Written by Nikolina Nikolaou
The Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical jungle is wealthy in plant life than any other place on earth. Pharmaceutical companies have been searching for new botanical drugs in this region for over a century and despite the plenty hidden wealth that has recently come into light, Uña de gato (Spanish), which means cat’s claw and its botanical name is Uncaria tomentosa is the most popular among all. Cat’s claw is a woody vine (Rubiaceae family) that grows in the south and central America and its name is referring to the hook like thorns of the leaf steam resembling the claws of a cat. Dr. James Duke described cat’s claw as a plant widely used in Peru and other Spanish-speaking regions for treating a wide range of ailments associated with arthritis, inflammation and even cancer. This sacred plant has been used in healing people for over 2,000 years from indigenous regions as its root and bark contain chemicals that are found to trigger the immune system, fight viral infections, and inhibit the formation of tumors (cytostatic ability). However, scientists believe that if we want to maximize cat’s claw effectiveness, we should use it as an adjuvant therapy.
Today, cat’s claw is sold as a herbal/dietary supplement for traditional medicine after studies revealed its purpose to improve severe health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), colitis and many more. Additionally, analysis made on Uncaria tomentosa proved that this type of vine has antioxidant (free radicals), anti-rheumatic and hypotensive properties. Finally, throughout the years, cat’s claw has been prescribed as a therapeutic herb ranging from the simplest nuisances like seasonal allergies to the very grave autoimmune conditions .
Generally, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis are the two species of cat’s claw but, the extract of uncaria tomentosa is the one used in herbalism for a variety of diseases. Cat’s claw extracts contain different types of phytochemicals that are known to have immune regulating and anti-mutagenic effects. In 1989 a scientist name Klaus Keplingers had successfully isolated oxindole alkaloids from the root of cat’s claw vine including (isopteropodine, pteropodine, rhynchophylline, mytraphylline, speciophylline, uncarine F and uncarine E). Since then, according to Keplinger, the most immune-logically active alkaloid is the Isopteropodine (Isomer A). However, other important components comprise cat’s claw abilities, are the indole alkaloidal glucosides, quinovic acid and glycosides, tannins, polyphenols, catechins and beta sitosterol. Considering a trial conducted by the shanghai college of traditional Chinese medicine, rhynchophylline alkaloid cannot be awarded having any immune-stimulating property as it holds the ability to inhibit platelet aggregation, thrombosis and heal severe aliments of the central nervous system.
Recently, studies released a remarkable finding of cat’s claw as it can be used as nootropic drug to slow down the progression of neurodegenerative disorders by enhancing the brain function and preventing the incidence of stroke. Uncaria tomentosa is found to cause an immediate inhibition of beta-amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease dissolving them harmlessly within the brain. However, the nootropic properties of cat’s claw are also important for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cognitive/learning disabilities and dementia.
Moreover, due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, cat’s claw is also neuroprotective as it protects the neurons of the brain from chronic inflammation which is linked to depression and memory loss. Therefore, cat’s claw can be considered as a calming drug prescribed to patients dealing with mental health issues as it acts by boosting the tryptophan levels which increases serotonin neurotransmitter and in response affects the serotonin 5-HT2 receptors which helps to relief the sense of pain (Tomen, 2017).
Due to the ancient healing character of cat’s claw from the indigenous cultures in south America, both in vitro and in vivo studies showed that cat’s claw is capable to prevent tumor formation and even treat malignancies. Austrian researchers support that some cat’s claw extracts are potent enough to not just stop cancer cell growth but kill them outright and stop the Wnt-signalling pathway. This pathway is implicated in glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of primary brain tumor (Tomen, 2017).
Benefits of cat’s claw:
Good scientific studies provide assurance about cat’s claw efficiency as a herbal medication to ward off diseases. According to trials, the curing actions of cat’s claw can benefit patients dealing with:
- Polycystic ovaries
- Arthritis (Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis)
- Reproductive cancer
- Symptoms of cold
- Digestive complaints
Cat’s claw can also be prescribed as an antibiotic drug for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases due to its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral effects. Its broadly used to treat and relief symptoms related with viral infections such as herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Also, cat’s claw can be the remedy for infections of the urinary and digestive tract like gonorrhea and colitis respectively 
In the current world, you may find Uncaria tomentosa in many different forms such as tablets, pills, capsules and extracts, it can also be sold as ground or freeze-dried bark or be taken as a home-prepared tea every 8hours in between mealtimes.
