw extract improved glucose homeostasis and reverted non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. [2]
  3. A study found that cat’s claw exerts its anti-diabetic effects through its antioxidant properties. [3]

Lowers Blood Pressure

Studies also suggest that cat’s claw has antihypertensive properties necessary for the treatment of high blood pressure:

  1. A study showed that cat’s claw reduced blood pressure in hypertensive patients and relieved various neurological symptoms. [4]
  2. A study found that hirsutine, a substance extracted from cat’s claw, produced blood pressure-lowering effects. [5]

Speeds up Wound Healing

Numerous studies also show that cat’s claw can help accelerate the wound healing process:

  1. A study found that cat’s claw can speed up the wound healing process through its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. [6-8]
  2. A study found that cat’s claw produced antimicrobial effect against various human oral pathogens such as Enterobacteriaceae isolates, Streptococcus mutans, and Staphylococcus aureus. [9]

Prevents Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Boosts Cognitive Health

There’s also a good deal of evidence supporting the benefits of cat’s claw on cognitive dysfunction associated with AD and old age:

  1. A study found that the proanthocyanidin constituents of cat’s claw can inhibit the formation of brain plaques and tangles (primary cause of AD). [10]
  2. In mice with experimental amnesia, the alkaloid components of cat’s claw improved memory function. [11]
  3. A study found that PTI-00703, a proprietary extract of cat’s claw, inhibited the formation of beta amyloid fibrils (contributes to AD) and dissolved pre-formed amyloid fibrils. [12]
  4. A study also reported that cat’s claw can potentially improve learning and memory by increasing the levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). [13]
  5. In normal individuals aged 18–35 years old, administration of a dietary supplement containing 25% cat’s claw bark powder for 6 weeks improved short-term memory and executive function. [14]
  6. In patients with dementia, administration of a dietary supplement that contains 20% cat’s claw bark powder improved cognitive function and activities of daily living. [15]
  7. In healthy adults, administration of 250 and 350 mg/day tablets containing an aqueous extract of cat’s claw protected against DNA damage, suggesting that the treatment can help reduce the risk of brain disorders. [16]

Fights Cancer

Several lines of evidence show that cat’s claw has anti-cancer properties and can help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy:

  1. In patients undergoing chemotherapy, the addition of cat’s claw extract reduced the adverse effects of the treatment. [17-20]
  2. A test tube study found that the bark of cat’s claw inhibited the growth of human breast cancer cell line MCF7. [21]
  3. In human leukemia cells, cat’s claw prevented the multiplication of cancer cells by inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis). [22]
  4. In patients with advanced cancer, treatment with cat’s claw improved quality of life and reduced fatigue. [23]
  5. A study also found that cat’s claw could be useful in enhancing the death of cancer cells after anti-cancer therapies. [24]
  6. A cell study found that cat’s claw can enhance the toxic effects of chemotherapeutic drugs on cancer cells. [25]
  7. In rat breast cancer cells, cat’s claw exerted its anti-cancer effects by modulating oxidative stress. [26]
  8. In mouse lung cancer cells, cat’s claw significantly inhibited tumor growth by inducing cell cycle arrest. [27]
  9. In colon cancer cells, cat’s claw enhanced chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. [28]

Treats Inflammatory Conditions

Several studies also support the potent anti-inflammatory effects of cat’s claw:

  1. In patients with osteoarthritis, treatment with cat’s claw extract improved joint health and function after 1–2 weeks. [29-30]
  2. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 24 weeks of treatment with cat’s claw extract significantly reduced joint pain. [31]
  3. In mice with respiratory inflammation, cat’s claw protected against ozone-induced lung inflammation. [32]
  4. In an animal model of inflammation, cat’s claw produced anti-inflammatory effects similar to dexamethasone. [33]
  5. In rats with arthritis, cat’s claw treatment reduced joint pain and inflammation. [34]
  6. In rats with chronic intestinal inflammation, oral administration of cat’s claw reduced the levels of inflammatory substances. [35]

