Cat's claw

Named after its hook-like horns, cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a woody vine native to the Amazon rainforest and other places in South and Central America. The bark and root have been used by South Americans for centuries to treat health problems including arthritis, stomach ulcers, inflammation, dysentery, and fevers. It was also used as a form of birth control.

Test tube studies indicate that cat's claw may stimulate the immune system, help relax the smooth muscles (such as the intestines), dilate blood vessels (helping lower blood pressure), and act as a diuretic (helping the body eliminate excess water).

Cat's claw also has antioxidant properties, helping the body eliminate particles known as free radicals that damage cells. Scientists believe free radicals to contribute to health problems, including heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals and may reduce, or even help prevent, some of the damage they cause.

Some early studies suggest cat's claw may kill tumor and cancer cells in test tubes.

Osteoarthritis

Not many scientific studies have looked at the safety and effectiveness of cat's claw, but it has been used traditionally to treat osteoarthritis (OA). One study found that it may help relieve pain from knee OA without significant side effects.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Cat's claw has been suggested as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because it may help reduce inflammation. One small study of people who were already taking sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine to treat RA found that those who also took cat's claw had fewer painful, swollen joints than those who took a placebo (dummy pill). But although cat's claw may help reduce inflammation, there is no evidence to show that it stops joint damage from getting worse. For that reason, RA should be treated with conventional medications, which can stop joint damage.

Further research

Cat's claw is being studied for a number of other possible uses, including HIV, Crohn disease, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), endometriosis, kidney problems, bladder cancer, and Alzheimer disease. More research is needed before scientists can say whether it is effective.

I Would Like to Learn About:

Related Information

Herbs with Similar Side Effects

View List by Side Effect

Herbs with Similar Uses

View List by Use

Herbs with Similar Warnings

View List by Warning

Uses of this Herb

Alzheimer disease Crohn disease HIV and AIDS Osteoarthritis Peptic ulcer Sexually transmitted diseases

Learn More About

Herbal medicine

Review Date: 6/22/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2021 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.