Devil’s Claw is an herb native to Africa, particularly the Kalahari and Savannah desert regions of the South and Southeast regions of the country.
Its botanical name, Harpagophytum, means “hook plant” in Greek, and it’s the tiny hooks all over its fruit that earned it its ominous name.
However, don’t let its name fool you. Devil’s Claw actually shows great promise for supporting human health.
Historically it has been valued for pain relief and treatment of fever, malaria and liver and kidney problems.
It’s also used for skin problems (such as healing sores and boils) and, after it was introduced to Europe in the early 1900s, was used medicinally to restore appetite and relieve heartburn, pain and inflammation.[i]
Try these delicious anti-inflammatory recipes:
Devil’s Claw is an inflammation-fighting, pain-relieving superstar
Modern-day research supports what our ancestors already knew, which is that this unassuming herb has powerful pain-relieving properties.
Devil’s Claw contains iridoid glycosides, which are strong anti-inflammatory substances. One iridoid, in particular, called harpagoside, has shown particular promise in research studies.
As reported in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology:[ii]
“Harpogophytum procumbens [Devil’s Claw] is used for a wide variety of health conditions in the form of infusions, decoctions, tinctures, powders and extracts. In addition to the common local use for arthritis and pain, other ethnomedicinal uses include dyspepsia, fever, blood diseases, urinary tract infections, postpartum pain, sprains, sores, ulcers and boils.
Scientific studies revealed that H. procumbens exhibits analgesic, anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, antimicrobial and antimalarial activities amongst others. Iridoid glycosides and phenylpropanoid glycosides have been the focus of phytochemical investigations as the biological activity has been ascribed to the iridoid glycosides (such as harpagoside and harpagide), which are common in nature and are known to possess anti-inflammatory activity.”
Following are some of the most relevant research findings to date:
- Back and neck pain: Devil’s Claw, in a daily dose of 50 mg or 100 mg harpagoside, reduced back and neck pain more than a placebo. At a standardized daily dose of 60 mg, meanwhile, Devil’s Claw reduced back pain about the same as a daily dose of 12.5 mg of the painkiller Vioxx.[iii]
- Osteoarthritis pain: People treated with Devil’s Claw (along with turmeric and bromelain) reported significant improvements in osteoarthritis pain. The researchers concluded that these natural anti-inflammatories may be a “valuable and safe alternative to NSAIDs in patients suffering from degenerative joint diseases.”[iv] Research shows Devil’s Claw is effective for treating arthritis of the spine, hip and knee.
- Post-operative and Neuropathic pain: An animal study found that an extract of Devil’s Claw has pain-relieving effects for postoperative pain and chronic neuropathic pain.[v]
Devil’s claw also has antioxidant powers
Although Devil’s Claw is most widely known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and pain-relieving properties, it has other unique attributes as well, including antioxidant properties.
In fact, researchers suspect that some of Devil’s Claw’s anti-inflammatory power may be due to its antioxidant activity, which prevents both oxidative stress and loss of cell viability.[vi]
It’s known that excess free radicals contribute to tissue damage related to inflammation, so the fact that Devil’s Claw is also an antioxidant only adds to its impressive benefits.