Cat’s Claw is also called Uncaria tomentosa grows in the Amazon and in other tropical areas of South and Central America. It grows as a woody vine and is named after the claw like extensions that extend from the vine. Both the bark and root are used in the preparation of the herbal teas, tinctures or extracts. Historically, it was used as far back as Inca times for the treatment of a variety of health problems.
It has proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, patients were given Cat’s claw along with sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine to treat a health condition did better than when the medications were used alone. Another study indicated that the mechanism of action of Cat's claw appears to be as an inhibitor of TNFalpha.
It is also believed to improve the immune system and is being evaluated in situations where the immune system is depressed or needs boosting. Macrophage phagocytosis, important in a stimulated immune system was found to be maximized by a standardized concentration of Cat’s claw. In addition, Cat’s claw is believed to have antioxidant properties, making it beneficial against oxygen free radicals that can do damage to many parts of the cell and can increase the aging process.
The primary actions of Cat’s claw on the body include:
stimulates immune system
tones and balances
fights free radicals
It seems to relax smooth muscle, including the muscle of the intestines, leading to improvement in dysentery and a cleansing of the bowels.
Cat’s claw appears to be relatively nontoxic. It is provided as a tincture, tea or as a capsule containing Cat’s claw extract. Researchers state that there can be some interaction between Cat’s claw and the following other medications.
Anticoagulants (blood-thinning medication)
Estrogens or progestins, including birth control pills
Blood pressure medication
- Aquino R, De Feo V, De Simone F, et al. New compounds and anti-inflammatory activity of Uncaria tomentosa . J Nat Prod . 1991;54: 453-459.
- Lemaire I, Assinewe V, Cano P, et al. Stimulation of interleukin-1 and -6 production in alveolar macrophages by the neotropical liana, Uncaria tomentosa . J Ethnopharmacol . 1999;64:109–115.
- Mur E, Hartig F, Eibl G, et al. Randomized double blind trial of an extract from the pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol . 2002 Apr;29(4):678-81.
- Groom SN, et al. “The potency of immunomodulatory herbs may be primarily dependent upon macrophage activation.” J Med Food. 2007 Mar;10(1):73-9.
- Hardin SR. “Cat's claw: an Amazonian vine decreases inflammation in osteoarthritis.” Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2007 Feb;13(1):25-8.
- Gonçalves C, et al. “Antioxidant properties of proanthocyanidins of Uncaria tomentosa bark decoction: a mechanism for anti-inflammatory activity”. Phytochemistry. 2005 Jan;66(1):89-98.
- Gonzales GF, Valerio LG Jr. “Medicinal plants from Peru: a review of plants as potential agents against cancer.” Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2006 Sep;6(5):429-44.