Cat's claw vine is a plant known as the "sacred herb of the rain forest." It is considered a powerful herbal remedy. It is also known as una de gato, uncaria tomentosa and uncaria guianesis.
What Is Cat's Claw Vine?
Grown in the jungles and rainforests of South America and Asia, cat's claw vine is a tropical vine with small thorns at the base of its leaves. These thorns are the reason for its name - because they have the appearance of cat's claw. The vine climbs trees and can grow up to 100 feet high.
Herbal Uses of Cat's Claw Vine
Cat's claw has been used in South American cultures as an herbal remedy for centuries. The inner bark and root are used in herbal preparations and there are a number of reported herbal uses of cat's claw including:
- Boosting immune-function
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Anti-oxidant properties
- Anti-cancer properties
- Contains tannins, alkaloids and phytochemicals
- Homeopathic cat's claw is used to treat a number of intestinal problems including:
- Crohn's disease
- Gastric ulcers
- Gastric tumors
- Intestinal parasites
- Leaky gut
- Treats viral infections
- Treats respiratory infections
- May help prevent arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- May help prevent diabetes
- May help prevent chronic fatigue syndrome
- May help prevent lupus
- Used to treat prostate conditions
- Believed to promote kidney health
- Is believed to have uses for pregnancy prevention
- Cat's claw is used in Brazil to fight the inflammation associated with dengue.
- It is used to treat menstrual irregularities.
Cat's Claw Research
Because of its immune stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties, research is underway in North America, South America and Europe for the medicinal use of cat's claw in the treatment of a number of ailments including AIDS, cancer, inflammatory conditions and as an anti-viral medication.Cat's claw is a prescription medication in Australia and Germany.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has a list of studies that have been done with cat's claw.
Caveats, Cautions and Side Effects
- The FDA has not evaluated the use of cat's claw for any of the above conditions.
- Check with your personal health care provider before self-prescribing any medication or herbal preparation, including cat's claw.
- Known side effects of cat's claw include headache, nausea and vomiting.
- Pregnant women should avoid taking cat's claw because it has been used for both pregnancy prevention and abortion.
- If you do take cat's claw, include it on the list of medications you provide your health care provider at every visit.
- People who take insulin for diabetes should not take cat's claw.
- Cat's claw may interact with other medications. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Nursing mothers should not take cat's claw.
- People allergic to plants in the madder, bedstraw or Rubiaceae family may also be allergic to cat's claw.
- There are plants in Mexico known as una de gato or cat's claw that are not in the same family. These plants are called cat's claw acacia, catclaw acacia or acacia gregii. These plants are believed to have toxic properties and contain a compound related to cyanide. Do not take them orally.
- Cat's claw should not be used by people who have had or are awaiting organ transplants.
- It is unknown how safe the use of cat's claw is in patients suffering from certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. There is an instance of a kidney failure in a patient with Crohn's disease who was taking cat's claw, but it is unknown whether that was an allergic reaction or a possible problem with the medication.
- Cat's claw may interact with drugs that suppress the immune system.
- Cat's claw may interfere with certain medications including oral contraceptives, allergy medications, cholesterol medications, antifungals and cancer medications.
- May cause diarrhea.
- May lower blood pressure.
Where to Find Cat's Claw
Cat's claw is available at most health food stores. It can be found in liquids, tinctures, capsules and teas. You can find cat's claw by itself or combined with other herbal ingredients to increase its bioavailability.
Some Internet sources of cat's claw include: