Cat’s claw (una de gato) is native to the Amazon. This plant, is extremely complex in its composition and is very rich in phytochemical actives. The active components that appear to be the most important are a group of alkaloids called oxindole alkaloids. These oxindoles include isopteropodine, isomitraphylline, mytraphylline, isorynchophylline, pteropodine, and rhynchophylline. Cat’s claw alkaloids have been particularly associated with enhancing immune system cell function, including phagocytosis and macrophage activity.
Cat’s Claw Cancer Research
In vitro studies show that the alkaloids from cat’s claw enhance phagocytosis, display immunomodulatory effects, and reduce inflammation. Cat’s claw is considered a strong inhibitor of TNF-alpha production. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) represents a model for tumor growth driven by an inflammatory cytokine chemical. Anti-inflammatory effects such as the blocking of TNF-alpha synthesis, help to prevent cancer. Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) water extracts have been shown to enhance DNA repair after chemical-induced damage. European scientists found that cat’s claw inhibited human leukemia cells from growing in the lab and induced them to undergo programmed self-destruction.
The possible anti-cancer effects of cat’s claw were investigated in a study on the mutagenic activity in cigarette smokers’ urine. After taking Cat’s claw, smokers’ urine demonstrated a important reduction of mutagenic activity. Swedish scientists documented it inhibited the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cells in vitro in 1998. A study examined the effects of extracts and their chromatographic fractions obtained from the bark of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) on the growth of a human breast cancer cell line (MCF7). The results demonstrated that, in addition to the antimutagenic activity, cat’s claw extracts and fractions can exert a direct antiproliferative activity on MCF7 breast cancer cell lines.
Cat’s claw enhances DNA repair. When patients who had previously undergone chemotherapy supplemented with water-soluble cat’s claw extract for 8 weeks, they exhibited markedly decreased DNA damage and increased DNA repair. Early reports some studies with cancer patients taking cat’s claw in conjunction with such cancer treatments as chemotherapy and radiation reported fewer adverse effects to the treatments. A 2000 study demonstrated that patients who took cat’s claw when undergoing chemotherapy suffered fewer adverse effects and felt stronger.