Cat's Claw

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Uncaria tomentosa (Willd.) DC and Uncaria guianensis (Aubl.) Gmel. Family: Rubiaceae

COMMON NAME(S):Cat's claw, life-giving vine of Peru, samento, una de gato

Cat's Claw is also known by the names Una de Gato, Samento, Chacruk, Jipotatsa, Rangayo, and Garabato Amarillo. It's also called "Opener of the Way" because of its well-known cleansing properties. The bark and root of this herb have been used among indigenous people of the rainforest for centuries to treat a variety of health problems including arthritis, ulcers, sexually transmitted diseases, fevers, and even cancer. Some women consumed cat's claw as a contraceptive because large doses of this herb were believed to cause temporary infertility.


U. guianensis has long folkloric use in South America as a wound healer and for treating intestinal ailments. Large amounts of U. guianensis are collected in South America for the European market, while American sources prefer U. tomentosa.

The bark decoction of U, guianensis is used in Peru as an anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, and contraceptive, as well us in treating gastric ulcers and tumors, gonorrhea (by the Bora tribe), dysentery (by the Indian groups of Colombia und Guiana), and cancers of the urinary tract in women.

The Ashanica Indians believe that samento (also U. tomentosa) has "life­giving" properties, and use a cup of the decoction each week or two to ward off disease, treat bone pains, and cleanse the kidneys. Recent interest in una de gato stems from a reference to the plant in a popular book, Witch Doctor's Apprentice, Hunting for Medicinal Plants in the Amazonian.

Reviews and scientific studies by the National Cancer institute in the last decade have led to verification of some of the anticancer and immunostimulant properties.Some of the demand for the bark has been attributed to European reports on its clinical use with AZT in AIDS treatment. The demand for the bark in the US is based on the purported usefulness of its tea in treating diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, colitis, gastritis, parasites, and leaky bowel syndrome.

Botany :- Cat's claw, or una de gato (Spanish), is a tropical vine of the madder family (Rubiaceae). The name describes the small curved-back spines on the stem at the leaf juncture. The genus Uncaria is found throughout the tropics, mainly in Southeast Asia, the Asian continent, and South America. The two species of current interest, Uncaria tomentosa (Willd.) DC and Uncaria guianensis (Aubl.) (Omel.), are found in South America. These species are lianas or high-climbing, twining, woody vines.Both species are known in Peru as una de gato.

There are 34 reported species of Uncaria. One Asian species, known as gambir or pole catechu (Uncaria gambir [Hunter] Roxb.), is a widely used tanning agent which has long medicinal use as an astringent and antidiarrheal.

Uses of Cat's Claw

Various species have been used as an astringent, anti-inflammatory, contraceptive, for gastric ulcers, rheumatism, cancer treatment, and as a general tonic. Studies have verified some anticancer and immunostimulant properties. The major alkaloid is hypotensive.

Side Effects of Cat's Claw

Like other immune stimulants, cat's-claw should be avoided in diseases of the immune system itself, such as tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, and HIV infection. Cat's claw is not believed to be safe for children, pregnant, or nursing women. Consult a physician before using cat's-claw.


Cat's claw is available as a supplement in many different forms. These include: dried cut-and-sifted root and stem, powdered root and stem, capsules, tinctures, tablets, and extracts standardized for total alkaloid content. For proper dosage, follow manufacturer's recommendation found on the package.

Plant extracts and fractions of U. tomentosa exhibit no mutagenic effects, but show a protective antimutagenic property in vitro and decreased the mutagenicity in a smoker who had ingested a decoction of the plant for 15 days.While there is little published data on the toxicology of una de gato, there is an international patent (1982) and a German dissertation (1984) which indicate low toxicity for this material The scattered pharmacological studies also seem to indicate little hazard in ingesting the plant decoction.

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