In recent years Cat’s Claw, also known as Gou Teng, suddenly becomes a huge hit from an obscure herb in global medicine world. This began since the date Dr. Li Min, a TCM practitioner from Hong Kong Baptist University, published its research result that the combination of Cat’s Claws and other Chinese herbs could be the cure to some incurable diseases, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Parkinson’s. As a matter of fact, this herb called Gou Teng herb has been used for “the shakes” for more than 2,000 years. At least through the eye of a traditional Chinese doctor, it is not something new and magic. And this ordinary herb can provide even more hope for people suffering from illness that frustrates western doctors today.
What is Cat’s Claw herb?
TCM wise it refers no Uncaria tomentosa but the dried stems and thorns of Uncaria rhyunchophylla (Miq.) Jacks., Uncaria macrophylla Wall., Uncaria hirsuta Havil., Uncaria sinensis (Oliv.) Havil., or Uncaria sessilifructus Roxb., vine plants that belong to the family rubiaceae. It is named so simply because it has hook-like horns. And this herb has a few different common names, including Gambir Vine, Ramulus cum uncis Uncariae, Gambir, Uncaria rhynchophylla, stems of gambir vine, gambir, uncaria vine, and so on. Medicinally it is primarily produced from the south of the Yangtze River to Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and other provinces. Usually it is harvested during autumn and winter. The medicinal part is the young twigs with hooks. After the harvest, remove the leaves, cut into sections, and dry in the sun.
Uncaria rhynchophylla is an evergreen woody vine. And the Cat’s Claw bush can grow to up to 10 meter. Branchlets are quadrangular, brown, clean and hairless. Leaf axils have binate or solitary hook, which bents down, 1.7 to 2cm long, and with pointed tip. Leaves are opposite and petiolate. Leaf blade is ovate, ovate-oblong or elliptic, 5 to 12cm long, and 3 to 7cm wide. Inflorescence is solitary, axillary capitulum or apical raceme, in the diameter of 2 to 2.5cm. Peduncle is slender and 2 to 5cm long. Flowers are yellow and corolla is connate. Capsule is obovate or oval, sparsely pubescent, and with persistent calyx. And both ends of seeds are winged.
Stems and leaves of Cat s Claw contain a variety of indole alkaloids, mainly include rhynchophylline, isorhynchophylline, corynoxeine, isocorynoxeine, corynantheine, dihydrocorynantheine, and more. And it still contains flavonoids compounds and catechin compounds.
Cats Claw benefits
As explained above, it has been an increasingly popular herb due to so many health benefits available. As a result, the consumption of Cat Claw is relatively easier today since there are so many ready-made products you can choose from, such as cats claw tea, extract, supplement, bark powder, capsules, ointment, pills, tincture, and so on. And if you are still skeptical about its efficacy, its pharmacology may be the testimonials and reassurance you are looking for.
Modern pharmacological actions of Cat’s Claws
1. This herb itself, Rhynchophylla total alkaloids, and rhynchophylline can bring down various animals’ normal blood pressure and hypertension;
2. Its decoction can significantly calm the mice;
3. Its ethanol extract can stop the seizures of experimental epilepsy in guinea pig. And it also resists pentetrazole-induced convulsion to some extent;
4. Its intravenous injection in rats can antagonize arrhythmias induced by aconitine, barium chloride, and calcium chloride;
5. It can inhibit platelet aggregation and has a certain hypolipidemic capacity and antithrombotic effect.
Proven Cat s Claw herbal remedies
As one of common herbs frequently used in the practice of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is sweet and bitter in flavor and slightly cold in properties. And it goes to meridians of liver and pericardium. Its major functions are clearing away heat to calm the liver and calming endogenous wind to relieve convulsion. Primary Cat’s Claw uses and indications include febrile convulsion, morbid night crying of babies, exuberating heat stirring wind, eclampsia, hypertension dizziness, liver fire induce head pain, and more. Recommended Cat’s Claw dose is from 6 to 30 grams in decoction or powder. But please keep in mind that it is inadvisable to decoct for too long.
1. Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin or Wan. This formula comes from Za Bing Zheng Zhi Xin Yi (New Concepts for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Miscellaneous Illnesses). It is usually formulated for fullness in head and vertigo due to hyperactivity of liver-yang. Other major herbal ingredients are Tian Ma (Gastrodia Root), Shi Jue Ming (Abalone Shell), Huai Niu Xi (Achyranthes Root), Du Zhong (Eucommia Bark), and so on.
2. Yan Ling San. Yan Ling San comes from Tai ping sheng hui fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). This formula is exclusively designed for epilepsy in kids. Other two herbs are Xiao Shi (Kalium Nitricum) and Gan Cao (Licorice Root).
3. Gou Teng Yin Zi. This prescription is from Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to Syndrome Identification and Treatment of Diseases in Infants). It is mainly used for acute infantile convulsions, coma due to high heat, trismus, and tetany. Other basic herbs include Tian Ma (Gastrodia Root), Quan Xie (Scorpion), Jiang Can (Silkworm), Chan Tui (Cicada Moulting), and so on.
4. Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang. This formula is from Tong Su Shang Han Lun (“Revised Popular On Cold Damage”). It is primarily used for extreme heat causing wind and convulsion in febrile disease. The rest other herbs are Ling Yang Jiao (Antelope Horn), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum Flower), Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), and more.
Cat’s Claw side effects and contraindications
When taking therapeutic dose of Uncaria alkaloids, individual hypertensive patients may has adverse reactions like bradycardia, dizziness, rash, reduction of menstrual flow, and more. But the mentioned symptoms will automatically disappear soon. From the perspective of TCM, Cat’s Claw herb shouldn’t be used in cases of qi deficiency and no fire detected.