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Cat's claw is an herb popular among the indigenous people of Peru, where it is used to treat cancer, diabetes, ulcers, arthritis, and infections, as well as to assist in recovery from childbirth. It is also used as a contraceptive. There are two primary species of cat’s claw used medicinally: Uncaria tomentosaand Uncaria guianensis.
Cat's claw is most often marketed as a treatment for viral diseases, such as herpes , shingles , AIDS , and feline leukemia virus. However, the evidence for these uses is extremely preliminary.
The most meaningful study yet performed on cat's claw suggests that the Uncaria guianensisspecies might be helpful for an entirely different condition: osteoarthritis . 1 In addition, one double-blind trial indicates that a certain type of Uncaria tomentosamay be modestly helpful for people with rheumatoid arthritis . 2 Cat's claw has also been proposed as a treatment for allergies and stomach ulcers , but there is no meaningful evidence as yet that it is effective for these conditions.
In general, use of cat’s claw has not been associated with adverse effects more serious than occasional digestive upset or allergic reactions. However, full safety studies have not been completed, and there has been one report of kidney failure apparently triggered by cat's claw. 3 Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Some evidence suggests that cat's claw might interact with various medications by affecting their metabolism in the liver, but the extent of this effect has not been fully determined. 4