Cat’s claw, also known as cat’s claw vine or hook vine, is a medicinal plant that has been used as a traditional medicine in South America for centuries.
Local residents use extracts fried from its roots and skins to treat a variety of ailments such as: allergies, arthritis, inflammation, rheumatic infections and cancer.
In empirical medicine, what are the benefits of cat’s claw vine? Are there any side effects of cat’s claw vine? See text analysis for details
What is cat’s claw grass?
Cat’s claw is a giant climbing vine native to the Amazon basin and other tropical regions of Central and South America, belonging to the Rubiaceae genus Uncaria, which takes its name from the curved thorns resembling cat’s claw on its woody vines.
Common cat’s claw grasses include two, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guinaensis, while extracts usually come from root bark, the most common being Uncaria tomentosa.
Cat’s claw contains more than 50 chemical components, including: indole, alkaloids, polyphenols (flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, tannins), glycosides, triterpenoid derivatives, saponins etc.
What are the proven benefits of cat’s claw?
1. Beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation, mainly manifested by inflammation of the small joints of the hands and feet. Features include fatigue, general weakness, weight loss, and low-grade fever.
As the disease progresses, irreversible tissue damage occurs, and bone and cartilage destruction leads to joint deformity, muscle atrophy, and progression that can affect all joints throughout the body. There may be more serious complications such as ischaemic heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, and infections.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1% of the world’s population, an estimated 2 million people in the United States, and women are three times more likely to be affected than men.
A randomized, double-blind controlled trial (52 weeks, 40 patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated with medication) found that cat’s claw extract (60 mg daily) reduced the number of joint pains compared with controls. Note 1
*Conclusion: For rheumatoid arthritis, cat’s claw extract combined with drug treatment may bring positive help to improve the condition, but limited by the small sample size, more studies are still needed for further verification
2. Good for osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal disorder characterized by loss of articular cartilage, remodeling of subchondral bone, bone spurs, laxity of ligaments, weakening of the muscles around the joint, and thickening of the capsule and synovium.
The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that osteoarthritis is an ageing-related disease and a leading cause of chronic disability in the middle-aged and elderly population. It is estimated that 10% of men and 18% of women are affected by it, most often on the hips and knees.
The risk of developing osteoarthritis increased from 30% in people in their 1s to nearly 40% in people over 10 and 60% in people over 50.
A randomized, double-blind controlled study (4 weeks, 45 people with osteoarthritis) showed that oral cat’s claw extract reduced activity-related pain, medical and patient assessment scores (but no significant reduction in knee pain or knee circumference at rest or at night). Note 2
*Conclusion: For osteoarthritis, oral cat’s claw extract may bring positive help, but due to the small sample size, more studies are still needed for further verification
3. It is beneficial to adjuvant therapy for breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide and is not limited to women. Male breast cancer accounts for 0.8% to 1% of all breast cancers. Treatment mainly includes surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, endocrine therapy and targeted therapy.
Breast-conserving surgery is a trend in the treatment of localized breast cancer, with neoadjuvant therapy used before surgery to reduce tumor size and often adjuvant therapy after surgery to ensure complete recovery and minimize the risk of metastasis.
Age, reproductive factors, personal or family history of breast disease, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors are all associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in women.
A randomized clinical trial (21 weeks, 40 patients with aggressive breast cancer) found that cat’s claw extract (300 mg daily) combined with chemotherapy reduced chemotherapy-induced neutropenia and repaired cellular DNA damage. Note 3
*Conclusion: For breast cancer patients, cat scratch grass may be an adjuvant treatment that is effective in reducing the adverse effects of chemotherapy.
Are there any side effects of cat’s claw grass?
Based on the limited evidence available, short-term use of cat scratch grass is probably safe for most people, and side effects or adverse reactions have been reported, including: headache, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, rash etc.
Safety precautions (12 contraindications for use)
1. Do not use if pregnant or lactating women (due to unknown safety)
2. Do not use autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus or other related diseases, because cat scratching grass can make the immune system more active, which may cause symptoms to worsen
3. Do not use for patients with coagulation dysfunction, because cat scratch grass has anticoagulant effect, which may increase the risk of bruising or bleeding
4. Do not use for patients with low blood pressure, because cat’s claw may lower blood pressure and cause blood pressure to be too low
5. Do not use leukemia patients, it may worsen the condition
6. Discontinue use at least two weeks before scheduled surgery, as it may affect coagulation function or may cause difficulty in blood pressure control during surgery
7. Do not use it with high blood pressure drugs, because cat’s claw can lower blood pressure, may cause blood pressure to be too low, common related drug names are: captopril (methyl mercaptopropionic acid), enalapril, losartan, valsartan, diltiazem, Amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide (furoaniline)
8. Do not use it with immunosuppressants, because cat’s claw can strengthen the immune system and may reduce the effectiveness of drugs, common related drug names are: azathioprine (imidazolthioprine), basiliximab (valiximal), cyclosporine, daclizumab, muromonab-CD3 (moromonomab), mycophenolate, Tacrolimus, sirolimus (rapamycin), prednisone, corticosteroids
9. Do not use it with drugs that need to be metabolized by cytochrome P450, because cat’s claw may reduce the speed of the liver to break down certain drugs, which will affect the efficacy and side effects of drugs, common related drug names are: lovastatin, ketoconazole, itraconazole (etraconazole), fexofenadine, triazolam etc.
10. Do not use with antiretroviral (used in AIDS treatment) drugs, may affect the efficacy of the drug, common drug names are: atazanavir, ritonavir, saquinavir, amprenavir, nelfinavir
11. There has been a case of reversible deterioration of motor signs after oral administration in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Note 4
12. Do not use with anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs, because cat’s claw may slow down blood clotting and affect the efficacy of drugs, common related drug names are: aspirin, clopidogrel, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, dalteparin (dalteparin sodium), enoxaparin, Heparin, Warfarin