Devil's claw


The devil's claw represents the dialect name of the Harpagophytum, which is a perennial climbing plant that is part of the Pedaliacee family.

It is an extremely widespread plant within the African continent, especially in the south-western part and, in particular, in the Kalahari desert, in the steppes of Namibia and Madagascar.

The name "devil's claw" owes its origin essentially to the presence of four hard and ribbon-like appendages that make up its ovoid-shaped fruits.

In fact, once the hooks contained in the growths come into contact with animals, they injure them, forcing them to perform a particular "frenzied dance".

The part that is used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes is essentially the one that coincides with the lateral growths of the root, inside which we can find the highest percentage of active ingredients.


In traditional South African medicine, this particular plant has been exploited for many centuries to combat various problems, such as rheumatic diseases, joint pains, fever and a large number of stomach discomfort.

The studies of the German researcher Schidt later led to the discovery of three glycosides, which are considered to be responsible for the analgesic and antipyretic effects of the devil's claw.

This plant is characterized by being particularly active in all those problems that are the source of pain and inflammation, such as tendinitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain and a large number of neck pains.

Other beneficial properties are also attributed to this particular vegetable, such as digestive (especially when it is exploited in the form of an infusion), cholesterol-lowering and hypo-uricemic (proves valid in cases of gout).

In reality, it seems that the scientific motivation of these beneficial effects lies in the presence of a high number of bitter principles, which are able to perform a stimulating function in the production of gastric juices and bile.

This is a feature that allows us to consider the herbal remedies based on devil's claw not recommended in cases of gastritis and gastric or duodenal ulcers.

The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of this vegetable have received several confirmations from a large number of studies conducted in vitro, on rodents, but also on humans.

Most of these studies are characterized by making a comparison between the effectiveness of traditional anti-inflammatory products and those based on natural devil's claw extracts.


In most clinical studies, aqueous extracts have been used, which correspond to about 600-1200 mg per day of devil's claw dry extract.

When buying supplements based on this vegetable, it is always better to understand or ask for information about their percentage content in harpagoside.

In the event that it is taken in high enough doses (for example 40-50 mb of devil's claw per day), it is able to be extremely effective for the simplest problems, replacing the traditional over-the-counter anti-inflammatories very well.

In the event that you have to face much more serious pathologies, however, the constant use of devil's claw is recommended to reduce the dosage of synthetic anti-inflammatory drugs.

In case you are looking for a cure against indigestion or loss of appetite, you can take advantage of the devil's claw infusion, which can be made by inserting two teaspoons of ground root in about 500 ml of water, leaving it to rest for a few hours and filtering it before using it.


We can find a large number of devil's claw products on the market.

In fact, they range from capsules, tinctures and gels to tea bags.

As for inflammation and pain, the advice is to take it in the form of capsules.

Based on the research that has been carried out quite recently, we can affirm that the daily dose of devil's claw must be able to provide a quantity of harpagosides between 25 and 50 mg (in the dry extract such indications can be found on the packaging).

We also find a large number of devil's claw-based ointments and gels, mixed with other elements, such as arnica montana and menthol.

In any case, this type of ointment based on devil's claw is characterized by being useful in all those situations of painful articles and muscles and, at the same time, to counteract swelling and edema.

As for the devil's claw-based food supplements, they prove to be active above all in problems that cause pain and inflammation, such as tendinitis, osteoarthritis and arthritis.

Devil's Claw: Legends

Legends are known, they are handed down from generation to generation and often the true origins of the same are shrouded in mystery. In Africa, the devil's claw has been used for centuries for the treatment of particular pains and diseases that afflict populations. In fact these, not having the modern and effective medicines that have become common for us and within everyone's reach, use what nature gives them! The roots of the plant were used by Bushmen, Bantu and Hottentots and to heal wounds and soothe joint pains. Furthermore, digestive and therapeutic properties are still recognized for gastrointestinal problems. Today, the European populations are carrying out numerous researches to study the properties of this plant in depth.

Devil's claw: properties, uses and contraindications

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What are the properties and uses of the devil's claw? Let's find out more about this plant and what its contraindications are.

