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Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa, Uncaria guianensis)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • 3,4-Dehydro-5-carboxystrictosidine, ammonia-treated quinic acid (QAA), ancajsillo, ancayacu, aublet, auri huasca, bejuco de agua (Spanish), beta-sitosterol, campesterol, cat's claw inner bark extract, cell line green Uth-3, C-Med-100®, deixa paraguayo, gambir, garabato (Spanish), garabato amarillo (Spanish), garabato blanco (Spanish), garbato casha, garbato colorado (Spanish), garbato gavilán (Spanish), garra gavilán (Spanish), geissoschizine methyl ether, Gou-Teng, griffe du chat (French), hawk's claw, isorhynchophylline, isorotundifolune, jijyuwamyúho, jipotatsa, Krallendorn®, kugkuukjagki, life-giving vine of Peru, misho-mentis, mitraphylline, nature's aspirin, Nauclea aculeate, Nauclea oculeata, Nauclea tomentosa, oleanolic acid, Ourouparia guianensis, Ourouparia tomentosa, paotati-mosha, paraguaya, pentacyclic oxindoles, Peruvian cat's claw, pole catechu, popokainangra, quinic acid (QA), quinovic acid glycosides, radix Uncariae tomentosae (Willd.), rangayo, rhynchophylline, rotundifoline, Rubiaceae (family), samento, saventaro, stigmasterol, tambor hausca, tannins, tetracyclic oxindoles, tomcat's claw, torõn, tsachik, tua juncara, uña de gato (Spanish), uña de gato de altura (Spanish), uña de gato del bajo (Spanish), uña de gavilán (Spanish), uña huasca (Spanish), Uncaria guianensis, Uncaria tomentosa, uncarine C, uncarine E, uncarinic acid C, uncarinic acid D, ursolic acid, unganangi, unganangui, UT extract, UTE, vegicaps.
  • Note: There are 34 Uncaria species other than Uncaria tomentosa. Other species are also referred to as uña de gato: Anadenanthera flava, Bauhinia aculeata, Berberis goudotii, Byttneri hirsuta, Caesalpinia sepiara, Celtis uguanae, Clerodendrum aculeatum, Doxantha ungis catti, Macfadyena undis catti, Mimosa albida, Mimosa acantholoba, Mimosa montana, Mimosa pigra, Piptadenia colubrina, Piptadenia flava, Pisonia aculeate, Pithecellobium unguis catti, Rubus urticaefolius, Smilax species, Zanthoxylum panamensis, and Zanthoxylum rigidum.
  • Combination product examples: CognoBlend™ (Bacopa monniera, Ginkgo biloba, cat's claw, gotu kola, and rosemary), Krallendom® (cat's claw mixed with zidovudine [AZT]).

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Cat's claw is a woody vine native to the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of South and Central America. Its use dates back to the Incan civilization. It has been employed as a contraceptive, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, cancer remedy, and antiviral. According to secondary sources, the Peruvian Asháninka priests considered cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) to have great powers and life-giving properties and used the herb to ward off disease.
  • Multiple plant species are marketed under the name cat's claw, the most common being Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis. Both are used to treat the same indications, although traditionally it is thought that Uncaria tomentosa is a more efficacious immunostimulant. Uncaria tomentosa occurs in two distinct, though otherwise botanically indistinguishable, chemical phenotypes, expressing either tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids or pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids in their roots, respectively. According to secondary sources, to the healer-priests of the Central Peruvian Asháninka Indians, the pentacyclic alkaloid chemotype is a medicinal plant. It is regarded as being inhabited by the benevolent sprits of the rainforests and is called savéntaro, a combination of the words saveshi ("plant") and antearo ("potent"). No special name is reserved for the tetracyclic alkaloid chemotype among the Asháninka healer-priests, though they strictly differentiate it.
  • According to secondary sources, there are unsubstantiated reports of a potentially toxic plant, Acacia greggii, having often been substituted for cat's claw in commercial preparations. It should also be noted that cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) may be contaminated with other Uncaria species, including Uncaria rhynchophylla (used in Chinese herbal preparations under the name Gou-Teng), which may cause low blood pressure or a decreased heart rate, or act as a neuroinhibitor.
  • Cat's claw or its constituents have been investigated for possible medicinal benefits in several indications, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While results have been promising, evidence remains insufficient for recommendation.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.