Uncaria tomentosa

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Uncaria tomentosa
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Uncaria
U. tomentosa
Binomial name
Uncaria tomentosa

Uncaria tomentosa is a woody vine found in the tropical jungles of South and Central America. It is known as cat's claw or uña de gato in Spanish because of its claw-shaped thorns.[1][2] The plant root bark is used in herbalism for a variety of ailments, and is sold as a dietary supplement.[2][3][4]

Evidence anti-inflammatory action is limited to cell culture studies.[5][6] and has not been demonstrated in randomized control human trials.[citation needed] 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.[7][8]


Uncaria tomentosa is a liana deriving its name from hook-like thorns that resemble the claws of a cat.[2] U. tomentosa can grow to a length of up to 30 m (100 ft), climbing by means of these thorns.[1] The leaves are elliptic with a smooth edge, and grow in opposing pairs. Cat's claw is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, with its habitat being restricted primarily to the tropical areas of South and Central America.[1]


There are two species of cat's claw commonly used in North America and Europe, Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis, having different properties and uses.[2] The two are frequently confused but U. tomentosa is the more commonly used in traditional medicine.[9][10] U. tomentosa is further divided into two chemotypes that remain under preliminary research for their properties and compounds.[11] There are other plants which are known as cat's claw (or uña de gato) in Mexico and Latin America; however, they are entirely different plant species, belonging to neither the genus Uncaria, nor to the family Rubiaceae.[10]


Phytochemicals in Uncaria tomentosa root bark include oxindole and indole alkaloids, glycosides, organic acids, proanthocyanidins, sterols, and triterpenes, glycosides, tannins, polyphenols, catechins, rhynchophylline, and beta-sitosterol.[2][10][12]

Traditional medicine[edit]

Cat's claw bark has been used as a traditional medicine in South American countries over centuries for its supposed health benefits, and is a common herbal supplement.[2][4][10] As of 2021, there is no high-quality clinical evidence that it has any benefit in treating human diseases.[2][4]


Cat's claw has extensive interactions with numerous prescription drugs.[2] Its safety over long-term use or during pregnancy has not been scientifically determined.[2][4]

Adverse effects[edit]

Individuals allergic to plants in the family Rubiaceae and different species of Uncaria may be more likely to have adverse reactions to cat's claw.[2] Allergic reactions can include itching, rash, and skin inflammation.[2] Gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, headache, impaired kidney and hormonal effects, and neuropathy are other possible effects.[2][4]

People requiring anticoagulation, blood pressure, or immune therapy should not use cat's claw.[2][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Uncaria tomentosa". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Cat's claw". Drugs.com. 6 September 2021. Retrieved 16 August 2022.
  3. ^ "Assessment report on Uncaria tomentosa (Willd. ex Schult.) DC., cortex" (PDF). European Medicines Agency. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Cat's claw". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US National Institutes of Health. 1 May 2020. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  5. ^ Sandoval-Chacón, M; Thompson, JH; Zhang, XJ; Liu, X; Mannick, EE; Sadowska-Krowicka, H; Charbonnet, RM; Clark, DA; Miller, MJ (December 1998). "Antiinflammatory actions of cat's claw: the role of NF-κB". Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 12 (12): 1279–1289. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.1998.00424.x. PMID 9882039. S2CID 24640166.
  6. ^ Miller, Mark J. S.; Zhang, Xiao-Jing; Charbonnet, Randi M.; Clark, David A.; Sandoval, Manuel (April 1999). "The Anti-Inflammatory Actions of the Herbal Medicine, Cat's Claw, Are Due to a Suppression of NF-κB Activation and Inhibition of Gene Expression". Pediatric Research. 45 (7): 114. doi:10.1203/00006450-199904020-00676. S2CID 72216843.
  7. ^ "Cat's claw Information". Mount Sinai Health System.
  8. ^ Patel, Kamal. "Research Breakdown on Cat's claw". Examine.
  9. ^ Gattuso M, di Sapio O, Gattuso S, Pereyra LE (2004). "Morphoanatomical Studies of Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis Bark and Leaves". Phytomedicine. 11 (2–3): 213–223. doi:10.1078/0944-7113-00315. PMID 15070175.
  10. ^ a b c d "Detailed Scientific Review of Cat's Claw (archived)". M.D. Anderson Center. 31 May 2006. Archived from the original on 26 August 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  11. ^ Keplinger K, Laus G, Wurm M, Dierich MP, Teppner H (1999). "Uncaria tomentosa (Willd.) DC. — Ethnomedicinal Use and New Pharmacological, Toxicological and Botanical Results" (PDF). Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 64 (1): 23–34. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(98)00096-8. PMID 10075119.
  12. ^ Cat's claw. LiverTox, US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 18 February 2019. PMID 31643645.

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