What is it?, history, cultivation, nutritional value, uses, recipes, and more...
Cat’s claw is a climbing plant that grows in the Amazon rainforest of South America, mainly in the jungles of Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia. It has been used in traditional medicine for almost 2,000 years. Cat’s claw is used as an anti-inflammatory, for diabetes treatment, in cases of various tumors, cancer, viral processes, menstrual cycle irregularities, convalescence, and general weakness. Some of its uses are still unverified by science.
What is Cat's Claw?
Cat’s claw is a climbing vine of the Rubiaceae family native to the Amazon regions of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. It is a plant that can grow over 40 meters in length and reach up to 20 meters in height. Its bark is woody, thin, has longitudinal fissures, and is yellow or yellowish-green in color. Its leaves are simple, opposite, elliptical or oval, with entire margins, ranging from 7.5 to 17 cm in length and 4.3 to 12 cm in width, and are attached to the stem by a short petiole. On the opposite or underside, it has very small and fine hairs along its entire length, called tomenta, from which it gets its name “Tomentosa.” Its flowers are small and bisexual, arranged in clusters that can measure from 7 to 18 cm in length. On the primary stems of the cat’s claw, curved spines grow in the form of thin hooks, which are referred to in its name in Spanish.
History of Cat's Claw
There is a belief that an Ashaninka hunter observed a jaguar cutting the bark and drinking the liquid of the cat’s claw, and revitalized, it would then catch its prey in a single leap. From that point on, Amazonian shamans and healers came to know this vine as cat’s claw and attributed medicinal properties to it.
The Ashaninka, Campo, and other Amazon rainforest tribes consider cat’s claw a sacred plant and attribute multiple medicinal properties to it. For over 2000 years, native people have been using this bark as an immune tonic, anti-inflammatory remedy, cancer treatment, contraceptive, and for its abortive properties.
The scientific discovery of cat’s claw dates back to 1830 when it was first described as a species. It wasn’t until the 1950s that German naturalist Arturo Brell conducted the first systematic studies of the species based on plants collected in the Peruvian central jungle.
In 1976, Oscar Schüler, a German anthropologist residing in Peru, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and firmly claimed to have cured himself by drinking a cat’s claw herbal tea every day for six months. This incredible story generated European interest in the plant, leading to cat’s claw arriving at the Pharmacology Department of the University of San Marcos. Experts at that time studied the plant’s chemicals that had cured the scientist’s cancer, initiating studies and research related to this plant.
By the 1990s, the plant had gained popularity in Europe and North America. The Uncaria guianensis variety was more widespread in Europe, while the Uncaria tomentosa variety was more commonly used in North America.
In 2020, cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) managed to export 663,621 kilograms with an FOB value exceeding $3,609,772. This marked a growth from the 225,971 kilograms exported in 2019 valued at $895,145.
|Spanish||Garra gavilán, Deixa paraguayo, Garabato, casha, Garabato amarillo, Garabato colorado, Bejuco de agua, huasca, paraguayo, saventaro, uña de gavilán|
|hipibo- conibo||Paotati, Pahuetati mosha|
|Portuguese||Cipó de gato o unha de gato|
|Loreto: Jíbaro||Chachik, Tsachik, Trofi, Tua Juncara|
|English||Cat’s claw, Hawk’s Claw|
U. tomentosa (Willd. ex Schult.) DC.
Cinchona globifera Pav. ex DC.
Nauclea aculeata Kunth
Nauclea polycephala A.Rich. ex DC.
Nauclea surinamensis (Miq.) Walp.
Nauclea tomentosa Willd. ex Schult. basónimo
Ourouparia tomentosa (Willd. ex Schult.) K.Schum.
Uncaria surinamensis Miq.
Uncaria tomentosa var. dioica Bremek.
Uncaria: The generic name derives from the Latin word “uncus,” which means “a hook.” This designation refers to the hooks, formed from reduced branches, that cat’s claw uses to cling to other vegetation.
Tomentosa: Latin epithet meaning “hairy.”
Habitat of Cat's Claw
Habitat of Cat's Claw
Cat's claw grows in the Amazon rainforest, along the eastern flank of the Andes mountain range, in the northern part of Latin America. This plant is distributed across Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama, the Guianas, Trinidad, and Ecuador. In Peru, it is found in the central zone and the jungle's eyebrow.