Fights Infection

Numerous high-quality studies suggest that the immune-boosting properties of cat’s claw can help ward off a wide array of infections:

  1. A study found that the presence of polyphenols in cat’s claw bark can help treat herpes infection. [36]
  2. In HIV-positive individuals, supplementation with cat’s claw increased the numbers of white blood cells. [37]
  3. A study reported that individuals supplemented with a novel water soluble extract of cat’s claw exhibited significant immune enhancement which protected against pneumonia. [38]
  4. In human white blood cell samples infected with dengue virus-2, cat’s claw produced antiviral effects which significantly reduced infection rates. [39]
  5. A cells study also found that cat’s claw can improve the antifungal effects of fluconazole. [40]

References:

  1. Domingues A, Sartori A, Golim MA, et al. Prevention of experimental diabetes by Uncaria tomentosa extract: Th2 polarization, regulatory T cell preservation or both?. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;137(1):635-642. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.06.021.
  2. Araujo, L.C.C., Feitosa, K.B., Murata, G.M. et al. Uncaria tomentosa improves insulin sensitivity and inflammation in experimental NAFLD. Sci Rep 8, 11013 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-29044-y.
  3. Ahmad, H.M. Hashim, Z.M. Noor, N.H. Ismail, F. Salim, N.H. Lajis and K. Shaari, 2011. Antioxidant and Antidiabetic Potential of Malaysian Uncaria. Research Journal of Medicinal Plants, 5: 587-595.
  4. Tabassum N, Ahmad F. Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension. Pharmacogn Rev. 2011;5(9):30-40. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.79097.
  5. Sandoval‐Chacón, , Thompson, , Zhang, , Liu, , Mannick, , Sadowska‐Krowicka, , Charbonnet, , Clark, and Miller, (1998), Antiinflammatory actions of cat’s claw: the role of NF‐κB. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 12: 1279-1289. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.1998.00424.x.
  6. Available from https://search.proquest.com/openview/56cf3e3f7271b36aff0ce24e6cdc9dd2/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2032433.
  7. Available from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131882#abstract0.
  8. Sandoval M, Okuhama NN, Zhang XJ, et al. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis) are independent of their alkaloid content. Phytomedicine. 2002;9(4):325-337. doi:10.1078/0944-7113-00117.
  9. Hirsutine extracted from cat’s claw was reported to Ccahuana-Vasquez RA, Santos SS, Koga-Ito CY, Jorge AO. 2007. Antimicrobial activity of Uncaria tomentosa against oral human pathogens. Braz Oral Res. 21:46–50.
  10. Snow AD, Castillo GM, Nguyen BP, et al. The Amazon rain forest plant Uncaria tomentosa (cat’s claw) and its specific proanthocyanidin constituents are potent inhibitors and reducers of both brain plaques and tangles. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):561. Published 2019 Feb 6. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-38645-0.
  11. Mohamed AF, Matsumoto K, Tabata K, Takayama H, Kitajima M, Watanabe H (2000): Effects of Uncaria tomentosa total alkaloid and its components on experimental amnesia in mice: Elucidation using the passive avoidance test. J Pharm Pharmacol 52: 1553–1561.
  12. Snow A (1999): Neurosharp: A new dietary supplement containing PTI00703 TM for the prevention and treatment of brain amyloidosis associated with Alzheimer’s disease and aging. Presentation at Experimental Biology ’99, Washington, DC.
  13. Huang H, Zhong R, Xia Z, Song J, Feng L. Neuroprotective effects of rhynchophylline against ischemic brain injury via regulation of the Akt/mTOR and TLRs signaling pathways. Molecules. 2014 Jul 30;19(8):11196-210. doi: 10.3390/molecules190811196. PMID: 25079660; PMCID: PMC6270871.
  14. Solomon TM, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, parallel group, efficacy study of alpha BRAIN® administered orally. Human Psychopharm. Clinical & Exp. 2015;31:135–143.
  15. Suzuki T, et al. A chines herbal medicine, choto-san, improves cognitive function and activities of daily living of patients with dementia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. J. American Ger. Soc. 2005;53:2238–2240.
  16. Sheng Y, Li L, Holmgren K, Pero RW. DNA repair enhancement of aqueous extracts of Uncaria tomentosa in a human volunteer study. Phytomedicine. 2001 Jul;8(4):275-82. doi: 10.1078/0944-7113-00045. PMID: 11515717.
  17. Santos Araújo Mdo C, Farias IL, Gutierres J, Dalmora SL, Flores N, Farias J, de Cruz I, Chiesa J, Morsch VM, Chitolina Schetinger MR. Uncaria tomentosa-Adjuvant Treatment for Breast Cancer: Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:676984. doi: 10.1155/2012/676984. Epub 2012 Jun 28. PMID: 22811748; PMCID: PMC3395261.
  18. Crawford J, Dale DC, Lyman GH. Chemotherapy-induced neutropenia: risks, consequences, and new directions for its management. Cancer. 2004 Jan 15;100(2):228-37. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11882. Erratum in: Cancer. 2004 May 1;100(9):1993-4. PMID: 14716755.
  19. Farias IL, Araújo MC, Farias JG, Rossato LV, Elsenbach LI, Dalmora SL, Flores NM, Durigon M, Cruz IB, Morsch VM, Schetinger MR. Uncaria tomentosa for Reducing Side Effects Caused by Chemotherapy in CRC Patients: Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:892182. doi: 10.1155/2012/892182. Epub 2011 Aug 21. PMID: 21869902; PMCID: PMC3159308.
  20. Farias IL, Araújo MC, Farias JG, et al. Uncaria tomentosa for Reducing Side Effects Caused by Chemotherapy in CRC Patients: Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:892182. doi:10.1155/2012/892182.
  21. Riva L, Coradini D, Di Fronzo G, De Feo V, De Tommasi N, De Simone F, Pizza C. The antiproliferative effects of Uncaria tomentosa extracts and fractions on the growth of breast cancer cell line. Anticancer Res. 2001 Jul-Aug;21(4A):2457-61. PMID: 11724307.
  22. Bacher N, Tiefenthaler M, Sturm S, Stuppner H, Ausserlechner MJ, Kofler R, Konwalinka G. Oxindole alkaloids from Uncaria tomentosa induce apoptosis in proliferating, G0/G1-arrested and bcl-2-expressing acute lymphoblastic leukaemia cells. Br J Haematol. 2006 Mar;132(5):615-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2005.05907.x. PMID: 16445836.
  23. de Paula LC, Fonseca F, Perazzo F, Cruz FM, Cubero D, Trufelli DC, Martins SP, Santi PX, da Silva EA, Del Giglio A. Uncaria tomentosa (cat’s claw) improves quality of life in patients with advanced solid tumors. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Jan;21(1):22-30. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0127. Epub 2014 Dec 11. PMID: 25495394.
  24. Allen L, Buckner A, Buckner CA, Cano P, Lafrenie RM. Uncaria tomentosa (Willd. ex Schult.) DC (Rubiaceae) Sensitizes THP-1 Cells to Radiation-induced Cell Death. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017;9(3):221-229. doi:10.4103/pr.pr_83_16.
  25. Kośmider A, Czepielewska E, Kuraś M, Gulewicz K, Pietrzak W, Nowak R, Nowicka G. Uncaria tomentosa Leaves Decoction Modulates Differently ROS Production in Cancer and Normal Cells, and Effects Cisplatin Cytotoxicity. Molecules. 2017 Apr 12;22(4):620. doi: 10.3390/molecules22040620. PMID: 28417940; PMCID: PMC6154711.
  26. Dreifuss AA, Bastos-Pereira AL, Fabossi IA, et al. Uncaria tomentosa exerts extensive anti-neoplastic effects against the Walker-256 tumour by modulating oxidative stress and not by alkaloid activity. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e54618. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054618.
  27. Pilarski R, Filip B, Wietrzyk J, Kuraś M, Gulewicz K. Anticancer activity of the Uncaria tomentosa (Willd.) DC. preparations with different oxindole alkaloid composition. Phytomedicine. 2010 Dec 1;17(14):1133-9. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.04.013. Epub 2010 Jun 25. PMID: 20576410.
