Cat's Claw

Botanical name(s):

Uncaria tomentosa, Uncaria guianensis. Family: Rubiaceae

Other name(s):

uña 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. There are two species, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis, that 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. There have been claims that it may help with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer 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 has different alkaloids that cause its effects. These include rhynchophylline and isorhynchophylline.

Medically valid uses

There are no proven uses for cat's claw.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

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, antimutagenic (preventing mutation), and anti-inflammatory effects. Other claims suggest that cat's claw may help treat AIDS and cancer. It may also help treat ulcers.

Dosing format

Cat's claw comes in oral tablets, tea, 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.

Cat’s claw may interact with some HIV and AIDS medicines.

Because cat's claw may stimulate the immune system, people with certain autoimmune conditions shouldn’t use it. These include people with an overactive immune system. Cat's claw may also affect blood pressure and blood clotting.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Southard RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023