Cats Claw (Uncaria Tomentosa)
Cat's Claw Root - an anti-rheumatic drug from Peru
The cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a liana native to South America, the roots of which are used in many diseases.
50 years ago an Austrian mountaineering expedition in the jungle on the eastern slopes of the Andes of Peru accidentally came into contact with an Indian tribe who used the roots of a certain liana to treat infections and rheumatic complaints. It was the cat's claw (translation from Spanish "uña de gato"; Uncaria tomentosa) from the Rubiaceae family (red family), which is mainly found in the tropics and subtropics and provides numerous alkaloid drugs. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) there is a related species, U. rhynchophylla, which, however, does not play the role of U. tomentosa worldwide today. Another South American species, U. guianensis, is also not as popular because its alkaloid content is lower.
In the United States, cat's claw preparations are currently among the best-selling herbal remedies. Systematic use of the benefits of this preparation include:
- strengthening the immune system,
- prevention of inflammatory processes,
- inhibiting the growth of tumors as well
- inhibition of virus replication.
Contraindications and side effects of cat's claw preparations - apart from an increase in uric acid levels and minor cardiovascular ailments - are unknown.
What do I do with Cat's Claw?
Cat's claw is used by humans and animals alike. In recent years, for example, it has become more and more popular as an anti-aging helper in natural cosmetics. It is best to keep your eyes open when choosing your next skin care product - you might come across the powder of the inner bark of the cat's claw at one point or another in high-quality products for mature skin.
Traditionally, the indigenous peoples of South America poured the cat's claw into tea. For one liter we need about two teaspoons of cat's claw powder. We let this simmer for about five minutes on a low heat and then steep for at least 15 minutes. For the benefit of the taste, you can refine the tea with a little lemon juice.
If it should go a little faster, you can also drink the cat's claw very well as a superfood shot for in between. For this we stir about a teaspoon into a glass of water. If you can't get used to the slightly bitter taste, it's best to stir the powder into a delicious smoothie.
The cat's claw smoothie
Whether for the pick-me-up effect in the early morning or the motivation boost after the lunchtime low: Our cat's claw smoothie makes us fit!
What we need:
- 250ml plant milk
- 1 teaspoon of carob powder
- 1 banana
- 2 dates
- 1 teaspoon cat's claw
How we proceed:
We put all the ingredients in the blender and let it turn them into a creamy smoothie at full power. If you are missing the sweetness, you are welcome to help with some Yacon powder. For an extra chocolaty kick, either double the carob dose or top the smoothie with a little cocoa nibs - or maybe both?
Plant and its ingredients
The cat's claw is a liana and can reach a trunk length of up to 100 m and a diameter of more than 20 cm. The opposite leaves grow on short shoots, in whose axils there are sharp, slightly crescent-shaped thorns. During the flowering period, whitish to yellow flower umbels are formed instead of the thorns.
There are obviously two chemotypes of U. tomentosa:
In addition to alkaloid precursors, the pentacyclic chemotype mainly contains six stereoisomeric pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids, while the tetracyclic chemotype contains four stereoisomeric tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids. The drug can contain up to 2% of these indole alkaloids.
In addition, triterpenes (mainly glycosides of quinovic acid, syn. Chonovic acid), procyanidins and steroids (including β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol) were detected.
In addition to the studies that are mainly limited to the effects of the isolated alkaloids, there are also various studies that have been carried out with commercial water-soluble preparations.
Only a few studies on the pharmacological effects and clinical efficacy of cat's claw have been carried out, which are briefly summarized here.
The anti-inflammatory effect of the aqueous extracts is generally recognized, with quinovic acid glycosides obviously being the active compounds. Clinical testing of a preparation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis showed a reduction in pain and morning stiffness. In addition, it was effective as an accompanying (adjuvant) medication in a conventional therapy, so that the dose of the standard medication could be reduced. The tested preparation is approved as a pharmacy-only drug with the indication "rheumatoid arthritis" (claw thorn from Immodal Pharmaka).
In vitro, the extract stimulated interleukin-1 and IL-6 production in a concentration-dependent manner. This immunomodulating effect is due to the mentioned oxindole alkaloids.
It is controversial whether the cat's claw has an anti-tumor effect. The American preparations initiated the apoptosis of tumor cells in vitro, which was demonstrated by characteristic morphological changes and internucleosomal fragmentation of the DNA. They were also found to be cytotoxic in tests with the HL-60 leukemia cell line and with a Burkitt lymphoma cell line transformed by the Epstein-Barr virus. The anti-tumor effect has not been tested in animal experiments.
A selective antiviral effect has been demonstrated in vitro for the triterpene glycosides. They inhibited the vesicular stomatitis virus, which is one of the RNA minus-strand viruses, but not rhinoviruses (RNA plus-strand viruses).
In 13 HIV-positive people who were treated with a preparation standardized to pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids, the number of lymphocytes had increased significantly after a few months (with the total number of leukocytes unchanged), which indicates immune stimulation.
Cat's claw root (Uncariae tomentosae radix) was not investigated by Committee E as the drug was not relevant in phytotherapy at the time of the monograph preparation. As this has changed in the meantime, a preliminary monograph was produced in 2007, the effects of which are summarized as follows:
- anti-leukemic (in vitro),
- antiviral (controversial),
- cytostatics (controversial discussion).
The mechanisms of action are described there as "unknown" or "not yet verified". However, "existing experimental and clinical results, even if still insufficient, should stimulate science to in-depth clinical and experimental research."
Cat's Claw is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. It should not be used by people with anemia, as well as those who take insulin or artificial hormones.