For those who are either averse to standard Lyme Disease treatment or have enjoyed no relief from such treatment, cat's claw offers hope. This all-natural medication is a core component of many natural treatments, along with herbs like Japanese knotweed and andrographis.
Please note that cat's claw currently has no conventional medical standing as a Lyme treatment. But herbal practitioners swear by it, so it's worth educating yourself on the possibilities it offers.
A Little Background
Uncaria tomentosa (cat's claw, uña de gato, or vilcarora) is a vine with nasty claw-shaped thorns that grows in Central and South American jungles. It produces a variety of alkaloids, some of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Native Americans used cat's claw to treat a wide variety of ailments, including dengue fever, acne, diabetes, and urinary tract infections. In modern medicine, it contributes to HIV drugs and memory enhancers. Herbal healers use it to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, and rheumatism in addition to LD.
Warnings About Cat's Claw
Some cat's claw plants produce pentacyclic alkaloids, which can strength the immune system. This is the vine's greatest value in LD treatment protocols.
Ironically, however, some cat's claw plants don't produce pentacyclic alkaloids at all; in fact, they produce chemicals that counteract the effects of said alkaloids, while slowing the heart and causing loss of physical coordination. These alkaloids can also have a sedative effect.
It's impossible to tell which plant produces which type of alkaloid without chemical testing, so we recommend that you purchase only cat's claw guaranteed to contain pentacyclic alkaloids. Otherwise, it can have no positive effect at all and, at high doses, may actually be damaging.
Also, be aware that cat's claw can cause allergic reactions in those allergic to related plants. Finally, there are other plants from Central and South America called cat's claw that are not related to this particular herb, and some can be toxic. Be absolutely certain that your cat's claw is Uncaria.
Cat's Claw and Lyme Disease
The inner bark of the Uncaria vine yields the alkaloids used to treat Lyme Disease. These alkaloids act primarily as an immune system stimulant, though as noted, there are also analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
According to supporters, cat's claw increases the CD57 white blood cell count. The CD57 cells are apparently the ones that target Borrelia spirochetes.
Herbal healers use cat's claw specifically for late stage and chronic Lyme symptoms, including Lyme arthritis, neuroborreliosis, and Lyme fatigue, particularly in patients whose symptoms have not responded to standard antibiotic treatment.
Although cat's claw isn't currently an accepted part of the standard medical protocol for LD, scientists have actually tested it in a study, and so it has attracted at least a little medical attention.
In the study in question, cat's claw did appear to ameliorate most LD symptoms in most of the 28 patients tested, and the researchers later discovered that 85% of the test subjects were negative for Borrelia infection.
However, the study was tiny and flawed, and even some natural healers view the results skeptically. Among other things, it turns out that the patients also resorted to a variety of other healing methods, and the researchers failed to specify the cat's claw dose administered. It's hard to determine how well it worked, if at all.
Despite the problems cited above, cat's claw does seem to offer a good, all-natural alternative to antibiotics. While we recommend that you try antibiotics first, since we know they can work, it can't hurt to keep cat's claw in the wings as an alternate or supplemental Lyme Disease treatment.