Uncaria tomentosa is known as cat's claw because of the claw shaped thorns which occur on this woody tropical jungle vine. It is also known by its Spanish name, una de gato.
The indigenous people of Peru have used cat's claw as a herbal remedy for centuries, and it's known that it was in use during the Inca civilisation. Cat's claw was believed to treat stomach disorders and arthritis, and it was also used as a contraceptive.
Cat's claw has known antioxidant properties, which can help to protect against a variety of diseases, and which limit the cell damage caused by free radicals. The oxindole alkaloids in cat's claw have been shown to stimulate the immune system, and trials have been undertaken to see if cat's claw can benefit arthritis sufferers.
Research is underway into cat's claw's properties, and how they may benefit other conditions and diseases, but most of this is at a very early stage. There are numerous plant sterols and tannins in cat's claw which may well help to reduce inflammation, as well as glycosides which may be anti-viral.
Cat's claw supplements can be taken in powder form, or as tablets or capsules. The bark of cat's claw can also be steeped to form a tea.