Recipe for preparing homemade cat’s claw tea:
- 7 ounces of bark and roots
- 34 ounces of water
- Boil all together for approx. 15 minutes
- Let the mixture sit in a closed container for 10 minutes
- Strain and drink
The plant appears to be harmless with non-toxic impact on individuals as well as advantageous when consumed in combination with other medications and herbs. For instance, drinking cat’s claw with yellow uxi a Brazilian herb, can advantage both females and males dealing with infertility. The beneficial properties of these two plants when combine can increase the chances of pregnancy as it helps to enhance the uterine health.
Can cat’s claw be used as a daily supplement?
People often ask if they could use cat’s claw as an everyday medicine, the answer to this question is no, as cat’s claw cannot be considered as a daily supplement like ginseng or rhodiola. 
Please note that, as daily dosage suggestions of cat’s claw have not been established yet it is important to consult your personal GP to guide you with safety. However, World Health Organization (WHO) claims that an average daily dose of Uncaria tomentosa should be around 20-350mg of dried steam bark or 300-500mg for capsules taken as separated doses (Jane Brown, 2019).
Aside from this, studies have also proposed the daily intake of:
- One 60mg capsule per day for rheumatoid arthritis and 100mg for knee osteoarthritis
- One 250mg or 350mg capsule per day for cognitive and immune support.
Precautions and adverse effects you should consider before buying cat’s claw:
The use of cat’s claw is prohibited:
- In combination with other medications as it can cause drug-to-drug interactions.
- In pregnant or nursing mothers.
- When planning to become pregnant or have an abortion (contraceptive effect of U.tomentosa)
- When having a scheduled surgery
- If taken with other diuretic medications as it can increase the risk of electrolyte imbalance and kidney problem.
- For patients suffering from hypotension and bleeding disorders.
- For children younger than three years of age.
- During the period of organ transplantation.
Individuals rarely experience any adverse effect after taking cat’s claw, however people allergic to the rubiaceae plant family might be more prone to experience some side effects like itching, rash or allergic inflammation of the kidneys. Similarly, patients suffering from autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis) and people who have ulcers its proper to consult their doctor before take cat’s claw. However, other common cat’s claw implications include:
- Gastrointestinal discomfort (diarrhea/constipation)
Currently, cat’s claw due to its benefit to human life is known to have the greatest abundance in all the herbal markers in the world, as well as in Austria the extract is used as a primary drug for the treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis with high success. Finally, scientists believe that with further research more therapeutic aspects of cat’s claw will come into surface.
 Jane Brown, M. (2019). Cat’s Claw: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cats-claw?fbclid=IwAR1Q6R1j0a2_U2KMCxaFjkfopQSJQeOsFR2LbNyIZFuv_xopjHr9_OWGXyw#dosage.
 Mount Sinai (n.d.). Cat’s claw Information. [online] Mount Sinai Health System. Available at: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/cats-claw?fbclid=IwAR3PvfANuDIvNZo57eNunR48d8Wky9iZ6CZo5HYC0bk2qQma4wTApeJPBuU [Accessed 20 Aug. 2022].
 Medicine Hunter (n.d.). Cat’s Claw | Medicine Hunter. [online] www.medicinehunter.com. Available at: https://www.medicinehunter.com/cats-claw?fbclid=IwAR0jkNOvstVTZFLaIhXThaDZlVRYn34RfME_ydIyuqDYRSstK5G83-KWhlA.
 Tomen, D. (2017). Cat’s Claw – Nootropics Expert. [online] nootropicsexpert.com. Available at: https://nootropicsexpert.com/cats-claw/?fbclid=IwAR0MxCs8lL1gLST0FeAAjHVMNutDWTczE0XnZ_VUl6w1krlSCQWBn4s6uzU#dosage-notes [Accessed 18 Aug. 2022].
 Sandoval-Chacon, M., Thompson, J.H., Zhang, X.J., Liu, X., Mannick, E.E., Sadowska-Krowicka, H., Charbonnet, R.M., Clark, D.A. and Miller, M.J.S., 1998. Antiinflammatory actions of cat’s claw: the role of NF-kB. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 12(12), pp.1279-1290.