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Devil's claw

What is devil's claw?

Devil's claw is a leafy plant native to southern Africa and Madagascar. The name is derived from its fruits, which are covered with small protuberances that look like hooks.

Devil's claw also contains secondary storage roots, or tubers, that branch our of the plant's main roots. These tubers can reach a size of 20 centimeters long and three centimeters thick; most preparations come from the tubers.

Why do we need devil's claw? What is it used for?

Devil's claw tubers contains three types of glycosides that are thought to reduce inflammation and promote wound healing. While research has not supported the use of devil's claw for arthritis, other studies have found the plant useful in reducing fever, rheumatism, low back pain and some degenerative musculoskeletal conditions.

Devil's claw is also considered incredibly bitter. As such, it has been used to stimulate the stomach in the production of acid, which helps improve digestion.

How much devil's claw should I take?

To aid in digestion, 1.5-2.0 grams of powdered tuber per day are recommended. For arthritis, 4.5-10 grams per day are used.

What forms of devil's claw are available?

Devil's claw is available as whole or ground (powdered) root tubers. Dried devil's claw root can be used to make tea.

What can happen if I take too much devil's claw? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because devil's claw promotes the production of stomach acid, anyone diagnosed with gastric or duodenal ulcers, heartburn, gastritis or excessive stomach acid should not use it. People with gallstones should also consult their health practitioner before taking devil's claw.

In addition, because devil's claw is cardioactive, it may interact with some heart medications. If you have a serious condition, do not take devil's claw before consulting with your health care provider.

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  • Blumenthal M (ed.) The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998.
  • Grahame R, Robinson B. Devil's claw (harpagophytum procumbens): pharmacological and clinical studies. Ann Rheum Dis 1981;40:632.
  • McLeod D, et al. Investigations of harpagophytum procumbens (devil's claw) in the treatment of experimental inflammation and arthritis in the rat. Br J Pharmacol 1979;66:140P.
  • Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine, 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag, 1998.
  • Whitehouse L, et al. Devil's claw (harpagophytum procumbens): no evidence for anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of arthritic disease. Can Med Assoc J 1983;129:249—251.


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