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Arthritis | Cat's Claw Relieves Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Extract of Cat’s Claw May Be Effective in Reducing Pain from Rheumatoid Arthritis

This preliminary study is one of the first trials to evaluate the effectiveness of cat’s claw on rheumatoid arthritis. While it is important to take into account that all participants in the study were also taking a prescription medication to reduce disease activity (which may have had some impact on the outcome), the results still show a benefit from adding cat’s claw to the treatment program. More research is necessary to determine whether cat’s claw alone has the same benefits as when taken with prescription medications.

For this trial, 40 people receiving treatment for rheumatoid arthritis with prescription medications (sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine) were given either 60 mg per day of cat’s claw or a placebo for 24 weeks. After this time, all participants received the cat’s claw extract for an additional 28 weeks. Each person was examined periodically for joint pain and swelling, morning stiffness, and blood measurements indicating inflammation.

During the first 24 weeks, joint pain was reduced by 53% in those taking the cat’s claw extract, compared with a 24% decrease in joint pain in those taking the placebo. When the extract was given to all participants, those who had already been taking cat’s claw continued to improve and saw significant reductions in the number of painful joints and morning stiffness, compared with initial measurements. In the group that initially received placebo, taking the cat’s claw extract in the second phase of the study also led to a significant decrease in joint pain and number of swollen joints, compared with the first part of the trial.

Other nutritional supplements may help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies have shown that 1,200 to 1,800 IU per day of vitamin E was more effective than placebo in decreasing joint pain.2 3 Ten grams per day of fish oil may also relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.4 In a small double-blind study, supplementation with New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) appeared to be more effective than a placebo for relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.5 Some physicians recommend 210 mg per day of the green-lipped mussel extract; however, upset stomach, gout, and skin rashes have been reported as possible side effects, so this extract should be taken with caution and under the supervision of a healthcare professional.


1. Mur E, Hartig F, Eibl G, Schirmer M. Randomized double-blind trial of an extract from the pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of Uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 2002;29:678–81.
2. Scherak O, Kolarz G. Vitamin E and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthrit Rheum 1991;34:1205–6[letter].
3. Edmonds SE, Winyard PG, Guo R, et al. Putative analgesic activity of repeated oral doses of vitamin E in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.. Results of a prospective placebo controlled double-blind trial. Ann Rheum Dis 1997;56:649–55.
4. Geusens P, Woulters C, Nijs J, et al. Long-term effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in active rheumatoid arthritis. Arthrit Rheum 1994;37:824–9.
5. Gibson RG, Gibson SLM, Conway V, Chappell D. Perna calaliculus in the treatment of arthritis. Practitioner 1980;224:955–60.

Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.

Copyright © 2002 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Those people taking certain medications for the discomfort of rheumatoid arthritis may find further relief by adding an age-old remedy to their treatment. According to a new study in the Journal of Rheumatology,1 an extract of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa), when taken with certain prescription medications, may reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


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