Cat’s Claw




Cat’s Claw, or Uncaria tomentosa, is a tropical vine with therapeutic uses that date back thousands of years, particularly in South and Central America. The plant, notable for its cat claw-like thorns, contains compounds believed to offer anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant benefits. Though traditionally used for medicinal purposes, scientific evidence is currently insufficient to fully substantiate all its claimed health benefits.

Common name(s): Uña de Gato, Life-giving Vine of Peru, Samento
Scientific name: Uncaria tomentosa


Life Cycle


Known for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and immune-boosting effects traditionally used in South and Central American cultures.


Native to the tropical areas of Central and South America.

Natural Habitat

Found primarily in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America.


Prefers partial to full sun, requires well-drained soil, and moderate watering, tolerating some dryness once established.

Traditional Usage

Traditionally, Cat’s Claw has been used by indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest and surrounding tropical areas for its health-improving traits. Here are some of the common traditional uses:

  • Acting as an anti-inflammatory agent to ease various ailments.
  • Boosting the immune system to help fight against infections and diseases.
  • Treating digestive problems, due to its soothing effects on the gastrointestinal system.
  • Supporting joint health and providing relief from arthritis symptoms.

These uses can be attributed to the plant’s array of phytochemicals, including tannins and quinovic acid glycosides, which are believed to have medicinal properties3. While these traditional practices underscore the significance of Cat’s Claw in herbal medicine, it is vital to consult with a healthcare professional before using it or any other herbal supplements.

Historical Usage

Utilized by indigenous peoples of South and Central America for its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects for over 2,000 years.

Common Usage

Currently used as an herbal supplement for its anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive properties.


Cat’s Claw has been valued for its potential health benefits, which are primarily attributed to its diverse range of phytochemicals. People using this herb may experience several effects that contribute to overall well-being. Here are some of the general effects you might notice:

  • Anti-inflammatory action: Cat’s Claw contains compounds that may help reduce inflammation, which can be beneficial for conditions such as arthritis.
  • Immune system boost: Some users find that this herb enhances immune function, potentially helping the body fend off infections.
  • Antiviral properties: The herb’s constituents might help combat viruses, adding an extra layer of protection against viral illnesses.
  • Antioxidant benefits: It is also believed to have antioxidant properties, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body.

It is important to remember that while these effects are traditionally recognized and may be supported by some scientific research, evidence is not conclusive, and more studies are needed to fully understand the extent of Cat’s Claw’s benefits3. Additionally, individual results can vary, so it’s essential to approach the use of this herb with realistic expectations and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new herbal regimen.

Effects when smoking

Smoking Cat’s Claw is an unconventional and less-documented method of utilizing the herb, compared to traditional applications like teas or supplementation. Although scientific studies are sparse when it comes to smoking this vine, some general effects that have been attributed to the use of Cat’s Claw could potentially translate to this consumption method.

General effects one might encounter when smoking Cat’s Claw include:

  • A potential reduction in inflammation, due to the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.
  • An immunomodulatory effect, possibly enhancing the body’s immune response.
  • Antiviral activity, which might be beneficial in fighting off some viral infections.
  • Antioxidant benefits, from the plant’s diverse phytochemical contents.

It’s important to note, however, that health professionals typically do not endorse smoking any plant material. Such practices could introduce risks associated with inhaling smoke, which may offset potential benefits. Side effects from overconsumption, or the impact of specific compounds when combusted and inhaled, remain largely unknown due to the scarcity of dedicated research3.

If you are considering using Cat’s Claw, it is essential to weigh the potential risks and consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications (such as blood thinners). Remember that pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as individuals with autoimmune diseases, should avoid Cat’s Claw without medical supervision due to possible contraindications1. Always prioritize safety and follow up-to-date health guidelines when exploring herbal remedies.

Flavor Profile

Earthy or woody, varying with preparation and individual perception.

Edible Parts

This plant is not known to be edible.

Effects when Smoked

Effects specific to smoking are not well-documented; not recommended due to smoke inhalation risks.

User Experiences

Some users report improvements in inflammation and immune response, though experiences vary and are not scientifically guaranteed.

Medicinal Benefits

Cat’s Claw has been traditionally celebrated for its therapeutic potential, with particular focus on its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting capabilities. To understand the spectrum of its purported benefits, consider the following points:

  • Anti-inflammatory action: Might provide relief from conditions such as arthritis.
  • Antiviral properties: Could assist the body in combating viral infections.
  • Antioxidant effects: Offers potential in protecting the body against oxidative stress.
  • Digestive aid: May help address digestive issues due to its soothing properties.

While these benefits are grounded in traditional uses, scientific validation is limited, and further investigation is required to establish efficacy and safety3. It is essential to consider professional healthcare advice before using Cat’s Claw, particularly when it comes to the appropriate method of consumption and dosage.

History and Folklore

Cat’s Claw has a rich history as a traditional remedy, stretching back over two millennia. Indigenous populations of the Amazon rainforest, along with inhabitants of other tropical regions in Central and South America, have harnessed its properties to combat inflammation and bolster the immune system. This natural remedy played a significant role in the healing practices of these cultures, illustrating a time-honored trust in the plant’s therapeutic effects. While ancient uses were diverse, the vine’s anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting capabilities were particularly esteemed.4

Today, while we continue to explore the full potential of Cat’s Claw, its historical applications provide a window into the enduring wisdom of traditional medicine.

Side Effects and Contraindications

  • Side Effects: Some individuals may experience mild side effects when using Cat’s Claw, including nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness.
  • Contraindications: Special caution should be exercised by certain groups; it is advised that pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use Cat’s Claw. Additionally, people with autoimmune diseases or those on blood-thinning medications are recommended to avoid this herb unless they are under direct medical supervision1 3.

Legal Status

Cat’s Claw is generally legal and available for purchase as a dietary supplement in many countries. Since it is not regulated as a drug, oversight on its manufacture and sale is typically less stringent.
It is important to be aware of your specific country’s regulations regarding herbs and supplements, as policies might vary. Consuming Cat’s Claw in forms such as teas or supplements is the common practice; if you are considering using this herb, ensure that it adheres to the legal standards set by your regional health authorities2.


1. “Cat’s Claw: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage – Healthline.” Healthline. Accessed April 1, 2023.
2. “Uncaria tomentosa – Wikipedia.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 1, 2023.
3. “Cat’s claw Information | Mount Sinai – New York.” Mount Sinai. Accessed April 1, 2023.
4. “Cat’s Claw – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.” NCCIH. Accessed April 1, 2023.