Decoctions prepared from the bark of Uncaria tomentosa (cat's claw) are widely used in the traditional Peruvian medicine for the treatment of several diseases, in particular as a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Therefore, the main purpose of this study was to determine if the well-known anti-inflammatory activity of cat's claw decoction was related with its reactivity with the oxidant species generated in the inflammatory process and to establish a relationship between such antioxidant ability and its phenolic composition. We observed that the decoction prepared according to the traditional Peruvian medicine presented a potent radical scavenger activity, as suggested by its high capacity to reduce the free radical diphenylpicrylhydrazyl, and by its reaction with superoxide anion, peroxyl and hydroxyl radicals as well as with the oxidant species, hydrogen peroxide and hypochlorous acid. It also protected membrane lipids against peroxidation induced by the iron/ascorbate system, as evaluated by the formation of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARs). The decoction phenolic profile was established by chromatographic analysis (HPLC/DAD and TLC) revealing essentially the presence of proanthocyanidins (oligomeric procyanidins) and phenolic acids, mainly caffeic acid. Thus, our results provide evidence for an antioxidant mechanism underlying the anti-inflammatory activity of cat's claw and support some of the biological effects of proanthocyanidins, more exactly its antioxidant and radical scavenging activities.