Terry Willard, ClH, PhD
) is a plant native to the savannahs of South Africa, where it has been used by indigenous peoples as a digestive aid and to ease sore joints.
Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a plant native to the savannahs of South Africa, where it has been used by indigenous peoples as a digestive aid and to ease sore joints. Studies show it to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-rheumatic effects and to reduce gout.
Clinical studies show devil's claw to be useful in a variety of treatments. In the western world, devil's claw is used mainly for the treatment of osteoarthritis and related conditions such as tendonitis. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic action (produced partly by the glycoside harpagoside) has been demonstrated in studies in both animals and humans. The anti-rheumatic and analgesic action is comparable to several pharmaceuticals.
As a gastrointestinal tonic it effectively relieves indigestion by stimulating the digestive processes (both gall bladder and pancreatic).
An extract of devil's claw has been shown to lower arterial blood pressure in rats, decrease heart rate in rabbits, and protect against arrhythmias. It has been clinically shown to lower blood lipids and cholesterol.
The action of devil's claw is not due to a single glycoside (harpagoside) as once thought, but is the result of a complex interaction between the plant's constituents and the patient's body. The few studies suggesting that devil's claw is not effective as an anti-inflammatory? or ?, cause one to question the quality control of test materials: The weight of evidence for this herb's efficacy is very favourable.
Early research studies showed significant reductions in swelling of arthritic joints following subcutaneous injection and oral ingestion of devil's claw. Several studies have concluded that the anti-rheumatic effects are not merely due to a lessening of discomfort, but actually produce a real improvement in the underlying condition. One notable study published in Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology (2000) reported favourable results in treating 200 rheumatic patients with infusions of devil's claw root taken over long periods of time.
As a digestive stimulant, take 1.5 to two grams per day; tinctures, one to two ml three times per day.
For osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, use 4.5 to 10 grams of powder (or concentrate equivalent) per day.
The Final Word
This safe herb is excellent for reducing inflammation from arthritis, but for best results it is most often mixed with other arthritis therapies.