Recent research conducted at Innsbruck University Hospital has found that an extract of the Peruvian plant Uncaria tomentosa, commonly known as Cat’s claw, is a beneficial therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Published in the April 2002 issue of the Journal of Rheumatology this preliminary randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study evaluated the safety and clinical efficacy of Cat’s claw in 40 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, and who were undergoing sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine treatment.
The 52 week trial was divided into two phases. The first phase included a 24 week period in which patients were treated with the Cat’s Claw extract or placebo. The second phase of the study lasted 28 weeks and all patients were administered the herbal extract.
Results of the first phase of treatment were promising, as the extract produced a 53% reduction of the number of painful joints compared to 24% in the placebo group. Patients receiving the extract only during the second phase experienced a reduction in the number of painful and swollen joints compared to the values after the first 24 weeks of placebo.
According to lead researcher Dr. Erich Mur of the Innsbruck hospital rheumatology department, the number of tender joints and level of morning stiffness was reduced during the first phase of treatment. In the second phase, Mur observed a reduction in number of swollen joints.
Mur and colleagues concluded that the study demonstrates relative safety and modest benefit to the tender joint count in RA patients, stating that the extract can be used as an effective addition to traditional medications.
Dr. Mur also received an award this week from the Austrian Society of Phytotherapy for his research.
(Journal Rheumatology 2002;29:678-81)