Cat’s Claw (Gou Teng)
Botanical Name: Western – Uncaria tomentosa, U. guianensis. Eastern – Uncaria rhynchophylla, U. gambir.
Be careful not to confuse cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa and U. guianensis) with cat’s foot (Antennaria dioica) they are different plants. Cat’s claw is most commonly used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, though it is also useful for treating a wide variety of ailments including digestive disorders caused by inflammation, such as diverticulitis, colitis, hemorrhoids, and leaky bowel syndrome.
Below is an overview of Cat’s Claw (Gou Teng), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Cat’s Claw (Gou Teng).
Western Name: Cat’s Claw
Botanical Name: Uncaria tomentosa, U. guianensis
Also Known As: Uncaria, Una de gato, Life-giving Vine of Peru, Samento
Organs/Systems: Immune System, Liver, Blood, Respiratory System, Digestive System, Cardiovascular System, Joints and Connective Tissues
Key Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Adaptogenic, Antiviral, Anticancer, Analgesic, Antibacterial, Antimicrobial, Antifungal, Antimutagenic, Depurative, Vermifuge, Diuretic, Hypotensive, Immunostimulant.
Medicinal Uses: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diverticulitis, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, hemorrhoids, leaky bowel syndrome, shingles, cold sores, AIDs, hay fever, asthma, colds, flu, Alzheimer’s, parasites, glioblastoma, gonorrhea, dysentery, birth control, heal wounds, lowers blood pressure, slows clotting.
Pin Yin: Gou Teng (Translates as Hook Vine.)
Botanical Name: Uncaria rhynchophylla, U. gambir
Also Known As: Gambir
Meridians: Liver, Pericardium, Heart
Key Actions: Extinguishes Wind, Alleviates Spasms, Drains Liver Heat, Releases to the Exterior.
Medicinal Uses: Headaches, hypertension, spasms, Parkinson’s, tremors, seizures, eclampsia, red eyes, irritability, dizziness, fevers, high blood pressure.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Bark, Root, Leaf, Stem Bark, Hook, Inner Bark
Flavors/Temps: Western (Uncaria tomentosa, U. guianensis) – Bitter, Cold. Eastern – (Uncaria rhynchophylla, U. gambir) – Sweet, Bitter, Cool.
Caution: Generally considered safe and non-toxic.
History/Folklore: Uncaria tomentosa is most commonly used in the U.S., and Uncaria guianensis is more commonly used in Europe. Used for thousands of years in the America’s dating back to the Inca civilizations, it has been used to treat inflammation, dysentery, wounds, digestive issues, and stomach ulcers.
Cat’s claw was first popularized by the German natural scientist, Arturo Brell, who in 1926 moved to a small town in the Peruvian rainforest. He used cat’s claw to successfully treat his rheumatic pain, when nothing else had worked. Later another friend of his was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and as nothing else was working he began consuming cat’s claw root tea three times a day and not only improved remarkably, but a year later was declared cancer free. Interest in the herb naturally grew and today many studies and documented cases further lend support to the herbs powerful healing potentials. Research continues in order to further confirm the herbs attributes.
The herb is sacred to the Ashaninkas, Campo, and other Amazonian tribes. For shamanic healers, it is considered a bridge and balancer between the physical and spiritual worlds.
As cat’s claw can lose medicinal potency when absorbed directly through the tongue, washing a tincture down with water or other preparation with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar is important for maximizing this herbs magical and science-based healing powers.
The oxindole alkaloids found in cat’s claw were long held to be the key to the herbs healing powers, however, recent studies have shown that water-soluble cat’s claw, which does not contain the high levels of non-water soluble alkaloids (such as oxindole alkaloids), still have remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research is indicating that the quinic acid esters within cat’s claw, that are water soluble, may be the major contributing factor to the herbs healing strength even in the form of a water extract. Collectively, it all points to the herbs strength and versatility as a healing herb.
For example, recent studies indicate that cat’s claw significantly elevated the infection fighting count of white blood cells in men who used the herb for a period of 6 months.
In another study conducted over 8 weeks, it was noted that the participants showed notably improved DNA repair in both single and double strand breaks. DNA is highly vulnerable to damage from free-radicals, contributing to cancer and other deadly diseases. While playing a critical role in cancer treatment, chemotherapy includes the drawback that it can damage DNA in healthy cells. Volunteers who used water-soluble cat’s claw extract for eight weeks after their chemotherapy exhibited markedly decreased DNA damage and an increase in DNA repair. The herb also helps support normal cell division. These types of results contribute to cat’s claw becoming an adjunct herb used in post-chemotherapy protocol, even in hospitals.
As an immune enhancer and antioxidant, cat’s claws impact on the immune system appears to be two fold, it both boosts and dampens immune response, depending on what is needed.
Oriental medicine has used cat’s claw for centuries to treat high blood pressure. We now know the herb contains the alkaloid, hirsutine, which specifically acts as a calcium channel blocker, lowering blood pressure while simultaneously widening and relaxing blood vessels. It is excellent for clearing Heat away from the Liver and thereby calming Wind to relieve convulsions, including febrile convulsions, morbid crying of babies, eclampsia, and dizziness caused by hypertension.
In Oriental medicine, the branch and stem are used for their nerve-inhibiting actions. They are considered to be sedating, anticonvulsant, hypotensive, and analgesic (reducing pain).
In Malaysia, U. gambir is used. It is not used internally but rather topically as an antiseptic and analgesic to help heal wounds and insect bites.
Typical dosing for the Eastern varieties Uncaria rhynchopyholla and Uncaria gambir is 5 to 30 g of dried herb in decoction or powder. When decocting or making tea, do not cook for over 10 minutes. Cooking the herb for over 15 minutes will diminish the antihypertensive properties. Good quality herbs have double thorns, thin stems and are a glossy, purplish red.
A typical dose of cat’s claw is up to 350 mg daily. Some commercially available cat’s claw preparations contain compounds called TOAs (tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids) and POAs (pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids) at levels that may have an anti-hypertensive effect and are therefore not recommended for use while using blood-pressure-lowering drugs at the same time as this could cause blood pressure to drop too far.
Commercial supplements of cat’s claw typically use Uncaria tomentosa. Because of the destructiveness to the tree, the inner bark is more commonly harvested rather than the root.
Cat’s claw is used in preparations for vision quests or shamanic journeying. It can be placed in pillows or sachets to aid lucid dreaming. It is said to help attract prosperity.
The stems are a source of potable sap that can in fact be used to quench thirst and is considered a restorative drink. The stems are also used to make furniture. They are only large to be harvested when they are 8 years or more old. Cuttings will be done 20 to 100 cm above the ground to leave enough plant to regenerate.
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Antioxidants, Oxidole alkaloids, Quinovic acid glycosides, Phytonutrients (including Ajmalicine, Campesterol, Catechin, Chinchonain, Daucosterol, Harman, Hirsuteine, Hirsutine, Loganic acid, Lyaloside, Oleanic acid, Palmitoleic acid, Rutin, Stigmasterol, Uncarine A thru F, Vaccenic acid), Tannins. In addition for Uncaria rhynchophylla, rhynchophylline.
Cat’s claw has become one of the top selling herbs in the U.S.
30 and 17
Cat’s claw has more than 30 known constituents, including at least 17 alkaloids, known for a wide variety of healing properties.
More than fruit, vegetables, cereals, or other herbs
Laboratory analysis indicates that the antioxidant power of cat’s claw exceeds the extracts of fruits, vegetables, cereals, or even other medicinal plants.
References: For a complete list of references please visit our References and Resources page.
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