L'Devil's claw it is a plant with a rather disturbing name, but give it to it property absolutely beneficial. Let's find out what the uses that we can do and yours contraindications.

The devil's claw is a plant perennial herbaceous, climbing, and has shoots that originate from a tuberous root adhering to the earth. The leaves are erect and fleshy. THE flowers they are very particular, purple in color and equipped with thorns, reminiscent of claws, hence the rather sinister name.
We owe the discovery of the benefits of this plant to the various populations of southern Africa who used it to treat problems digestive, rheumatic forms, arthritis and to reduce fever. In fact, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, the devil's claw is still used today to treat headaches and back pain, but also other more or less serious diseases.

But now let's find out what the property he uses ofDevil's claw and if this plant has any contraindications for the human body.

Properties of the devil's claw

The property ofDevil's claw they have been known for centuries and have always been used in the traditional medicine of the peoples of South Africa, for the treatment of various problems of the osteoarticular system.
In fact, this plant has an antiseptic action and anti-inflammatory thanks to the so-called Harpagosidi contained in the root and which are believed to be responsible for the analgesic and antipyretic effects of the plant.
The devil's claw has proven to be particularly active especially in situations that cause pain and inflammation such as tendinitis, general neck pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, headache from cervical arthrosis, bruises, sciatica, arthritis, arthrosis.

Hypocholesterolemic and uricemic properties are also attributed to this vegetable, for example it is useful in case of gout, given by the presence of many bitter principles, capable of stimulating the production of gastric juices and bile.
Absolutely to avoid herbal remedies based on devil's claw in case of gastritis, gastric or duodenal ulcers, and while taking other synthetic anti-inflammatories, because it would increase the effects of medications and its secondary or undesirable effects, as this characteristic would amplify the problem.

Uses and contraindications of the devil's claw

There are several uses that we can do withDevil's claw to take full advantage of yours property.
Like many natural solutions we can both use it in a way indoor be in the way external. As for the first case on the market, this plant is found in the form of mother tincture, capsules or tablets. Its intake must be carried out under strict medical supervision and in general the treatment should not be too long, at most 1 or 2 weeks. For example, if we want to use the mother tincture we must take a maximum of 30 drops diluted in water, 3 times a day, while for the infusion, we recommend 5 grams of herbal tea in 500 ml of water, to be taken 3 times a day.

As for external use, however, we can use ointments and gel based on devil's claw which are indicated in all forms of joint inflammation. We must apply them directly on the part we want to treat and which is affected by the pain, always respecting the indications received from the doctor.

And what about the contraindications? The devil's claw has several side effects.
As we have already mentioned, since this remedy has a hypoglycemic effect, its use is not recommended for people with diabetes who are already taking specific drugs.
In addition, the digestive property of the Devil's Claw thanks to the presence of bitter substances makes it contraindicated for those suffering from gastritis and duodenal ulcer, as it stimulates gastric secretion and therefore accentuates the pathology.
This remedy interacts with anticoagulant drugs and has a hypotensive effect, so its use is not recommended for those undergoing this type of therapy.
Finally, it is better to avoid taking this plant if you are pregnant as it could stimulate contractions.

Devil's claw

Binomial nomenclature: Harpagophytum procumbens

The devil's claw is a perennial climbing herbaceous plant typical of the deserts of southern Africa. It has shoots that originate from a tuberous root adhering to the earth and then spread along the ground, from which the leaves that are erect, fleshy and lobed then branch off. From the leaf axils very showy purple flowers are born, from which woody fruits originate, jagged and equipped with hooked thorns, which resemble claws. The name "devil's claw" derives from the fact that small wild animals and rodents are often entangled in the fruit hooks, starving or bled to death because they struggle to free themselves from this natural trap.

The part of the plant used from the herbal point of view are the secondary roots, of the small tubers, which are formed from the main one, rich in water and active ingredients called harpagosides and procumbidae. The latter, by inhibiting the synthesis of eicosanoids (substances involved in inflammation), have an anti-inflammatory, muscle and joint pain reliever, antirheumatic, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic action and are useful in the treatment of gout. The super properties of the devil's claw were well known to the tribes of South Africa, whose magicians used the decoction to treat wounded and digestive problems.

