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Cat's Claw

Cat's Claw
© Steven Foster

Common Names: cat’s claw, uña de gato

Latin Names: Uncaria tomentosa, Uncaria guianensis

Background

  • Cat’s claw is a woody vine that grows wild in the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of Central and South America. Its thorns resemble a cat’s claws.
  • The two most common species are U. tomentosa and U. guianensis. Most commercial preparations of cat’s claw contain U. tomentosa.
  • Use of cat’s claw dates back 2,000 years. Indigenous people of South and Central America used it to ward off disease.
  • Today, cat’s claw is promoted as a dietary supplement for a variety of health conditions, including viral infections (such as herpes, human papilloma virus, and HIV), Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis, diverticulitis, peptic ulcers, colitis, gastritis, hemorrhoids, parasites, and leaky bowel syndrome.

How Much Do We Know?

  • There have been very few high-quality clinical trials (studies done in people) of cat’s claw.

What Have We Learned?

  • There’s no conclusive scientific evidence based on studies in people that supports using cat’s claw for any health purpose.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • Cat’s claw appears to be safe when used orally for short periods of time. However, it can cause headache, dizziness, and vomiting in some people.
  • Cat’s claw might make the immune system more active, which could increase symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease, consult your health care provider before using cat’s claw.
  • Little is known about whether it’s safe to use cat’s claw during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
  • Cat’s claw may interact with some medications, including some HIV drugs called protease inhibitors. If you take medication, talk with your health care provider before using cat’s claw.
  • Cat’s claw may lower blood pressure and slow blood clotting. Talk to your health care provider if either of these effects might be a concern for you.

Keep in Mind

  • Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226

tty (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers):

1-866-464-3615

Website: https://nccih.nih.gov/

Email: info@nccih.nih.gov (link sends e-mail)

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Website: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset.

Website: https://ods.od.nih.gov/

Email: ods@nih.gov (link sends e-mail)

Key References

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: May 2020