Cat’s claw, also known as Uña de Gato, is a plant that can be found in the South American rainforest. It has been used for centuries by the native peoples there as a medicinal herb. There are many claims about what this herb can to, but not all of them have enough evidence to back them up. This is why you may want to start including la Uña de Gato in your herbal medicine cabinet.
What Is Cat’s Claw?
Cat’s claw is a vine that grows in the rainforest of South America. You may also hear it referred to as Uña de Gato, which translates to “nail of the cat.” Its scientific name is Uncaria tomentosa. Native peoples have used it in this area for centuries and is still used today by many people. The root of the plant is dried and ground into powder, which can be added to drinks or foods. (1)
3 Benefits of Cat’s Claw
As already mentioned, the native people of South America have used the Uña de Gato for centuries for a variety of medicinal purposes. In more recent years, Cat’s Claw has been growing in popularity in other parts of the world, including North America. There are many claimed health benefits of this plant, however, scientists have actually only been able to find sufficient evidence for three of these claims.
1. May Boost Immune System
One of the most common uses for cat’s claw is as an immune system booster. There have been several studies that show people who take this herb regularly have fewer colds and infections than those who don’t take it regularly. The researchers found that perhaps Cat’s Claw increases white blood cell count and helps the immune system fight infections more effectively. (2)
The researchers have found that the plant appears to work both by boosting your immune response while at the same time calming an overactive immune system. There is also evidence to support that its anti-inflammatory properties could be part of this immune boost. Scientists agree, however, that still more research is needed to understand this better. (3)
Read: 9 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
2. May Relieve Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a common joint condition that causes pain, stiffness, and loss of movement. It usually affects the joints in your hands and feet, but can also affect other joints, like those in your knees or hips. Cat’s Claw has been shown to be beneficial for osteoarthritis by reducing pain and improving mobility. Several studies have been done on Cat’s Claw’s effect on Osteoarthritis, with mixed results. The thought is that the herb’s anti-inflammatory properties is what may help with the inflammatory joint condition. Researchers agree that more studies are needed to understand the mechanism and also to determine how to best use it for this purpose. (4)
3. May Relieve Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the joints, causing pain and stiffness. It’s caused by an overreaction of the immune system, which mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. Cat’s Claw has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by reducing the pain and inflammation associated with this condition. Researchers agree that the results of studies on Cat’s Claw versus Rheumatoid arthritis are very promising. Still, however, the evidence is not very strong. More research is needed. (5)
Read: Calcium Supplements: Should You Take Them?
Health Claims That Have Not Been Proven
If you’ve typed “Cat’s Claw” into your preferred search engine, you’ve probably come across articles touting many other medicinal uses for Cat’s Claw. These health claims include:
- viral infections
- high blood pressure
- stomach and bowel disorders
- ovarian cysts
The argument is that Cat’s Claw contains phenolic acids, alkaloids, flavonoids, and other powerful compounds that may have some pretty incredible health benefits. While this may be true, so far there is no evidence to support the claims that Cat’s Claw actually does help with any of the above illnesses and conditions. The harm here is that in saying that this herb does improve those conditions, some might rely on Cat’s Claw instead of listening to what their health care provider is recommending. In many cases, this can be extremely dangerous.
The Bottom Line
Cat’s Claw may be a beneficial herb to add to your daily routine. You can take it as a tea, capsule or tincture. However, there currently is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it will improve your health. It may boost your immune system, and there is some evidence that it may help with arthritis symptoms. If you are interested in taking Cat’s Claw for any other reason, please consult with your health care practitioner first.
Keep Reading: 6 Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper
- “Cat’s Claw: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage.” Healthline. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD . January 31, 2019.
- “Persistent response to pneumococcal vaccine in individuals supplemented with a novel water soluble extract of Uncaria tomentosa, C-Med-100.” Pubmed. S Lamm , Y Sheng, and R W Pero. July 2001
- “Cat’s claw: an Amazonian vine decreases inflammation in osteoarthritis.” Pubmed. Sonya R Hardin. February 2007.
- “Efficacy and safety of freeze-dried cat’s claw in osteoarthritis of the knee: mechanisms of action of the species Uncaria guianensis.” Pubmed. J Piscoya, et al. September 2001.
- “Randomized double blind trial of an extract from the pentacyclic alkaloid-chemotype of uncaria tomentosa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.” Pubmed. Erich Mur, et al. April 2002.