It is certainly commonplace now in society to check with various internet sites (WebMD etc.) when dealing with health issues, unfamiliar ingredients, diet and how they all intersect. Often they can be helpful, but at times they are a collage of misinformation, misperceptions , errors and speculation. As I am the scientist who spent a lot of time in the Amazon Rainforest and whose discoveries as to how Cat’s claw works led to an Innovation Award at the NIH, let me help guide you through this.

Who Writes These Articles

The authors are not noted, as they may be several individuals as the public contributes. Rarely is it the scientists who did the research. Often the authors are pharmacists or related healthcare providers but again, not the scientists that did the research.  Certainly, MDs and clinics contribute but even these can be peripherally associated.

Cat’s claw should not be used in Autoimmune Diseases like RA

Some sites state that cat’s claw may stimulate the immune system and as such they state it should not be used in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. However, research shows that it is an effective treatment in arthritis both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Why the disconnect?

There are several points where this guidance fails:

They published research trials in arthritis have not been read and understood

The mechanism of action, which addresses the core problem in these conditions has not been taken into account

To explain, the mechanism of action of cat’s claw is to restore balance to the immune response ad it does this by suppressing the production of Th1 cytokines. This part of the immune response that drives arthritis and is the underlying problem of autoimmune disorders. 

These cytokines, because of the actions, are largely in a dormant state with very low levels. They are activated when there are threats – infection (perceived or real) is one example. Their production is regulated at the gene switch level (epigenetic). These switches are responsive to oxidative stress (turns them on, and they then in turn, activate the gene to make the cytokine or mediators of inflammation. 

The target of cat’s claw actions, the transcription factor NF-kB (the scientific term for a gene switch), was also the target on drug development for arthritis and autoimmune disorders. However, in the mid-90’s the first “biologic” pharmaceutical came out (Infliximab). These are lab-generated antibodies that soak up all the circulating levels of a specific single cytokine. 

These biologics take something that is in EXCESS and via antibodies reduces them to a FUNCTIONAL ZERO. In contrast, Cat’s claw works to switch off the gene that controls their over-production. By turning off the switch, BALANCE is restored.

Unlike the biologics, cat’s claw via NF-kB suppression, restores health by creating balance. This NF-kB approach differs in that levels of these cytokines are substantially lowered but not reduced to ZERO. 

In essence, the commentary that Cat’s claw should not be used for a variety of joint health conditions and various autoimmune disorders is flawed. 

Here are some links to research that may help.

Relevant Publications on Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa & Uncaria guianensis)

By Dr. Mark Miller

Interesting articles by other Scientists