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Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

  • Devil's claw is used (as an h. p.) for rheumatic complaints (incl. rheumatoid arthritis), neuralgic pains, headaches and feverish states. It is also used (as a tea, h. p.) for loss of appetite and nonulcer dyspepsia (with fullness, flatulence, minor cramps, etc.) associated with minor hepatobiliary disorders. As a bitter tonic, devil's claw is also recommended for the elderly.

  • Currently, the major uses of devil's claw are as an antiinflammatory and pain reliever for joint diseases, back pain, and headache. There is currently widespread use of standardized devil's claw for mild joint pain in Europe. 

  • Potential side effects include gastrointestinal upset, low blood pressure, or abnormal heart rhythms (increased heart rate or increased heart squeezing effects). 

  • Traditionally, it has been recommended to avoid using dew's claw in patients with stomach ulcers or in people using blood thinners (anticoagulants such as warfarin [Coumadin ]).(2)


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. Since the end of World War II, devil's claw has been used in medical institutions throughout southern Africa, and in some hospitals and clinics in Germany, as a treatment for inflammatory diseases. Most of these trials have been partially to totally effective. The first published report of this early research appeared in 1958. In that paper, devil's claw was reported to be effective in reducing inflammation and swelling in experimentally-induced arthritis. Using simple water extracts, the researcher was able to reduce swelling from 300-800% in a matter of days. (1)



Anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, anodyne, hepatic. (1)


  • Herbalists usually recommend; 2,000 - 9,000 mg per day of crude herb. 
  • Standardised Harpagosides concentrate is preferred option. (2)

Interactions overview

  • Limited evidence is available. Devil’s claw does not appear to affect blood pressure, and its theoretical interaction with drugs with antiplatelet effects seems unlikely to be of practical relevance; however, it may increase the anticoagulant effects of drugs such as warfarin.


  • Devil's claw should not be used in cases of peptic ulcers, during pregnancy and lactation, biliary obstruction, and in children under 12 years of age.
  • In cases of nonobstructive gallstones it can be used but only on health professional's advice.
  • Devil's claw products should be standardized to iridoids (calculated as harpagoside).
  • Unless advised by an experienced practitioner, it should not be taken for more than three months.


Luteolin, procumbine, harpagia, iridoid glycosides (harpagoside, aceteoside, procumbide), phytosterols (beta-sitosterols)

Traditional Usage

Devil's claw is approved as a nonprescription medicine by the German Commission E and is used to relieve arthritis, lower back, knee and hip pain. It is also used to treat a number of ailments including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, tendonitis, loss of appetite and digestive disorders. Benefits of devil's claw for specific health conditions include the following:

Arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, gout, and tendinitis. The use of devil's claw in the treatment of pain required a number of tests before the herb was accepted within the scientific community. Animal tests showed that it relieves inflammation and stops pain, but the first set of tests with healthy human volunteers found no significant anti-int1ammatory or analgesic power. Moreover, chemical analysis of the herb found that it did not act in the same way as aspirin and NSAIDs. The resolution of the conflicting findings concerning devil's claw is that the analgesic components of the herb break down the longer they are in contact with the gastric juices of the stomach. Taking devil's claw in an enteric-coated form protects it from digestion in the stomach. This increases its usefulness in controlling pain. Repeated clinical trials found that enteric-coated tablets of the herb are effective against pain. Questions about the pharmacology of the herb were clarified when it was discovered that devil's claw contains chemicals, like those in many other pain-relieving herbs, that stimulate circulation and carry inflammatory chemicals away from affected tissues. Devil's claw has been most extensively tested for relief of lower back pain. A randomized, double-blind study in Germany with 183 subjects produced the surprising result that not only was devil's claw effective in relieving lower back pain, it was most effective for people who had the most severe, radiating pain, with numbness in the extremities. (3)


  1. Herbalpedia 2011, pg.810
  2. Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Guide: An Evidence-based Reference. Catherine Ulbright. 2010. ISBN: 978-0-323-07295-3. Pg. 291
  3. Prescription for herbal healing. Phyllis A. Balch. 2002. ISBN 0-89529-869-4. Pg.57 

Any information on uses and properties has been collected for your convenience, from reputable herbal texts and internet sources purely for historical, educational or informational purposes only. We can’t provide you with medical advice, personal dosage information, potential drug/herb reactions, or assistance with questions relating to injury, illness, etc. The information provided is not presented with the intention of diagnosing any disease or condition or prescribing any treatment. It is offered as information only, for use in the maintenance and promotion of good health in cooperation with a licensed practitioner.

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