Devil’s Claw is a plant of the Sesame family, native to South Africa. Its name originates from the hooked fruit that gives it its strange appearance and whilst not a plant you would be likely to find nestling between the Rosemary and Peppermint; like these and other herbal plants it has wonderful medicinal uses.
Summer has reached its peak and hopefully you are awash with beautiful colourful blooms all brought to life by months of hard work and dedication in your own little garden paradise. If you’re an enthusiastic gardener you’re probably taking a well-earned pat on the back but you might also be suffering from the unfortunate side effects of prolonged physical work in the garden. There’s no question that gardening brings an enormous amount of pleasure but it’s also responsible for a lot of pain; fortunately help is at hand to prevent any further suffering…. Devil’s claw to the rescue!
History & Uses
Devil’s Claw was discovered in South Africa by European colonists in the 18th century and is used widely as a medicine, both traditionally and in western preparations. The active ingredients in Devil’s Claw root are iridoid glycosides – mainly harpagoside, harpagide and procumbide, which appear to be the most important active constituents.
In South Africa the tuber is used for blood diseases, the relief of fevers, muscular aches and pains, and as an analgesic during pregnancy. In addition the pulverized root is utilised as an ointment for ulcers, boils and for difficult births.
Infusions of the dried root are also commonly used as a cure for digestive disorders and to stimulate appetite. In Europe it is frequently used for the relief of backache, rheumatic or muscular pain and general aches and pains in the muscles and joints and has been approved as a non-prescription medicine by the German Commission E for these purposes.
Even if gardening is not your thing, but you’ve decided to join the gym, or get fit in some other way – Devil’s Claw could be the perfect antidote to a newly started and easily abandoned fitness regime. You won’t be the first or last to launch enthusiastically into a new exercise routine with a little too much vigour only to find you’ve overdone it and have to give up after a few weeks. More often than not this is because the sudden exertion has caused uncomfortable muscle and joint pain.
For others joint pain could be the result of an ongoing chronic condition which is easily aggravated by physical exertion. Those who are dependent on pain killers for relief from chronic aches and pains may find Devil’s Claw offers an effective alternative to over-the-counter pain medications.
According to available research it can relieve pain from arthritis in as little as ten days which includes hip, knee and back pain. Studies have also found there are no side effects associated with Devil’s Claw use even at high doses. With so much scientific evidence to support its use, Devil’s Claw could prove to be a healthier therapeutic option for managing chronic aching joints.
Mode of Action
Clinical evidence has identified that Devil’s Claw has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic effects as well as being an effective digestive aid. Preliminary research suggests that Harpagoside inhibits inflammatory pathways in the body and is thought to be partly responsible for its anti-inflammatory effects.
Safety & Efficacy
Some studies suggest that Devil’s Claw is as effective at reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis as a conventional analgesic drug. In Europe the safety of this herb during pregnancy and lactation has not been established so is not recommended. Patients with gastric or duodenal ulcer are also advised not to use Devil’s Claw preparations.
Devil’s Claw extracts are available in several forms. Historical and clinical use dictates the following dosages:
- Dried root powder (tablet or capsule): 1,800-2,400 mg (50-100 mg harpagoside) daily for arthritis and musculoskeletal pain and inflammation.
- Crude aqueous root extract: 2-9 g daily for low-back pain and osteoarthritis.
Whether it’s delving around in the undergrowth, sweating on the treadmill or coping with a chronic condition – help is at hand. Taking a daily dose of Devil’s Claw extract could be all you need to alleviate aches and pains sufficiently to get going on the things you like doing best without giving up on all your good intentions.
- Bartram T. (1998). Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Robinson Publishing Ltd:UK.
- Chrubasik S., et al. Effectiveness of Harpagophyti radix (Devil’s Claw) in treatment of acute low back pain. Phytomedicine; 1996, 3(1).
- Fiebich BL, McGregor GP, Munoz E, Rose T and Weiss G. Molecular targets of the antiinflammatory Harpagophytum procumbens (devil’s claw): inhibition of TNFα and COX-2 gene expression by preventing activation of AP-1. Phytother Res.2012;26(6):806-11.
- Grote K. (2003). The Increased Harvest and Trade of Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and Its Impacts on the Peoples and Environment of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.
- McGregor G., Fiebich B., Wartenberg A. et al (2004). Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens): An Anti-Inflammatory Herb with Therapeutic Potential. Phytochemistry Reviews; 4: 47-53.
- Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s Claw). Alternative Medicine Review. 2008; 13, (3 ): 248-252.
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- Warnock M, McBean D and Suter A et al. (2007) Effectiveness and safety of Devil’s Claw tablets in patients with general rheumatic disorders. Phytotherapy Research. 21; (12): 1228-1233.