Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) has been used as an herbal tea ingredient in Europe, a folk remedy in Africa and recently has entered the health food marketplace in the United States. The British Herbal Pharmacopoea recognizes Devil’s claw as possessing analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties
Devil’s claw consists of the secondary storage roots of arpagophyum procumbens DC., a South African plant belonging to the family Pedaliaceae. The common name is derived from the plant’s peculiar fruits which seem to be covered with miniature grappling hooks. Devil’s claw is the name commonly used in the United States, though other names for this plant include wood spider and grapple plant.
Africans have used the herb for centuries to treat skin cancer, fever, malaria and indigestion. In Europe, the tea is recommended for arthritis, diabetes, allergies, senility and is widely utilized as an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid.
In the west, Devil’s claw has been recommended for treating a wide variety of conditions including diseases of the liver, kidneys, and bladder, as well as allergies, arteriosclerosis, lumbago, gastrointestinal disturbances, menstrual difficulties, neuralgia, headache, climacteric (change of life) problems, heartburn, nicotine poisoning, and above all, rheumatism and arthritis.
There are few clinical studies to refute or verify the many claims made for Devil’s claw, but extracts of the plant do appear to have anti-inflammatory activity in experimental animals. A clinical study carried out in Germany in 1976 reported that devil’s claw exhibited anti-inflammatory activity, comparable in many respects to the well-known anti-arthritic drug, phenylbutazone. Analgesic effects were also observed along with reductions in abnormally high cholesterol and uric-acid blood levels.
The main active ingredients in Devil’s claw are Harpogoside and Beta sitosterol, which possess anti-inflammatory properties and create support for joint, ligament and tendon problems. Devil’s claw is reported to help with joint pain while improving vitality in the joints.