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Why Cat's Claw May Be One Of Nature's Most Powerful Healers

Feb 18, 2008
Cat's claw, known as una de gato in Spanish, is a herb derived from a vine-type plant which grows widely in the countries of Central and South America, and is particularly common in the Amazon rainforests and Peru. So vast and botanically rich are the wilds of the Amazon rain forest that many herbal practitioners still look to it as a potential source of powerful, but as yet undiscovered, herbal remedies. Although this hope might seem to some like wishful thinking, the example of cat's claw suggests that it may not be entirely fanciful; because although the herb has only very recently become known in the West, it has been used as health tonic and treatment by the indigenous peoples of the region for many centuries.

But the claims made for the benefits of cat's claw need to be treated with some caution, because there are those who would have you regard it as something akin to a miracle herb or universal panacea; and orthodox medicine, as always, is rightly sceptical of the wilder claims of the herbal or "natural" remedy lobby.

Rendered into liquid form, however, extracts of cat's claw have been found to have potent adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and these are therefore used by herbal therapists to tackle a wide variety of common ailments. The anti-inflammatory qualities of the herb indicate potential benefits in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism and bursitis; as well as digestive problems and ulcers, whilst as an adaptogen and anti-oxidant cat's claw is believed to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and even help in the fight against cancer.

Serious research into the benefits of cat's claw has been underway in Europe since the 1970s, and although, as noted above, conventional medicine remains reluctant to confirm the herb's therapeutic value, the fact that cat's claw is only available on prescription in certain countries is a clear indication of its biochemical potency.

Cat's claw's power as an immune system booster appears to be related to unique properties in the alkaloids derived from it, certain of which appear directly to enhance the ability of the body's white blood cells to destroy potentially harmful foreign matter. These alkaloids also seem to stimulate the production of the vital T4 lymphocyte and leucocyte immune system cells which are crucial in fighting viral infections.

One particular such alkaloid, rynchophylline, is also believed to be of great benefit to the cardio-vascular system in preventing blood "stickiness", or the potentially catastrophic formation of clots in circulating blood in the heart and brain. Like other anti-oxidants, cat's claw may also help to prevent the oxidation of low density lipids (LDL), or "bad cholesterol", and the consequent build up of deposits inside the arteries leading to atherosclerosis. Recent research also suggests that the anti-oxidant action of cat's claw may also help to prevent the deposit of the plaques within brain tissue which are implicated in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The many potential benefits of cat's claw make it a hugely exciting prospect for advocates of herbal remedies. But there is an important caveat in that most of the research so far has been conducted in the laboratory rather than on live human subjects. Against that, however, must be set the many centuries of use of the herb amongst older civilisations.

Orthodox medicine, moreover, is always keen to stress, quite correctly, that the mere fact that a remedy is described as "natural" or "herbal" does not mean it is necessarily free of potential side effects. Herbal remedies, after all, often provide the raw materials for the manufacture of conventional drugs, and are highly active biochemical compounds in their own right. They could not be of any benefit if they were not.
But in the case of cat's claw the only contraindications for its use appear to for pregnant women and those suffering from disorders of the immune system. For all others, the herb appears to be completely safe, although very rare cases of minor gastric upsets and headaches have been reported.

The inner bark of the plant is the source of cat's claw's active alkaloid compounds, but the bark itself is indigestible and poorly absorbed, if at all, by the human digestive system. Fortunately, however, cat's claw is now readily available in the form of easily absorbed teas, tinctures and capsules, but it's probably best to start with low doses to ensure freedom from any possible side effects.

And as recommended therapeutic doses vary between 750 and 3,000 mg per day, it's always worth talking things over with your physician or a reputable herbal practitioner before beginning any program of supplementation. But the potential benefits of cat's claw appear so promising that this is not a herb you should ignore.
About the Author
Steve Smith is a freelance copywriter specialising in direct marketing and with a particular interest in health products. Find out more at http://www.sisyphuspublicationsonline.com/LiquidNutrition/Cat'sClaw.htm
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