Native to Central and South America, indigenous people of the Amazon region have used Cat’s Claw for millennia, for conditions such as arthritis, bone pain, cirrhosis, dysentery, and shingles, to name a few. Similar species of Uncaria are used in China for central nervous system (CNS) disorders. The species discussed here was unknown in western medicine until the early 20th century. The part used in herbal medicine is the inner bark of this vining plant.
Part of the “core protocol” for treating Lyme disease with herbs (along with Polygonum and Andrographis), Buhner lists Cat’s Claw as useful for Lyme disease in 7 areas:
1) Raises CD57 WBC count (CD57+ is a “subset” of NK – “natural killer” – lymphocytes. Buhner says that testing for this count is a “reliable diagnostic… for unresolved Lyme” disease.)
2) HLA-DR modulator (Human Leukocyte Antigens is a type of cell surface receptor, and is associated with auto-immune conditions. These molecules are called into play by T-cells when presented with challenges to the immune system.)
3) Modulates immune system, raising where necessary and tempering when overactive
4) Anti-inflammatory, especially in arthritic conditions
5) Helps with memory and CNS tension
7) Overall tonic
“Lyme spirochetes… specifically inhibit the production” of CD57, and using Uncaria is particularly useful in late stage or chronic Lyme, or for those who do not respond well to or do not wish to use antibiotics. Additionally, the traditional use of Cat’s Claw as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic for muscle pain and arthritis has shown to be very useful.
Because of its ability to increase the activity of NK cells, Cat’s Claw is indicated for individuals with chronic Lyme disease who suffer from relapses of weakness and fatigue; continued use of the herb can help keep these levels up. Cat’s claw has been used experimentally with HIV-positive and AIDS patients, and showed significant increase of WBC (white blood cell) counts, along with a reduction of some symptoms. There are many studies and examples that indicate Uncaria tomentosa (and other species) as instrumental in increasing NK cells as well as other immune-enhancing activity.
Starting out at minimal doses (1/2-gram 3x @ day) and very gradually increasing each week until a full dose is tolerated is the best way to use Cat’s Claw when starting out, as some people have experienced intestinal upset when taking the suggested full dose of 2-grams 3-4x @ day. The suggested maximum dose for liquid herbal extract (tincture) of Cat’s Claw is 1-teaspoon (5ml) 3x @ day. As with most herbs, start out with just a few drops, then gradually increase to the full amount, observing for possible loose stools; if this occurs, reduce the dose.
Additionally, Cat’s Claw should not be used if you take immunosuppressant drugs or any type of blood thinner, stomach acid blocker, are pregnant, or are heading for surgery (can resume in a few days after surgery).
Considering the immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory properties of this remarkable plant, Cat’s Claw has a well-deserved place in the core protocol All Stars for treating Lyme disease herbally.