|| Harpagophytum procumbens
Native to southern Africa, devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is
named for the miniature hooks that cover its fruit. For thousands of years, the
Khoisan peoples of the Kalahari Desert have used devil's claw root in remedies
to treat pain and complications of pregnancy and in topical ointments to heal
sores, boils, and other skin problems. Since its introduction to Europe from
Africa in the early 1900s, dried roots have been used to restore appetite,
relieve heartburn, and reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, mounting evidence
suggests that devil's claw root may help relieve pain and inflammation in people
with arthritis and other painful disorders, although the mechanism of action (in
other words, how it reduces pain and swelling) is not well understood yet.
Several studies have found that taking devil's
claw for several months substantially reduces pain and improves physical
functioning in people with osteoarthritis. In a large, well-designed 4-month
study including 122 people with knee and hip osteoarthritis, devil's claw root
powder reduced pain and improved functional ability as effectively as standard
doses of a leading European medication for osteoarthritis. Additionally, those
who received devil's claw experienced fewer side effects and required fewer
pain-reducing medications throughout the study.
Back and Neck Pain
Although study results have been somewhat
conflicting, evidence also suggests that devil's claw may provide relief from
low back and neck pain. In a small study including 63 people with mild to
moderate back, neck, and/or shoulder pain, four weeks of treatment with a
standardized extract of devil's claw root provided moderate relief from muscle
pain. In a larger study including 197 men and women with chronic low back pain,
those who received daily doses of a commercialized devil's claw extract every
day for a month reported experiencing less pain and needing fewer pain-killing
medications than those who received placebo.
In addition to the treatment of these and other painful
disorders, many professional herbalists consider devil's claw to be useful for
upset stomach, loss of appetite, headaches, allergies, and fever. Topical
preparations of devil's claw are also applied to the surface of the skin to heal
sores, ulcers, boils, and skin lesions.
Devil's claw does not have an odor, but it
contains substances that make it taste bitter. It is a leafy perennial with
branching roots and shoots. It has secondary roots, or tubers, that grow out of
the main roots. The roots and tubers are used for medicinal
|What's It Made Of?|
Devil's claw contains iridoid glycosides, substances believed to have strong
anti-inflammatory effects. Harpagoside (one type of iridoid) is highly
concentrated in devil's claw root and has been shown in some laboratory studies
to have potent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
Whole or ground devil's claw roots are available as well as capsules,
tablets, liquid extracts, and topical ointments. Teas (infusions) can be made
from dried devil's claw root.
|How to Take It|
There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of devil's claw.
Therefore, it is not currently recommended for children.
- Dried tuber or dried root powder: 100 to 250 mg three times a day
- Capsules containing dried root powder: 100 to 250 mg three times a day
- Liquid extract (1:1 in 25 percent alcohol): 2 to 7 drops three times a
- Tincture (1:5 in 25 percent alcohol): 10 to 30 drops three times a day
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach for strengthening the body and
treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger
side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For
these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a
practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.
Devil's claw is nontoxic and safe, with virtually no side effects if taken at
the recommended therapeutic dose for short periods of time. However, high doses
can cause mild gastrointestinal problems in some individuals and it is not clear
whether devil's claw becomes toxic if taken for long periods of time.
Individuals with stomach ulcers, duodenal ulcers, or gallstones should not
take devil's claw unless recommended by a health care provider.
Safety of Devil's Claw for pregnant and breastfeeding women is not known;
therefore, it should be avoided during those times.
Devil's claw may interact with warfarin (a
blood-thinning medication) and cause bruising or bleeding disorders. For this
reason, individuals taking warfarin should not use devil's claw without first
talking to a healthcare provider.
Baghdikian B, Lanhers M, Fleurentin J, et al. An analytical study,
anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Harpagophytum procumbens and
Harpagophytum zeyheri. Planta Med.
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded
Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications;
Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed.
Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998:66.
Chantre P, Cappelaere A, Leblan D, Guedon D, Vandermander J, Fournie B.
Efficacy and tolerance of Harpagophytum procumbens versus diacerhein in
treatment of osteoarthritis. Phytomedicine. 2000;7(3):177-83.
Chrubasik S, Junck H, Breitschwerdt H, Conradt C, Zappe H. Effectiveness of
Harpagophytum extract WS 1531 in the treatment of exacerbation of low back pain:
a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Eur J Anaesthesiol.
Chrubasik S, Sporer F, Dillmann-Marschner R, Friedmann A, Wink M.
Physiochemical properties of harpagoside and its in vitro release from
Harpagophytum procumbens extract tablets. Phytomedicine.
Ernst E, Chrubasik S. Phyto-anti-inflammatories. A
systematic review of randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials.
Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2000;26(1):13-27.
Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. 4th ed. New York: The
Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:139-140.
Gobel H, Heinze A, Ingwersen M, Niederberger U, Gerber D. Effects of
Harpagophytum procumbens LI 174 (devil's claw) on sensory, motor und vascular
muscle reagibility in the treatment of unspecific back pain. [German] Schmerz.
Lanhers MC, Fleurentin J, Mortier F, Vinche A, Younos C. Anti-inflammatory
and analgesic effects of an aqueous extract of Harpagophytum procumbens.
Planta Med. 1992;58:117-123.
Leblan D, Chantre P, Fournie B. Harpagophytum procumbens in the
treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Four-month results of a prospective,
multicenter, double-blind trial versus diacerhein. Joint Bone Spine.
Moussard C, Alber D, Toubin M, Thevenon N, Henry JC. A drug used in
traditional medicine, Harpagophytum procumbens: no evidence for NSAID-like
effect on whole blood eicosanoid production in human. Prostaglandins Leukot
Essent Fatty Acids. 1992;46:283-286.
Occhiuto F, Circosta C, Ragusa S, Ficarra P, Costa De Pasquale R. A drug used
in traditional medicine: Harpagophytum procumbens DC. IV. Effects on some
isolated muscle preparations. J Ethnopharmacol.
Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia,
PA: Hanley & Belfus, Inc; 2002:149-153.
Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide
to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1998.
Soulimani R, Younos C, Mortier F, et al. The role of stomach digestion on the
pharmacological activity of plant extracts, using as an example extracts of
Harpagophytum procumbens. Can J Physiol Pharmacol.
Whitehouse L, Znamirowski M, Paul CJ. Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum
procumbens): no evidence for anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of
arthritic disease. Can Med Assoc J.
|Review Date: April 2002|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh
(Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Enrico
Liva, ND, RPh, Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Anne McClenon, ND (April 1999),
Compass Family Health Center, Plymouth, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric
Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry,
NH; David Winston, Herbalist (April 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc.,
Washington, NJ; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG (April 1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park,
MD. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts
including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works,
Alexandria, VA;Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical
Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your
Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000),
Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary &
Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin,
MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for
Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.|
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