A Project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
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Fact Sheet Number 722
CAT’S CLAW (Uña de Gato)
WHAT IS CAT’S CLAW?
Cat’s claw is a vine that grows in Peru.
The plant gets its name from pairs of
large, curved thorns that grow along the
vine. In Spanish, the vine’s name is uña
de gato. Its scientific name is Uncaria
tomentosa. Traditionally, the inner bark
and the root of the vine are used to
make a tea. A similar vine, Uncaria
compound. A Chinese
variety, Uncaria rhynchophylla, has
many similar compounds.
WARNING: A plant called “cat’s
claw” grows in northern Mexico and
southern Texas. This plant, Acacia
gregii, has no known health benefits
and its bark may be poisonous
especially the Ashaninka tribe, have
used cat’s claw for hundreds of years
as a medicine. It did not come to the
attention of researchers until the 1970s.
Cat’s claw contains chemicals called
oxindole alkaloids. A researcher named
Klaus Keplinger patented some of these
based on evidence that they affect
immune function. However, a patent is
not the same thing as approval by the
Keplinger has used cat’s claw to treat
some people with herpes or HIV.
Other research showed that cat’s claw
also contains different kinds of alkaloids
that affect the central nervous system.
These alkaloids might work against the
system. More research is needed.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF
Peruvian natives use cat’s claw to treat
inflammatory diseases like arthritis, to
clean out the digestive tract and to treat
cancer. It has also been used to treat
dysentery, recovery from childbirth, and
women’s hormone imbalances.