Health Information

Cat's Claw

Botanical name(s):

Uncaria tomentosa, Uncaria guianensis. Family: Rubiaceae

Other name(s):

una de gato

General description

Cat's claw is a climbing vine that grows in many countries in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon. Two species, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis, have traditionally been used to treat arthritis, digestive problems, and viral infections. The active ingredients are extracted from the bark and root of the vine. Both types of Uncaria are currently being evaluated by modern research methods. Small studies performed with humans have shown a possible benefit for people with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The results of another study funded by the National Institute on Aging suggested that cat's claw may have some effects that could benefit Alzheimer's disease, but further research is needed. 

Cats claw is normally taken as a bark decoction (boiling a specific amount of herb in water) and contains different alkaloids (including rhynchophylline and isorhynchophyllin) that are responsible for its effects.

Medically valid uses

Currently, there are no rigorously established uses for cat's claw.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Cat's claw has been used for treating certain digestive disturbances. In addition, pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids found in cat's claw are claimed to modulate the immune system by increasing the activity of white blood cells and increasing the levels of Interleukin-1.

Some claims suggest that cat's claw helps treat some viral infections. Cat's claw is also claimed to have antioxidant, anti-mutagenic (preventing mutation) and anti-inflammatory properties. Other claims even suggest that cat's claw may play a role in treating AIDS and cancer, as well as ulcers.

Dosing format

Cat's claw comes in tablets and capsules. Follow packaging instructions for correct dose.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Few side effects are associated with this herbal remedy. Toxicity studies have shown that cat's claw is nontoxic at standard dosing levels. At higher doses, cat's claw may be toxic.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use cat's claw.

There are no known significant food or drug interactions. Because cat's claw may stimulate the immune system, people with conditions related to an overactive immune system should avoid using it. Cat's claw may also affect blood pressure during or after surgery.

Additional information

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