Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) originates from the Kalahari and Savannah desert regions of Southern Africa.
Traditionally, devil's claw has been used as a potent anti-inflammatory. However, studies on its safety and efficacy remain inconclusive, and strong recommendations cannot be made.
Remedy for pain and inflammation
Maintains healthy joints, tendons and ligaments
Treats non-specific back pain
Helps with rheumatoid arthritis
Lowers blood pressure
Studies suggest that two chemicals - the so-called iridoid glycosides harpagoside and harpagide - may have beneficial effects in the treatment of degenerative rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and tendonitis.
The herb has, at times, been regarded as a wonder drug, with anti-inflammatory properties said to resemble that of cortisone.
Devil's claw gets its name from the herb's unusual fruits, which are covered with numerous tiny, claw-like appendages. In Afrikaans, it's called "kloudoring".
Unfortunately, years of drought have pushed the Devil's claw toward extinction, so scientists are scrambling to devise new ways to produce the medicinal chemicals of the Devil's claw.
A dosage of 4.5g is commonly used.
Adverse reactions seem to be rare.
However, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Devil's claw, as should people with duodenal ulcers, gallstones or low blood pressure.
(Information source: The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines, by Andrea Peirce, published by William Morrow and Company, 1999.)
(Image: Jerry Friedman)
- Updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, August 2010)