Cat’s Claw (Root)

Cat’s claw is native to the Amazon. The name cat’s claw comes from the thorns on the plant’s leaves that look like the claws of a cat. The part used medicinally is the root bark. It comes in tablet, capsule, tea, dried herb or tincture forms.

Cat’s claw has a long history of traditional use, as far back as ancient Persia, as well as by indigenous peoples in South America. It has been used to treat digestive problems, Arthritis, inflammation, ulcers and to promote wound healing.


Cat’s claw has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Compounds in cat’s claw are thought to block the body’s production of inflammation-producing substances called prostaglandins and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Cat’s claw is also believed to reduce pain.


There is some evidence cat’s claw affects the immune system. Preliminary laboratory studies suggest it may halt the spread of cancer cells. A few animal studies suggest it may help with cell damage caused by chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Much more evidence is needed before it can be used as a cancer treatment, and it should never replace conventional care.

Other conditions

Cat’s claw has also been used for high blood pressure, HIV, diverticulitis, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, but more studies must be conducted on the effectiveness of cat’s claw for these conditions.

There are two species of Cat’s Claw- Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis, each having different properties and uses. The two are frequently confused but U. tomentosa is the more heavily researched for medicinal us and immune modulation, while U. guianensis may be more useful for Osteoarthritis. U. tomentosa is further divided into two chemotypes with different properties and active compounds, a fact ignored by most manufacturers that can have significant implications on both its use as an alternative medicine and in clinical trials to prove or disprove its efficacy.

 U. tomentosa is used in nootropic drugs, as well as in treatment of cancer and HIV infection. It contains several alkaloids that are responsible for its medical effects, as well as tannins and various phytochemicals. The chemotype of the plant determines the dominant type of alkaloid it produces, and thus its properties in vivo. One chemotype has roots which produce mostly the pentacyclic alkaloids that are responsible for the immune-strengthening effects desired by most consumers. The second chemotype produces tetracyclic oxindole  alkaloids known as rhynchophylline and isorhynchophylline which counteract the immune-strengthening actions of the pentacyclic alkaloids, reduces the speed and force of the heart’s contraction, and in high doses produce ataxia, lack of coordination and sedative effects.  

Some ingredients appear to act as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer agents. As a herbal treatment, Cat’s Claw is used to treat intestinal ailments such as Crohn’s disease, gastric ulcers, tumors, parasites, colitis, gastritis, diverticulitis and leaky gut syndrome, while manufacturers claim that U. tomentosa can also be used in the treatment of AIDS in combination with AZT, the treatment and prevention of Arthritis and rheumatism, diabetes, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome, prostate conditions, immune modulation, Lyme disease and systemic lupus erythematosus. A 2005 review of the scholarly literature on Cat’s Claw indicates there is supporting evidence toward its use in treating cancer, inflammation, viral infection, and vascular conditions, and for its use as an immune-stimulant, antioxidant, antibacterial, and CNS (Central Nervous System)-related agent.