  28. de Oliveira LZ, Farias IL, Rigo ML, et al. Effect of Uncaria tomentosa Extract on Apoptosis Triggered by Oxaliplatin Exposure on HT29 Cells. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:274786. doi:10.1155/2014/274786.
  29. Miller MJ, Mehta K, Kunte S, et al. Early relief of osteoarthritis symptoms with a natural mineral supplement and a herbomineral combination: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN38432711]. J Inflamm (Lond). 2005;2:11. Published 2005 Oct 21. doi:10.1186/1476-9255-2-11.
  30. Piscoya J, Rodriguez Z, Bustamante SA, Okuhama NN, Miller MJ, Sandoval M. Efficacy and safety of freeze-dried cat’s claw in osteoarthritis of the knee: mechanisms of action of the species Uncaria guianensis. Inflamm Res. 2001 Sep;50(9):442-8. doi: 10.1007/PL00000268. PMID: 11603848.
  31. Mur E, Hartig F, Eibl G, Schirmer M. Randomized double blind trial of an extract from the pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2002 Apr;29(4):678-81. PMID: 11950006.\
  32. Cisneros F. J., Jayo M., Niedziela L. An Uncaria tomentosa (cat’s claw) extract protects mice against ozone-induced lung inflammation. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2005;96(3):355–364. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2004.06.039.
  33. Rojas-Duran R., González-Aspajo G., Ruiz-Martel C., et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of mitraphylline isolated from Uncaria tomentosa bark. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2012;143(3):801–804. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.07.015.
  34. Castilhos LG, Rezer JF, Ruchel JB, et al. Effect of Uncaria tomentosa extract on purinergic enzyme activities in lymphocytes of rats submitted to experimental adjuvant arthritis model. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015;15:189. Published 2015 Jun 20. doi:10.1186/s12906-015-0694-4.
  35. Sandoval-Chacón M, Thompson JH, Zhang XJ, Liu X, Mannick EE, Sadowska-Krowicka H, Charbonnet RM, Clark DA, Miller MJ. Antiinflammatory actions of cat’s claw: the role of NF-kappaB. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Dec;12(12):1279-89. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.1998.00424.x. PMID: 9882039.
  36. Caon T, Kaiser S, Feltrin C, de Carvalho A, Sincero TC, Ortega GG, Simões CM. Antimutagenic and antiherpetic activities of different preparations from Uncaria tomentosa (cat’s claw). Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Apr;66:30-5. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2014.01.013. Epub 2014 Jan 18. PMID: 24447975.
  37. Erowele GI, Kalejaiye AO. Pharmacology and therapeutic uses of cat’s claw. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2009 Jun 1;66(11):992-5. doi: 10.2146/ajhp080443. PMID: 19451609.
  38. Lamm S, Sheng Y, Pero RW. Persistent response to pneumococcal vaccine in individuals supplemented with a novel water soluble extract of Uncaria tomentosa, C-Med-100. Phytomedicine. 2001 Jul;8(4):267-74. doi: 10.1078/0944-7113-00046. PMID: 11515716.
  39. Reis SR, Valente LM, Sampaio AL, Siani AC, Gandini M, Azeredo EL, D’Avila LA, Mazzei JL, Henriques Md, Kubelka CF. Immunomodulating and antiviral activities of Uncaria tomentosa on human monocytes infected with Dengue Virus-2. Int Immunopharmacol. 2008 Mar;8(3):468-76. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2007.11.010. Epub 2007 Dec 26. PMID: 18279801.
  40. Moraes RC, Carvalho AR, Lana AJ, et al. In vitro synergism of a water insoluble fraction of Uncaria tomentosa combined with fluconazole and terbinafine against resistant non-Candida albicans isolates. Pharm Biol. 2017;55(1):406-415. doi:10.1080/13880209.2016.1242631.
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