Juvenile Rheumatoid ArthritisOsteoarthritisRheumatoid Arthritis

Burdock Root & Cat’s Claw

Burdock Root

Burdock is a carrot-like root vegetable popular in Japan. Irs found in Asian grocery stores and some health-food stores. Brown-skinned with white flesh, it tastes similar to celery and artichokes when cooked and bitter when raw. Fifty percent of the vegetable is a carbohydrate called inulin. Inulin may be behind the vegetables ability to lower blood sugar. It may also act as an anti-inflammatory and stimulate immune cells that help skin conditions such as eczema. It also may promote the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines.

Common uses:

To soothe chronic skin ailments, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms; to prevent cancer; also used as a diuretic, mild laxative, digestive aid, and a way to lower blood sugar.

burdock roots for rheumatoid arthritis

Scientific Evidence

There is little clinical evidence backing its uses. Studies in Germany (1967) and Japan (1986) suggest antibiotic effects. Several Korean studies suggest antioxidant effects. [Am J Chin Med. 1996; 24 (2): 127-37. [Am J Chin Med. 2000; 28 (2): 163-73.]

Side Effects and Interactions

• Compounds called glyosides stimulate the bowels and probably the uterus.

• May cause skin rash.

• Diabetics should consult with their doctors before using burdock.

Safety Concerns

• Animal studies suggest that burdock stimulates the uterus. Pregnant and nursing women should not eat burdock.


Two to six grams of dried root daily, or three cups of dried burdock tea daily (one teaspoon dried root boiled in three cups of water for 30 minutes). Or 425-475 mg capsules 3 times per day.

Cat’s Claw

Common uses:

Reduces inflammation and pain, and boosts the immune system.

Cat’s claw comes from the inner bark of a vine that grows in Peru and Bolivia. The name comes from the cat-claw look of two thorns at the leaves’ base. Amazonians have used cat’s claw to treat any number of ailments from cancer to arthritis to skin conditions – and even contraception. But scientists are most interested in its antiinflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

cats claw for rheumatoid arthritis

Scientific Evidence

In a study of 45 patients with osteoarthritis, those treated with cat’s claw for four weeks had significantly reduced pain compared to those treated with placebo. [Inflamm Res. 2001; 50 (9): 442-8.] In a double blind trial, patients with rheumatoid arthritis given cat’s claw for 52 weeks had a significant reduction in pain and swollen joints. [J Rheumatol. 2002 Apr.; 29 (4): 678-81.] Several in vitro studies have also shown cat’s claw to be effective in reducing cancer cells.

Side Effects and Interactions

• May cause stomach upset, nausea, headache and dizziness.

• May increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulants such as heparin or warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, NSAIDs, or supplements such as ginkgo, biloba, garlic or chamomile.

• May interfere with the way the liver breaks down some drugs and supplements. Consult your doctor before using.

• May slow heartbeats or lower blood pressure. Do no use if you are taking antihypertensive medication or drugs for irregular heart rhythms.

Safety Concerns

• Taken in high doses, it may cause diarrhea, bleeding gums, bruising and lowered blood pressure.

• A member of the acacia species grown in the Southwest is also called cat’s claw and is poisonous. The two species used for treatments are Uncaria guianensis and Uncaria tomentosa.

• Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or who wish to become pregnant should not use cat’s claw.

• People with auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, or HIV should consult their doctor before using cat’s claw. It may overstimulate the immune system, worsening symptoms.

• Do not use if you have had or plan to have an organ or tissue transplant.


In pill form, take 250 mg between meals twice a day. As a tea, 1 to two teaspoons of the dried herb per cup, up to three times a day.

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