Herb Reference Guide

Cat's Claw

History

Cat’s Claw is a climbing vine indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of South and Central America, including Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Trinidad, Venezuela, Suriname, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama. The name comes from the claw-like thorns that are used by the vine to climb high into the canopy of the rainforest. There are two main documented species of this plant and they share similar chemical make-ups (U. tomentosa and U. guianensis) Many Native Tribes in the South American Rainforest have used this herb medicinally but the Ashaninka of central Peru are one of the largest commercial producers of Cat's Claw and they as well as many other tribes have made the plant part of their medicinal and spiritual practice for over 2,000 years. Austrian researcher Klaus Keplinger learned about the plant from the Ashaninka, evaluated it in his lab, and then applied for US patents based on the isolation of certain chemicals (oxindole alkaloids) in the plant. Undoubtedly, this didn't change the native people’s value of the plant that value its spiritual virtues as highly as its medicinal properties.

Function

There have been several areas of interest in the research related to Cat's Claw, most notably the effects on the immune system and the inflammatory pathways in the human body. * The group of chemical compounds in Cat's Claw known as glycosides have been the center of much of the research investigating how this plant may promote a healthy inflammatory response.* The Oxindole Alkaloids seem to show the most promise in the understanding of how this plant helps to support the healthy functioning of the immune system.* Once again we are reminded that people who neither knew or cared about these chemicals have found this plant to literally be a gift from the gods and have continued to use it.*

Uses of Cat's Claw

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Oxindole alkaloids (isopteropodine, pteropodine, mitraphylline, isomitraphylline, rynchophylline, and isorynchophylline), triterpenes, proanthocyanidins, polyphenols, glycosides, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol

Parts Used

  • Bark

Important precautions

Not to be used during pregnancy or lactation. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs, please consult with your doctor before use.

Additional Resources

Akhtar, N., et al. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2012 Jun;4(3):181-207

Domingues, A., et al. “Uncaria tomentosa aqueous-ethanol extract triggers an immunomodulation toward a Th2 cytokine profile.” Phytother Res. 2011 Aug;25(8):1229-35

Rojas-Duran, R., et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Oct 11;143(3):801-4.

Spelman, K., et al. “Modulation of cytokine expression by traditional medicines: a review of herbal immunomodulators.” Altern. Med. Rev. 2006 Jun; 11(2): 128-50.