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What is cat's claw?
Cat's claw is a shrub with thick vines that can grow up to
100 feet. It grows in the rain forests of Central America
and South America, particularly Peru. The plant's stems contain
a bitter, water-like liquid and are dotted with curved, claw-like
thorns that give cat's claw its name.
Why do we need cat's claw? What
is it used for?
Cat's claw preparations are made by scraping the bark off
the root of the plant's vine. The root and bark contain various
chemicals, including tannins, oxyindole alkaloids and glycosides,
which are believed to stimulate the immune system and have
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
In South America, cat's claw is popular for treating inflammation,
ulcers and arthritis, and to promote wound healing. In the
U.S., it is used to combat cancer and HIV infection. One study
of cigarette smokers found that subjects taking a cat's claw
extract showed lower amounts of mutagens in their urine. Other
studies using cat's claw extract have shown lower infection
rates and improved CD4 cell counts in patients with HIV.
How much cat's claw should I take?
For mild stomach pains and sore throats, and to improve immune
function, the following doses are recommended:
- Tea: 1 gram of root bark to 260ml of water, boiled for
10-15 minutes, cooled, then strained.
- Tinctures: 1-2 milliliters two or three times a day.
- Capsules: one capsule (20-60mg) of standardized extract
What forms of cat's claw are available?
Cat's claw is available in the raw root/bark form, as well
as in capsules, extracts and tinctures.
What can happen if I take too much
cat's claw? Are there any interactions I should be aware of?
What precautions should I take?
The American Herbal Products Association has given cat's
claw a class 4 safety rating, which means there simply isn't
enough evidence on which to base a definitive rating. However,
the AHPA has stated that the tanning content of cat's claw
may cause abdominal pain or intestinal problems if taken in
In addition, some practitioners believe cat's claw should
not be used in patients receiving skin grafts or organ transplants,
or in patients with HIV, AIDS or tuberculosis. It is also
not recommended for children under age three, or women who
are pregnant or lactating.
Furthermore, you should not use cat's claw if you have received
the following treatments: vaccinations; fresh or frozen blood
plasma; drugs that use animal proteins or peptide hormones;
intravenous hyperimmunoglobulin therapy; intravenous thymic
extracts; bovine insulin; or porcine insulin.
Other Resources :
More You Know About Nutrition
- Blumenthal M. Herbal update: Una de gato
(cat's claw): rainforest herb gets scientific and industry
attention. Whole Foods Magazine 1995:6268,78.
- Davis BW. A "new" world class herb for
applied kinesiology practice: uncaria tomentosa
a.k.a. una de gato (UDG). Collected Papers of the International
College of Applied Kinesiology, 1992.
- McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg
A. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety
Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997.
- Steinberg PN. Cat's claw: medicinal properties
of this Amazon vine. Nutrition Science News, 1995.
- Yepez AM, de Ugaz OL, Alvarez CM, De Feo
V, Aquino R, De Simone F, Pizza C. Quinovic acid glycosides
from uncaria guianensis. Phytochemistry 1991;30:1,6351,637.