Cat's claw: Where in the World
habitat and range for cat's claw

Cat’s Claw grows in the tropical Amazonian rainforest in an area extending from northern Bolivia through Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela to Honduras and Belize.

Cat's claw: A Bit of Botany
a little bit of botanical information about cat's claw

Uncaria tomentosa or cat's claw is a woody perennial vine or tropical liana of the Rubiaceae family. This plant can grow up to 30 m (100 ft) tall, climbing by means of hook-like thorns. The leaves are elliptic with a smooth edge, and grow in opposite whorls of two. The stems of this huge woody climbing shrub frequently reach a length of up to one hundred meters with a diameter of over 20 cm.

The plant climbs up the trunks of its supporting trees and spreads out into their crowns in the forest canopy. The roots grow out horizontally along the boundary layer between loose organic material and firm clay soil at a depth of a few centimeters below the surface. In the sunlight the plant produces whip-like shoots on which the oval leaves are arranged in pairs at intervals of 10 – 15 cm. The leaf axils bear slightly curved, sickle-shaped thorns.

During the blossoming period Uncaria tomentosa produces panicles of yellow flower heads approx. 2 cm in diameter in place of the thorns.

common names & nomenclature
Cat's claw is so-named because the plant, which can reach up to 100 feet in height, has curved thorns that resemble a cat's claws.

Also known as:
cat's claw, uña de gato, paraguayo, garabato, garbato casha, samento, toroñ, tambor huasca, uña huasca, uña de gavilan, hawk's claw, saventaro, pot hook, sparrowhawk nail

Cat's claw: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting cat's claw

Cat's Claw grows in tropical rainforests of the Amazon, in dappled sun to shade.

This plant prefers moist soil that is rich in organic matter.

Generally, the propagation of the seed is difficult because viability rapidly declines after dehiscing, so cat's claw is usually propagated by cuttings. Eight-inch sections of the stem are cut for planting as cuttings. If the soil of the forest is moist enough, cuttings are said to be easy to reproduce by directly inserting them into the forest floor.

Vines are only harvested at 8 or more years old, otherwise the diameter of the vine is not sufficient for bark removal. As a regular practice, the cut vine is stripped of its bark in the field due to the weight of carrying out the whole vine, and the inner stem is discarded.

Dry the bark in the sun or shade, cut into smaller pieces or grind into powder. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Cat's claw: The Rest of the Story
cat's claw history, folklore, literature & more

cat’s claw for immune health
Contrary to its name, cat’s claw is not an herb that is used in veterinary medicine. Rather, it gets its name from the shape of the plant. The vine actually has small shoots that look like cat’s claws. It’s native to South America and it’s known there as una de gato.

With such a simple name, it’s almost hard to believe that cat’s claw is a major herb that’s used even today to boost the immune system. Historically, it’s been used by Peruvian tribes to treat a variety of conditions from rheumatism to urinary tract infections.

And it was also used by other tribes for problems such as diabetes, menstrual irregularities, fever, and intestinal issues. In fact, in Columbia and Guiana, cat’s claw was even used to treat dysentery.

What we know from more modern research is that cat’s claw was so good at treating this large variety of problems because it actually boosts the immune system of the human body. That means that the body gets better at treating all kinds of infections. So, rather than actually fighting the infections itself, cat’s claw helps the body to do its job.

Knowing that it can boost the immune system causes herbalists to use it in a very targeted way in modern times. For example, any inflammations such as gastritis, ulcers, and viral infections can be targeted by treatment with cat’s claw. In addition, cat’s claw is used as a complementary therapy with cancer treatment. Because cancer treatment strips the body of natural immunity, cat’s claw can help to restore some of the system.

Because of its amazing properties of enhancing the immune system, cat’s claw has been used for almost 20 years in Peru and Europe when treating HIV. It can also be used with other immune system disorders.

The part of cat’s claw that’s used for medicinal purposes is the bark. From dried bark, teas and infusions can be created. In addition, you can purchase cat’s claw in the form of a pill or a tincture.

Cat’s claw can interact with some medications, so it’s important to make sure you’re not taking something that would be conflicting such as anticoagulants, diuretics, and blood pressure medications.

If you’re in the position of needing to enhance your immune system, cat’s claw can be a natural and effective way to do it. It’s been used for thousands of years to do just that and it’s still an important part of herbal medicine today.