Devil's Claw plant

Harpagophytum procumbens

Description

Devil’s Claw is indigenous to southern Africa, and is named for the tiny hooks that cover its fruit. Historically, it has been used to treat pain, liver and kidney problems, fever and malaria, and was added to topical ointments to heal sores, boils and other skin problems. In the early 1900s, devil’s claw was introduced to Europe, where the dried roots were used to restore appetite, relieve heartburn and reduce pain and inflammation. Today, the herb is used to fight inflammation or to relieve pain caused by arthritis, headache and sciatica. It is approved as a non-prescription medicine by the German Commission E and is used widely in Germany and France.

Parts used

Devil's Claw dried root

Devil’s Claw dried root

The roots and tubers are used as medicine.

Constituents

Devil’s claw contains iridoid glycosides, compounds that are believed to have strong anti-inflammatory effects. One type of iridoid, harpagoside, is highly concentrated in the roots and laboratory tests suggest it may have significant pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Medicinal uses

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognises devil’s claw as having analgaesic, sedative and diuretic properties. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, numerous medical researchers have documented that taking devil’s claw for 8–12 weeks reduces pain and improves physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis. In a report by Mark Blumenthal, founder of the nonprofit research and education organisation, American Botanical Council, ‘At least two previous clinical trials on devil’s claw have supported its use as an aid in treating lower back pain and rheumatic conditions. This study is significant in that it is the first to show the potential benefits of devil’s claw for osteoarthritis.’
In addition, a review of 12 studies indicated that the herb was at least moderately effective for arthritis of the spine, hip and knee.

  • Devil’s claw treats degenerative musculo-skeletal and joint conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatism and gout.
  • Containing natural anti-inflammatories, devil’s claw can help ease pain and reduce swelling associated with arthritis and rheumatism, as well as bursitis and tendonitis.
  • Improves joint mobility.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Eases pain of headache, allergies, lumbago, neuralgia and fever.
  • Soothes aching muscles.
  • A number of professional herbalists also recommend devil’s claw to treat upset stomach and loss of appetite.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Don’t give devil’s claw to children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, as no studies have been done to see if it is safe for those people. For adults, devil’s claw is considered non-toxic and safe, with few side effects if taken at the recommended dose for a short time. People with stomach ulcers, duodenal ulcers or gallstones should not take devil’s claw as the herb promotes the secretion of stomach acid. As always, consult your doctor or professional healthcare practitioner before embarking on a course of herbal remedies

Flora Force Products containing Devil’s Claw

Domestic & culinary uses

To make devil’s claw tea, add one teaspoon of the powdered root to a cup of water in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Drink a cup three times a day. Devil’s claw contains substances that give it a bitter taste, so is not used for culinary purposes.

Cultivation

With its origins in the dry savanna and desert areas of southern Africa (in Namibia, southern Botswana, the Kgalagadi region and South Africa), devil’s claw is now grown in the North West and Northern Cape provinces, and in the western Free State. This leafy perennial with branching roots and shoots is planted from seeds, which are difficult to harvest, and it takes four years for the plants to mature and the storage tubers to be ready for harvesting.

Photo credits

  1. By Henri pidoux at fr.wikipedia (Transfered from fr.wikipedia)
[Attribution], from Wikimedia Commons
  • By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.