Is An Herb In The Rainforest The Latest Anti-Inflammatory Breakthrough?

Anyone suffering from inflammation knows it can be difficult to find a safe treatment that works. Chronic inflammation can present itself in a variety of diseases, including Crohn’s disease, asthma, hepatitis, arthritis and lupus. Physicians prescribe a number of medications to treat the symptoms and help alleviate pain. Sometimes these medications are ineffective or have side effects that are as troublesome as the inflammation. For years, natives of South America have used a breakthrough herb called cat’s claw to treat and sometimes heal a variety of ailments and symptoms of inflammation.

Evidence certainly points to the benefits of cat’s claw for the treatment of certain diseases, but scientists believe further studies should be performed in order to fully understand the effects of this super herb.

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Cat’s claw is a woody vine named for its hook-like horned appearance. Native to the Amazon rain forests and South and Central America, this herb has been used as far back as during the Inca civilization for the treatment of viral infections and promoting good health.

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In 1926, German natural scientist Arturo Brell used cat’s claw to effectively treat his rheumatic pain. Astonished at the excellent results, he also used the herb on another German colonist, Luis Schuler, who had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Schuler consumed the herb by steaming a cup of tea three times a day. After a full year, Schuler was cancer free. Affirming these results, early studies performed at the University of Maryland Medical Center have shown that cat’s claw may kill cancer and tumor cells in test tubes.

There are two known species of cat’s claw in existence in the rain forests. Uncaria guianensis is most commonly used to treat open wounds, and Uncaria tomentosa is the form most commonly found in supplements to treat medical conditions and inflammation. In order for either species to be used in the treatment of health issues, chemicals are extracted from the bark of the plant and made into liquid or capsule form. The cat’s claw vine can also be crushed and used to make tea. The chemicals responsible for reducing inflammation include tannin and sterols as well as quinovic acid glycosides, or plant metabolites.

Treating Arthritis

Because cat’s claw has been shown to reduce inflammation, it has been recommended as an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The herb also helps ease swollen joints. Even though the herb can help in the treatment of pain, research has not suggested that it can stop the disease from progressing.

Boosting Immune Health

Recent studies on both humans and animals suggest that cat’s claw naturally boosts the immune system, which helps the body fight pathogens that can be found daily in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the environment in general. These same studies also indicate that cat’s claw may even boost the effectiveness of vaccines. Individuals who were give cat’s claw two months before receiving the pneumonia vaccine showed higher levels of immunity toward the illness than those who did not take the supplement.

Side Effects

While many medications for inflammation can cause a host of side effects, cat’s claw has been found to be relatively nontoxic. When taken as directed, the only potential side effect is diarrhea. However, those with autoimmune disorders or those receiving transplants should be cautious when taking the herb because of its effect on the immune system. Herbs can trigger side effects when combined with certain illnesses and medications, so it’s a good idea to check with your physician before deciding to self-medicate.

Even though there have been varied reports of the success of cat’s claw as a treatment method, scientists believe that not enough evidence has been gathered to determine whether it is actually effective for any health condition. The health benefits do tend to outweigh any negative risks, but further studies need to be performed to determine the exact medication process.

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