- Una de gato
- Life-giving vine of Peru
- Hawk's claw
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Cat’s claw may stimulate the body’s immune system but it has not been shown to be an effective treatment for cancer or HIV.
In laboratory experiments, compounds found in cat’s claw stimulate the activity of specific immune cells known as phagocytes and T-helper cells. Cat’s claw may also be able to slow some of the processes that cause inflammation, enhance DNA repair, and may reduce certain chemotherapy side effects. However, most of these effects are observed in lab studies, with only a few small studies in humans reported.
To treat arthritis
A small study using a highly purified extract of a particular chemical makeup suggested modest benefit in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, but larger well-designed studies are needed to confirm this.
To reduce cancer-treatment side effects
Small studies suggests that Cat’s claw may protect against abnormally low counts of white blood cells in patients receiving certain cancer treatments, and improve the quality of life in those with advanced cancer.
To treat cancer
Cat’s claw inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells in the labs. Human data are lacking.
To treat gastrointestinal disorders
Laboratory studies suggest that cat’s claw may reduce inflammation. This has not been studied in humans.
To treat HIV and AIDS
Laboratory studies suggest that cat’s claw can stimulate the activity of specific immune cells. Human studies are needed.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners: Cat’s claw may increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.
- You are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450 3A4: Cat’s claw may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
- You are taking protease inhibitors: Cat’s claw was shown to increase the serum concentrations of atazanavir, ritonavir and saquinavir and can increase their side effects.
- You are taking immune suppressants: Cat’s claw may stimulate immune cells, which may make these drugs less effective.
- You are having surgery: Due to the potential for increased bleeding and lack of safety data.
For Healthcare Professionals
Cat’s claw is a vine native to South America, the bark of which has been used in traditional medicine to treat various conditions such as gastric and inflammatory disorders (1). It is also a very popular immunostimulant. In vitro studies show that constituents of this plant enhance phagocytosis, display immunomodulatory properties, alleviate inflammation, and possess antiviral and antimutagenic activities (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). A cat’s claw extract was shown to modulate DNA repair in human skin (7).
Cat’s claw also was shown to exert anticancer effects against several cancer cell lines (8) (9) (10) (11), anti-neoplastic effects in a breast tumor model (12), and stimulated healthy hematopoietic tissue cells and reduced side effects associated with chemotherapy such as neutropenia (13).
These observations were reported in cancer patients as well. In a study of breast cancer patients, cat’s claw reduced adverse effects due to chemotherapy (15), and improved the quality of life in patients with advanced cancer (32). However, a cat’s claw extract was shown to stimulat survival of pediatric leukemic cells (16), which suggests that this herb may not be safe for all cancers.
Mechanism of Action
The oxindole alkaloids have immunostimulating properties in vitro, increasing phagocytotic activity and synthesis of WBCs (5) and enhancing T-helper cell function (2). Inhibition of TNF-alpha production (3) (4) has been linked to observed anti-inflammatory activities. Mitraphylline isolated from cat’s claw was also identified as possessing anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the release of interleukins 1α, 1β, 4, 17, and TNF-α (21).
Acqueous extracts of cat’s claw were shown to enhance DNA repair after chemical-induced damage (22). Protection against oxidative DNA damage following UVB exposure may occur via enhanced base excision repair and inherent antioxidant effects (23). The biphasic manner in which cat’s claw modulates anxiety, initially inducing and then reversing these effects after long-term administration, is attributed to the presence of many alkaloids and flavonols (18).
Quinovic acid glycosides purified fraction of cat’s claw inhibits the growth of human bladder cancer cell lines by inducing apoptosis through modulation of NF-κB (20). Cat’s claw also inhibits lactate dehydrogenase-A, an enzyme that is highly expressed in diverse human malignant and treatment-resistant tumors with clinically poor outcomes (24). In vivo studies demonstrate antineoplastic effects against breast tumors due to modulation of oxidative stress and synergy among constituents with antioxidant properties, rather than alkaloid activity (12).
GI complaints: nausea, diarrhea, stomach discomfort (25)
Acute renal failure: In a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (26).
Worsening motor signs: In a 38-year-old patient with Parkinson’s disease following oral intake of cat’s claw extract, with improvement in symptoms after cessation and withdrawal (27).
Anticoagulants, antihypertensives: May increase effects of cardiovascular drugs, including increased risk of bleeding (25) (28).
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Cat’s claw inhibits CYP3A4 in vitro indicating that it may increase the serum levels of drugs such as nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors, cyclosporine, and some benzodiazepines (29).
Protease inhibitors: Cat’s claw was shown to increase the serum concentrations of atazanavir, ritonavir and saquinavir (30).