Its distribution area is characterized by extremely humid weather, with precipitation ranging from 1,500 to over 4,000 mm and temperatures between 25 to 35°C. It can withstand periods of little rainfall for several months and even flooding that lasts for several days.
Cat's claw is cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates up to 1,200 meters above sea level, with the best development between 200 and 800 meters above sea level. It prefers clay and sandy soils of limestone origin with good drainage. The plant propagates through seeds and root and stem cuttings (cuttings), as well as layering, air layering, trailing, and transplantation. It is preferably sown during the rainy season and usually reaches maturity after 36 months of planting.
Geographical Distribution of Cat's Claw
Junín, San Martín, Madre de Dios
Seasonal Availability of Cat's Claw
Varieties of Cat's Claw
In Peru, at least seven different species have been identified, but only two have proven healing properties:
Nutritional Value of Cat's Claw
As a traditional use, cat’s claw serves as a detoxifier and is used to treat colitis, gastritis, ulcers, and hemorrhoids. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antiviral, antioxidant, cytostatic, antiradical, immunostimulant, analgesic, and diuretic actions.
However, scientific knowledge so far has only found evidence of its anti-inflammatory properties, mainly for knee osteoarthritis. Additionally, it is known that the extract of this herb has strong immunostimulating activity, as it appears to increase the number of monocytes in active phases of peripheral circulation.
Since these are its only confirmed benefits, it is not recommended for treating colds or more complex diseases like cancer or AIDS.
The unsaturated fat content in quinoa ranges from 4% to 9%, half of which consists of linoleic acid, essential for the human diet. Furthermore, it contains high levels of calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins (E, B1, B2, and niacin). Additionally, its high dietary fiber content (7 grams per 100 grams of raw quinoa) produces a feeling of fullness. Remember that, being a cereal, it has the property of absorbing water and staying in the stomach longer.
Health Benefits of Cat's Claw
Cat’s claw possesses anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating properties.
Contraindications or Side Effects
Excessive consumption of cat’s claw can lead to diarrhea. Additionally, it is not recommended to combine this vine with other medicinal plants and should not be consumed by people with leukemia, peptic ulcers, gastritis, or heart problems. In the latter case, it’s best to consult your doctor before consumption.
It is also not recommended for consumption by pregnant women, as it can cause uterine contractions and even abortion. Similarly, nursing women and young children should avoid it. Finally, individuals who have received organ transplants or skin grafts should refrain from its consumption.
Another potential contraindication to excessive consumption is its high caloric value and substantial protein content, which can negatively impact people with intestinal disorders or those seeking to lose weight.
|10 Porciones por Kilogramo|
|Tamaño de porción||100g|
|Cantidad por porción
|Cantidad por 100g|
|Grasa Total||12.7 g|
|Carbohidratos totales||74.9 g|
|Carbohidratos disponibles||73.8 g|
|Fibra Dietaria||1.1 g|
|Vitamina A||0 μg|
|Tiamina (B1)||0.04 mg|
|Riboflavina (B2)||0.04 mg|
|Niacina (B3)||0.50 mg|
|Vitamina C||0.00 mg|
|Acido Fólico (B9)||●|
|Fuente: Tablas peruanas de composición de alimentos – Centro Nacional de Alimentación y Nutrición – Ministerio de Salud – Perú|
Derived Products and Consumption Methods of Cat's Claw
Uses of Cat's Claw
The main use of cat’s claw is medicinal. This plant is particularly consumed for its properties as an anti-inflammatory and immunostimulant.
Culinary Use of Cat's Claw
Cat's claw is used in the form of powdered medicine, infusions, and decoctions. There are also cocktails based on this vine available nowadays. It is recommended to consume it after meals. To prepare it as an infusion and absorb its medicinal properties, one teaspoon of cat's claw or a small piece of the bark is placed in a glass with hot water and allowed to steep for 8 minutes before consumption.
If consumed as a medicine, the recommended daily doses are 250-1,000 mg every 24 hours. If used in the form of a decoction, 30 g of the medicine is boiled in 500 ml of water, and then 60 ml of the decoction is taken every 24 hours.
Medicinal Use of Cat's Claw
Traditionally, it is known that the Yanesha and Asháninca people use a concentrated decoction of the root bark to treat internal bleeding and rheumatic pains.
While its only proven activities are as a nonspecific anti-inflammatory and immunostimulant, the bark and leaves are currently marketed, both as the whole plant and processed into capsules, for various therapeutic purposes, including:
Antimutagenic and cytostatic effects