Devil’s Claw

devil's Claw, Harpagophytum_procumbens

Harpagophytum procumbens-Devil’s Claw 

Family: Pedaliaceae

Other names: Devil’s Claw Root, Garra del Diablo, Grapple Plant, Griffe du Diable, Harpagophyti Radix, Harpagophytum, Harpagophytum procumbens, Harpagophytum zeyheri, Racine de Griffe du Diable, Racine de Windhoek, Teufelskrallenwurzel, Uncaria procumbens, Wood Spider.

Devil’s claw may interfere with the action of ticlopidine and warfarin, and patients should consult with a physician before combining Devil’s claw with these medications. In addition, Devil’s Claw promotes the secretion of stomach acid, leading to difficulties in those with peptic ulcers, gastritis or excess stomach acid. Care should also be taken for individuals with gallstones. Avoid use in pregnancy. It’s also best to avoid using devil’s claw while breast-feeding. Not enough is known yet about its safety during breast-feeding.

Habitat: Indigenous to Southern and Eastern Africa and is cultivated elsewhere. Sandy soils particularly in open, trampled and over-grazed lands where grass and herb cover is low, but can also be found in dry savanna or open woodland.

Description of Devil’s Claw:

Harpagophytum procumbens is a perennial herb with a succulent taproot. The annual, creeping stems can be up to 2 m long. They grow from a primary (or “mother” tuber) whose taproot can be up to 2 m deep. Secondary tubers (called “babies”) develop on fleshy roots growing from the primary tuber. They can be up to 25 cm long and 6 cm thick. The secondary tubers contain stachyose, a photosynthetic storage product, thought to be an adaptation to drought conditions. The leaves are simple and opposite, up to 6.5 cm long and 4 cm wide. They are deeply or shallowly lobed. The flowers are tubular, 5-6 cm long, and are normally light purple or pink (sometimes white), but yellow inside the tube. The fruits are large, up to 15 cm in diameter, and have four rows of curved arms with recurved spines. The seeds are dark brown or black. Devil’s claw flowers in the summer (November to April) and fruits from January.

devil's Claw, Harpagophytum_procumbensCultivation of Devil’s Claw:

This is an annual which grows to Height: 24-36 in. (60-90 cm) and needs to be planted out at. Spacing:12-15 in. (30-38 cm). Danger: Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling. May be a noxious weed or invasive. Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping. Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season. Soil pH requirements: 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral). As it is originally a desert plant it like Full Sun. and prefers sandy soils.

Propagation Methods of Devil’s Claw:

From softwood cuttings
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting: Allow seed heads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Collection: This plant grows in Africa in very arid conditions. The roots are collected at the end of the rainy season.

Harpagophytum_procumbens_botanicalMedicinal uses of Devil’s Claw:

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, anodyne, hepatic.

Part Used: Rhizome.


This valuable plant has been found effective in the treatment of some cases of arthritis. This action appears to be due to the presence of a glycoside called harpagoside that reduces inflammation in the joints. Unfortunately Devil’s Claw is not always effective, but it is well worth considering in cases of arthritis where there is inflammation and pain. This plant also aids in liver and gall-bladder complaints.

The constituents thought to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of Devil’s Claw (dried secondary tubers) are iridoid glycosides, particularly harpagoside (trans-cinnamoyl harpagide) including small amounts of trans-coumaroyl harpagide, procumbide and plant sterols.  The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognises Devil’s Claw as having analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties. Most studies involve chronic use, rather than acute treatment of pain. This herbal drug is also official in the European Pharmacopoeia and a component of a number of OTC preparations and dietary supplements for its claimed anti-rheumatic effects.

Combinations: With Celery Seed, Bogbean or Meadowsweet in the treatment of arthritis.

Preparations & Dosage of Devil’s Claw:

Decoction: put 1/2 – 1 teaspoonful of the rhizome into a cup of water, bring it to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. It should be continued for at least one month.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

How to take Devil’s Claw capsules:
  • You need to take at least 600mg (standardised extract) of devil’s claw with food at least twice a day.
  • For minor joint pains, gels and ointments can be gently massaged into affected area twice a day.
  • Devil’s claw can be taken with other supplements and there is no evidence that it interacts with prescribed medications at the recommended dosage.
  • Take for a minimum of three weeks before you can expect to see results.
  • Can be taken on an ongoing basis if required.
 The Chemistry:
  • Iridoid glycosides, including harpagide, harpagoside and procumbide
  • Flavonoids, mainly kaempferol and luteolin glycosides
  • Phenolic acids; chlorogenic and cinnamic acid
  • A quinone, harpagoquinone
  • Miscellaneous; triterpenes, oleanolic & ursolic acid derivatives, esters, sugars.
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