The cat’s claw plant of the Uncaria species has a long history in South America as a medicinal vine. It has been included in the traditional medicine of the Aguaruna, Ashaninka, Cashibo, Conibo, Inca, and Shipibo tribes for at least 2,000 years. The Ashaninka, which is one of the largest indigenous tribes in Latin America, has the longest recorded history of the said herb. These people have been using it to treat asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, bone pain, and inflammations of the urinary tract. Women of this tribe have also been using it to recover from childbirth.
Characteristics of Cats Claw
Uncaria tomentosa, cat’s claw, or uña de gato in Spanish which is indigenous to the Amazon Rainforest is a large woody vine with hook-like thorns which resemble the claws of a cat and elliptic leaves that grow in pairs. This medicinal herb which can grow to a length of up to 30 meters has powerful anti-oxidant and inflammatory properties. Please note that there are plants which are also known as uña de gato in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, but they are entirely different plant species and they don’t belong to the genus Uncaria.
Modern Medicinal Value of Cats Claw
Cat’s claw is an anti-inflammatory plant that can strengthen the immune system and improve digestive health. The following are the other benefits one may get from consuming this herb:
- It may help relieve arthritis
As previously mentioned, cat’s claw has anti-inflammatory properties which may ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis (a joint condition that causes painful and stiff joints) and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune condition that causes warm, swollen, painful joints). However, as promising as it sounds, cat’s claw should not be used as a replacement for the prescribed medicine to treat arthritis. In this case, a physician’s opinion is still highly recommended.
- It may benefit people with hypertension
Cat’s claw may be beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure, because it contains Rhynchophylline, an alkaloid found in certain Uncaria plant species which include Uncaria tomentosa. This compound may give relief to hypertensive people. It may also help with convulsions, lightheadedness, and numbness.
- It enhances DNA repair
DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid is an extremely important molecule because it contains the genetic code of organisms and it provides the blueprint for the proteins in the cells to function. With that being said, cell damage can cause serious issues which include the development of cancer. The quinic acid that cat’s claw contains has antioxidant effects which enhances DNA repair, and has neuroprotective effects in the brain.
- It may help prevent cancer
Uncaria tomentosa is rich in three major groups of powerful chemical compounds: alkaloids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. Alkaloids have antiproliferative and anticancer effects. Terpenoids are useful in the prevention and therapy of several diseases which include cancer. Flavanoids, on the other hand, can modulate signal transduction pathways within cancer cells. Thus, these compounds can inhibit cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and metastasis, while also promoting apoptosis. Not much study has been done in this area so please take with a grain of salt.
In traditional medicine, the indigenous tribes of the Americas believe that health is not just the absence of disease; it is harmony with one’s self, harmony with others, and harmony with the environment. So, be one with Mother Nature now and experience her goodness through a cup of cat’s claw tea.