An herb with a spine chilling name is the Devil’s claw. To know why this herb was given a scary name and to learn about its health benefits, read the following article.
What Is Devil’s Claw?
Devil’s Claw does not have anything scary about it except the fact that the fruit of this herb has tiny hooks that cover it for the purpose of getting easily attached to animals. The herb is botanically known as Harpagophytum procumbens, and is native to the African continent.
Other related botanical names of this plant are – Harpagophyti Radix, Harpagophytum zeyheri and Harpagophytum. The term Harpagophytum in Greek means hook plant. The plant is also known by the following other names – Wood spider, Grapple Plant, Garra del Diablo, Uncaria procumbens, Racine de Windhoek, Teufelskralle etc.
Devil’s Claw is very bitter tasting and is mainly cultivated in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. This perennial plant requires sandy soil or clay soil and it depends on constant rainfall to thrive. The medicinal parts of this plant include – roots and tuber (its secondary roots).
How Does It Work?
Devil’s claw is mainly used to relieve pain and inflammation. The herb has strong anti-inflammatory properties as it contains harpagoside which is an active iridoid glycoside. Other active ingredients of this herb include the following – harpagide and procumbine
Health Benefits Of Devil’s Claw
Back, Shoulder & Neck Pain
Devil’s claw as a medicinal herb got popular for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. The herb is especially used in treating painful neck, shoulders and back pain. In a study conducted in Germany, devil’s claw was used by 31 subjects at a dosage level of 480 mg two times a day. At the end of the test period the subjects felt significant improvements in their back, neck and shoulder discomfort.
In another study the results of which were published in the European Journal of Anaesthesiology, subjects rated devil’s claw 5 and above points out of 10 with a standard dose of 50 mg for its ability to relieve pain. Another related study tested the effect of this herb on 63 individuals and came out with the result that the herb does help in reducing the pain associated with back, neck and shoulders.
In all these cases the respondents highlighted the fact that devil’s claw made them less dependent on pain killers. To reduce back pain, native African tribe members took Devil’s claw orally.
A key painkiller in the market Vioxx (rofecoxib) and Devil’s claw were used in a clinical study together and both showed near equal pain reducing effects. In a startling finding it was found later that Vioxx could increase the risk of heart related ailments in humans. Subsequently, the topical branded drug was removed from the market.
Bone & Joints Pain
Another health benefit of Devil’s claw discovered by African tribes is in its ability to reduce pain related to bones and joints. In a journal article that was published in Joint Bone Spine, Devil’s claw was compared along with another branded pain killer diacerhein in more than 100 patients. It was found that the herb was as effective as the branded pain killer in reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip.
Many clinical studies were conducted using Devil’s claw and showed that using the herb for 8 to 12 weeks could reduce pain in people suffering with osteoarthritis. This was also proved by an analysis of fourteen related clinical studies that used Devil’s claw for treating arthritis pain.
Many even say that Devil’s claw can be used along with non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in reducing severe osteoarthritis related pain. As the herb starts to show its positive effect the dosage of NSAIDs can be lowered significantly. The chief component in Devil’s claw that reduces pain is known as Harpagoside which has the following effects – analgesic, anti-phlogistic and anti-inflammatory.
Devil’s claw is also used in topical creams and ointments in treating skin related conditions, such as – boils, lesions, ulcers, sores etc. Tribal members even use Devil’s claw extract to treat skin injuries. However, no scientific study has been conducted to explore further this benefit of the herb.
According to some studies, another herbal benefit of Devil’s Claw is in the treatment of diabetes. In one animal study the herb was able to significantly reduce blood glucose levels.
For the study, an aqueous extract from the root of the herb was taken as it was believed that it could provide hypoglycemic effects. With this finding, experts now feel that the herb can be used in treating type-2 diabetes mellitus.
Devil’s Claw also has anti-oxidant properties as it is rich in water soluble antioxidants. Traditionally, the herb has been used to treat liver and kidney related ailments. Tribal members use Devil’s Claw in reducing fever and symptoms of malaria.
Another important health benefit of the herb is in reducing arteriosclerosis. It also helps in reducing gastrointestinal disorders and migraine headache. Historically, it is also reported that the herb was used in solving childbirth problems and menstrual difficulties in women.
A standardized dosage ranging between 100 mg to 250 mg taken three times per day is often recommended. In case of tincture, 10 to 30 drops of the herbal extract taken thrice daily can be effective. Many make herbal tea using Devil’s Claw and drink the same three times per day.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
Devil’s claw is a non-toxic and safe herb when taken at an optimum dosage level and for a shorter duration. Overdose of this herb may give headache and mild stomach discomfort in some.
It is recommended that the following class of people avoid this herb – pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and those with heart disease, BP problems, stomach ulcer and gallstone. Such individuals should use the herb only after getting the required permission from their doctors.
The herb was first used in Europe during the early 1900s for treating the following conditions – loss of appetite, heartburn and inflammation & pain. Devil’s claw is a relatively safe herb that is currently available in the following forms – capsules, tablets, ointments, tea and liquid extract. The herb is popular for its use in relieving pain associated with arthritis and headache. It also effectively treats lower back, neck and shoulder pain. The herb is currently used extensively in Germany and France to reduce inflammation.
The herb may interact with the following – Warfarin and blood thinning drugs, diabetes drugs, Antacids, Proton pump inhibitors, H2-blockers, P-glycoprotein Substrates, Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19), 3A4 (CYP3A4) and 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates.