Cat’s Claw

Uncaria tomentosa (popularly known in English as Cat’s Claw, although that name is also used for various other plants; in Spanish as Uña de Gato (Cat nail) or as Indian name Vilcacora) is a woody vine found in the tropical jungles of South and Central America, which derives its name from its claw-shaped thorns. It is used as an alternative medicine in the treatment of a variety of ailments. Other common names include: hawk’s claw, pot hook, sparrowhawk nail

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

Medicinal uses

The parts used medicinally include the inner bark and root, taken in the form of capsules, tea and extract.

U. tomentosa is used in nootropic drugs, as well as in treatment of cancer and HIV infection. It contains several alkaloids that are responsible for its alleged medical effects, as well as tannins and various phytochemicals.[6] The chemotype of the plant determines the dominant type of alkaloid it produces, and thus its properties in vivo. One chemotype has roots which produce mostly the pentacyclic alkaloids that are responsible for the immune-strengthening effects desired by most consumers. The second chemotype produces tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids known as rhynchophylline and isorhynchophylline which counteract the immune-strengthening actions of the pentacyclic alkaloids, reduces the speed and force of the heart‘s contraction, and in high doses produce ataxia, lack of coordination and sedative effects.[5] Since U. tomentosa comes in at least these two different chemotypes, without chemical testing it is impossible to know which chemical compounds will predominate in a plant collected randomly from a natural setting.

Some ingredients appear to act as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer agents.[6] As a herbal treatment, Cat’s Claw is used to treat intestinal ailments such as Crohn’s disease, gastric ulcers and tumors, parasites, colitis, gastritis, diverticulitis and leaky bowel syndrome, while manufacturers claim that U. tomentosa can also be used in the treatment of AIDS in combination with AZT, the treatment and prevention of arthritis and rheumatism, diabetes, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome, prostate conditions,[7] immune modulation,[8] Lyme disease[9] and systemic lupus erythematosus.[10]A 2005 review of the scholarly literature on Cat’s Claw indicates there is supporting evidence toward its use in treating cancer, inflammation, viral infection and vascular conditions, and for its use as an immunostimulant, antioxidant, antibacterial and CNS-related agent.[6]

Indigenous use

The indigenous peoples of South and Central America have used U. tomentosa for medicinal purposes for two thousand years or more. It is often added to Ayahuasca. Researchers have investigated the use of the plant by the Asháninka tribe of Peru, who use the plant as a general health tonic, contraceptive, anti-inflammatory agent for the gastrointestinal tract, and as a treatment for diarrhea, rheumatic disorders, acne, diabetes, cancer and diseases of the urinary tract.[11]In Brazilian traditional medicine it is used against dengue to reduce inflammation [12]

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}