You can trace the discovery of the health benefits of cat's claw far back to the Incan civilization, where it was used as a traditional medicine to treat such ailments as inflammation and digestive issues. Tribes in the Amazon and the Andes have long used the plant, as well. Unlike some natural medicines, the reputation of cat's claw as a wide-ranging remedy is now wholly validated by science. Though not usually recommended in combination with other medicines, the health benefits of cat's claw are vast.
Cat's claw is a medicinal herb made from the vine, roots, and bark of the cat's claw plant. Found in South America, the plant's popular name comes from its claw-shaped thorns. Research points to many immune system-boosting compounds that promote the relief of many types of ailments.
South Americans -- such as the Inca and Asháninka tribes -- put it to use to ease fevers and inflammation, as well as viral infections. You'll find its health-boosting potential in the alkaloids of the roots and bark. The plant also contains compounds that aid the eradication of bad bacteria and replace it with good. These seven alkaloids are the reason cat's claw is so useful in treating so many different health issues. Let's take a look at some of those.
tonigenes / Getty Images
Cat's claw is incredible for boosting your immune system. It works by elevating the white blood cell count in the body. The white blood cells are what fight off viral infections inside of the body. Not only can cat's claw boost a weak immune system, but it also adapts and can calm the immune response. Calming your immune system will calm your body, freeing you from further ailments brought on by adrenaline.
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects joints. There are two types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Osteoarthritis is the most common and may develop in people of any age. Rheumatoid arthritis often starts later in life and occurs when the body's immune system targets the joints. Because of its anti-inflammatory compounds and their power to regulate the immune system, cat's claw is highly beneficial to people with rheumatoid arthritis.
While Cat's Claw decreases blood pressure, taking it while you're taking medication for high blood pressure can be dangerous. If you're already on blood pressure medications, don't use it as a supplement. If you're not on blood pressure medication, ask a doctor if cat's claw's ability to dilate blood vessels could help you. When the blood vessels dilate, your blood flows in a smoother manner, which decreases the build-up of calcium in the heart and vessel walls and lowers blood pressure.
Once your gut flora is off-kilter, the rest of your body follows. Cat's claw is useful for disorders that cause inflammation of the digestive system. Inflammation of the large intestine, lower bowel, stomach lining, and small intestine is painful. People with conditions like diverticulitis, colitis, gastritis, or ulcers might find cat's claw beneficial because of its anti-inflammatory benefits. The plant also cleanses the digestive tract, which can regulate bowel movements.
The Amazonian rainforest is full of natural medicinal treasures and cat's claw might be its best. As well as the ability to strengthen white blood cells, cat's claw can protect red blood cells from damage. Toxins and oxidative stress can damage red blood cells over time. One study found cat's claw could prevent cell death and oxidative stress in red blood cells that had been exposed to pesticides.
Because cat's claw improves the body's natural defense and immune systems, research has begun on the plant as a supplement to chemotherapy. The chemicals it contains can strengthen and weaken the immune system at will. This has made medical professionals theorize that it could, perhaps, also attack invading pathogens. Cat's claw helps the immune system rebuild itself by teaming up with our bodies to fight.
As well as having immense anti-inflammatory capabilities, cat's claw is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. The antiviral properties make it a natural cure for the herpes virus. Early studies are also currently researching the effects the plant has on HIV and its symptoms. If you're fighting a viral infection, you might try an herbal tea with a tablespoon of cat's claw and watch it work its magic.
Cat's claw also shows positive effects in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. A chronic autoimmune disorder, type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system targets the pancreas. This type of diabetes destroys the cells inside of the pancreas responsible for creating insulin. Lab tests have shown cat's claw reduces blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation levels, so it may be able to help prevent diabetes.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.