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. It grows in many countries in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon. Two species, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis, have been used to treat some health issues. These include 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 studied. Small human studies have shown that it may help with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The results of another study funded by the National Institute on Aging suggest that cat's claw may aid in Alzheimer's disease. But further research is needed before experts can draw any conclusions. 

Cat’s claw is taken as a bark decoction. You take it by boiling a specific amount of the herb in water. It contains different alkaloids that are responsible for its effects. These include rhynchophylline and isorhynchophyllin.

Medically valid uses

There are no 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 digestive issues. Pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids found in cat's claw are claimed to modulate the immune system. They do this by increasing the activity of white blood cells. They also increase the levels of Interleukin-1.

Some claims suggest that cat's claw treats some viral infections. Cat's claw is also said to have antioxidant, anti-mutagenic (preventing mutation), and anti-inflammatory properties. Other claims suggest that cat's claw may play a role in treating AIDS and cancer. It may also help ulcers.

Dosing format

Cat's claw comes in oral tablets and capsules. Follow instructions on the package for the correct dose.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

When taken by mouth, cat's claw may cause headaches, dizziness, and vomiting.

Studies show that cat's claw isn’t toxic at standard dosing levels. At higher doses, it 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 certain conditions shouldn’t use it. These include an overactive immune system. Cat's claw may also affect blood pressure during or after surgery.