This use was noticed in 1904 by the German doctor Menhert, who was in the areas of southwest Africa when the local tribes rebelled against the German protectorate. After he had the roots of this plant analyzed, the anti-inflammatory action of the devil's claw was recognized, thus placing it in European trade. The devil's claw for typical use is known to all in the form of ointment or gel, often combined with rubefacient essential oils, such as cinnamon, camphor, cloves or ginger, which by improving circulation locally cause an increase in temperature resulting in a feeling of well-being in the area affected by osteo-articular pain.

There are also patches soaked in devil's claw extract, combined with that of arnica, which is also analgesic and anti-inflammatory, to be applied to the pain level for several hours a day. The anti-inflammatory effect of the devil's claw can also be exploited internally: the mother tincture (i.e. the hydroalcoholic extract) is indicated in the treatment of tendonitis, sciatica, back pain, neck pain, arthrosis, rheumatism and improves the flexibility of the joints. In addition to being anti-inflammatory, the claw is therefore an excellent muscle and joint pain reliever, but not only because it also has a hypoglycemic action (therefore not to be used in case of taking drugs for diabetes therapy), cholesterol-lowering and helps to reduce the levels of uric acids, responsible for gout, an inflammatory disease of the joints. Attention to the use of the claw, as well as for diabetics, is also addressed to those suffering from gastric acidity (due to the increase in the production of acids in the stomach), to those undergoing therapy with anticoagulant drugs ( due to the increase in blood fluidity) and to pregnant women (due to its possible action on the uterine muscles).

Curated by Milano Marzia (Monte Regale Herbalist) for the Mondovì Agricultural Comitium.

Properties and characteristics of the devil's claw

Its scientific name is Harpagophytum procumbens, in phytotherapy, however, the fruit is not used, but its tuberous roots, which in the traditional medicine of Central-South Africa are used as a drink to aid digestion and to treat various ailments such as fever, birth pains and rheumatic diseases.

It was imported into Europe at the beginning of the century and its use to relieve moderate joint pain is universally recognized by theEma (European Medicines Agency) and byWHO (World Health Organization).

Its most important active ingredients are: triterpenes, polyphenols and iridoid glycosides, in particular the latter have an anti-inflammatory activity as they act on the synthesis of prostaglandins, such as synthetic anti-inflammatory drugs.

In addition, it has also been shown that the extracts of the tubers inhibit the production of other said inflammation mediators cytokines, such as interlukin 1-beta and tumor necrosis factor alpha.

Cytokines play an important role in the production of enzymes that degrade the cartilages called matrix metalloproteinases (Mmp), hence its use as a protective and preventive from the degradation of the cartilage matrix could be evaluated.

For this reason, homegrown plants are being studied that could have an effect similar to that of the devil's claw and less impact on their growth and development environment, such as broccoli which contain isocyanates such as sulforaphane, which inhibits the expression of MMPs by protecting the cartilage and blocking the synthesis of some inflammatory mediators, thus evaluating its possible use in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Other species that are being studied are thegarlic (Allium sativum) and other species of the genus Allium, of the Amaryllidaceae family, and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

Maria Anna Esposito: Graduated in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Federico II University of Naples, pharmacist with specialization in Phytotherapy and Aromatherapy. Phyto-blogger. Freelance herbal consultancy | e-mail | Instagram

Side effects

  • The clinical use of Devil's Claw is not complicated by the gastrointestinal side effects typical of gastric-damaging NSAIDs (such as aspirin) on the contrary, theHarpagophytum procumbens it can also be used successfully in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, thanks to its stomachic, bitter, choleretic and cholagogogue action.
    Nevertheless, in sensitive subjects, taking devil's claw supplements can still give rise to gastric irritation phenomena.
  • Cases of gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and flatulence, and rare cases of headache, tinnitus, anorexia and loss of taste have been reported in the literature.

Video: Devils Paw. Devils Claw

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