Half of the cases of nail disorders are caused by nail fungus which is also known as onychomycosis. This is also known as the most common nail disease experienced by adults. Toenails are more susceptible to nail fungus than fingernails. A large percentage of nail fungal infections are mainly caused by diabetes and old age. Older adults or those older than 60 years old are more prone to the infection than children.
What causes the infection?
Three primary organisms cause nail infections. These are fungi that thrive on your skin, hair, nails, yeasts, and molds. All these three microorganisms cause almost the same early and chronic symptoms or changes in nail appearances. This makes it difficult to figure out the cause of the infection, requiring a clinical diagnosis.
What are some signs of infection?
A nail fungal infection may exhibit symptoms but they can be too mild to be noticed. Usually, the nail thickens, making it difficult to trim the nail. The nail may also change in color becoming white, yellow, green, or brown. The nail may also become brittle, crumbly, and ragged on the edges. In some cases, the nail may lift off the nail bed. The nail may also be painful and discomforting, making it difficult to walk or even wear shoes.
How is it diagnosed?
The doctor usually asks for a nail sample to be sent to a lab for microscopy. This will determine the microorganism that caused the infection. The result of the lab test may help determine the treatment required for the infection.
What are some treatments?
Most doctors prescribe an oral antifungal as a nail fungus treatment. This is particularly true when the infection spreads from one toenail to the others. For milder cases, an alternative treatment would be a topical antifungal that has to be applied directly to the infected nail. For severe and stubborn cases, the doctor may suggest nail removal.
1Beneficial Chemical Compounds of Cat’s Claw
This plant is rich in three major groups of chemical compounds: terpenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids. Some of the specific compounds found in the plant include mitraphylline, which is an alkaloid found in older leaves; rhynchophylline, an alkaloid found in the bark; uncarine, a family of alkaloids that can be found in the leaves; uncaric acid, a triterpene that can be extracted from the bark; quinovic acid, an acid triterpene compound that can be extracted from this plant’s bark, and many others.
Major Mechanisms of Action
Cat’s claw may provide such benefits through the following mechanisms: it decreases inflammatory molecules; it blocks the release of the enzyme that creates free radicals as an immune response, and it also blocks the release of the enzymes that have significant roles in pain and inflammation.
As an Antifungal and Antimicrobial
The antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects of a cat’s claw have been proven effective in fighting off persistent infections such as Candida, Lyme disease, Eppstein-Barr, bladder infections, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, prostatitis, herpes, and hepatitis.
Moreover, a study revealed that two months of consuming this supplement daily could enhance the lymphocyte-to-neutrophil ratios. Another test-tube study revealed the cat’s claw’s antiviral activity against the dengue virus while the researchers of another study focused on the plant’s antimicrobial properties against Bacillus subtilis and Micrococcus flavus. Cat’s claw has also shown inhibiting activity against Enterococcus faecalis, Candida albicans, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Other Health Benefits
Cat’s claw has become popular as a supplement because of its numerous health benefits. The following are some of those benefits that are backed by scientific studies:
May Enhance the Immune System
Cat’s claw may boost one’s immune system, making it possible to fight off infections more efficiently. A small study was composed of 27 men who consumed 800 mg of cat’s claw extract for a period of two months. They exhibited an increase in the number of white blood cells, whose function is to combat infections. Cat’s claw appears to work on your immune system in two ways boosting it or calming an overactive one. All these are due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
May Relieve Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Osteoarthritis causes aching and stiff joints. In the US, it is the most common joint condition. In a study involving 45 people who have osteoarthritis in the knee, the subjects experienced reduced pain during their physical activity after they took 100 mg of cat’s claw extract for four weeks. There were no reported side effects. Scientists believe that a cat’s claws may relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis because of the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Improves Digestive Health
This versatile herb can be beneficial in detoxifying the intestinal tract as it replenishes the healthy bacteria in the gut. Since the cat’s claw is a powerful anti-inflammatory, it is believed to get rid of inflammation often linked with several gastrointestinal problems. It is also used for treating various digestive disorders like colitis, IBS, peptic ulcers, gastritis, and IBD.
Reduces High Blood Pressure Levels
In traditional Chinese medicine, cat’s claw is often used for treating high blood pressure. Studies have supported this claim. A specific alkaloid known as hirsutine is associated with the plant’s ability to keep one’s blood pressure level under control. This alkaloid acts as a calcium channel blocker, which prevents calcium from getting into the cells of the blood vessel walls and the heart. This widens and relaxes the blood vessels allowing blood to flow freely.
Cat’s claw must not be taken when you are taking blood thinning medication. Large doses of it may also cause stomach upset because of the large number of tannins found in the bark.