Native to the Amazon rainforest, Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) gets its name from the inch-long hooked thorns that allow this tropical climbing plant to anchor itself to trees and wind its way up 100 feet or more into the forest canopy. As they have for centuries, indigenous people and herbalists use the roots, leaves, and bark in preparations for asthmas, arthritis, rheumatism, urinary and kidney problems, and inflammation. In modern herbal medicine, Cat’s Claw is recommended for chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, mononucleosis, and arthritis.
A potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory botanical, Cat’s Claw is used to treat joint problems that occur with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In a small clinical trial, Cat’s Claw was shown to decrease pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, as well as osteoarthritis of the knee. The medicinal benefits of Cat’s Claw come from chemicals called pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids, which boost the immune system and help temper inflammation.
The concentration of medicinally active chemicals in Cat’s Claw vary based on when and how the plant is harvested. A holistic health physician will be knowledgeable about a product’s purity and potency, as well as which form of Cat’s Claw supplement is best for you. For example, your physician may suggest tea, tincture, extract or capsule depending upon your health concerns. Some people experience upset stomach, headache or dizziness when using Cat’s Claw. Also, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing, or for children under age three.
- Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants.(2012) pp. 204-207. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
- Yasuda, G., et al., “Rheumatoid Arthritis” in Textbook of Natural Medicine by Pizzorno, Joseph E. & Michael T. Murray. (Chapter 205, p 1769). (2013) St. Louis, MO Elsevier.
- Mur E, Hartig F, Eibl G, Schirmer M. “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. Accessed 22 Apr 2018: http://www.jrheum.org/content/29/4/678.long
- Arthritis Research Center-UK. “Cat’s Claw.” Accessed 22 Apr 18: https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/complementary-and-alternative-medicines/cam-report/complementary-medicines-for-rheumatoid-arthritis/cats-claw.aspx