Cat’s claw (Uña de gato)

Cat’s claw (Uña de gato)

Uncaria tomentosa

Reserva Nantar, Morona-Santiago, Ecuador


What is it? Uña de gato, which means ‘cat’s claw’ in Spanish, has been used for centuries by numerous Amerindian peoples. Uña de Gato is a woody vine and gets its name because the thorns it has on its tendrils look exactly like cat’s claws. It needs its cat’s claws to help it cling onto other plants as it grows upwards through the forest canopy.

What is it used for? Uña de gato has many medicinal uses but the Shuar people of Southern Ecuador make a tea from its leaves or bark to cure stomach-ache.

Is it still being used today? The Shuar traditionally use around 20 wild plant species that they gather from the rainforest to cure illnesses. A lot of these plants, including uña de gato, are still in use, even though most Shuar now have regular access to free health care. Many of our own medicines come from rainforest plants and uña de gato is one of these.

Linked objects:

Chontaduro palm

Copal resin

Fer-de-lance snake (equis)