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Cat’s claw is a woody vine that can be found in the Amazon rainforest as well other areas of South and Central America. The plant gets its name from the claw-like thorns growing out of its stem. The plant is believed to help boost the body’s immune system and to have anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used for centuries in South America in traditional remedies.
How is this product usually used?
The bark and root have been used in traditional herbal remedies. Cat’s Claw is taken by mouth and may come in various forms, including capsules, tablets, tincturetincturea desired active ingredient that is extracted from alcoholic solutions, and elixirs, and can also be made into tea.
What is this product used for?
Cat’s claw has been used for different purposes, including:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- peptic ulcer
- Alzheimer’s disease
- herpes zoster
- herpes simplex
- birth control
- cancer (especially urinary tract cancer)
Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What else should I be aware of?
Studies suggest that cat’s claw (a specific freeze-dried extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient) may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis. Other studies suggest that a combination of cat’s claw and maca is effective at reducing pain and stiffness, as well as improving function. It is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist if this supplement is right for you before starting it.
A specific form of cat’s claw (containing a type of chemical called pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids, but free of tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids) appears to modestly improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis when taken together with traditional rheumatoid arthritis medications such as sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine.
There is currently no reliable evidence available for the effectiveness of cat’s claw for other uses. More rigorous studies are needed.
Cat’s claw appear to be well-tolerated when taken by mouth for short term use. There are some reports of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Cat’s claw can slow blood clotting. When it is taken with other medications that can affect your body’s ability to clot blood, cat’s claw can increase the chance of bleeding.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should avoid using cat’s claw because of its past use as a contraceptive.
There may be an interaction between cat’s claw and the following medications:
- blood-pressure-lowering medications (e.g., furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, metoprolol, ramipril, valsartan, amlodipine)
- blood thinning medications (e.g., warfarin, clopidogrel, ASA)
- immunosuppressants (e.g., cyclosporine, azathioprine, prednisone)
- HIV medications (e.g., amprenavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir)
- medications that are affected by certain liver enzymes (e.g., ketoconazole, itraconazole, triazolam, lovastatin)
Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
- The American Cancer Society. Cat’s Claw. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/cats-claw. Accessed May 4, 2015.
- Cat’s Claw (monograph). Natural Medicines. (Accessed online May 4, 2015)
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