It was the early 1900s when a German doctor in Namibia first heard from local people about a special plant, which shamans used on the wounded in battle. Intrigued by that strange plant with hooked fruits, the doctor sent samples to Germany where several studies demonstrated the interesting anti-inflammatory properties of the plant. This plant was the devil's claw, whose fame over the years has been further strengthened by scientific evidence that has shown its beneficial action in case of rheumatism and joint pain.
Devil's claw, properties
Devil's claw, scientific name Harpagophytum procumbens, is a plant with proven analgesic, antioxidant, antidiabetic, antimicrobial and even antimalarial properties. The beneficial effects of the devil's claw are due to particular compounds, called iridoid glycosides, such as harpagoside, which show powerful anti-inflammatory properties (Mncwangi et al, J Ethnopharmacol, 2012 - Park et al, JBMB, 2016). However, the action of the devil's claw should be seen more as the result of a synergy of substances than as the single action of its active ingredients. In fact, when analyzed individually, the active ingredients of the devil's claw had a lower anti-inflammatory action than that of the whole plant extract (Mncwangi et al, J Ethnopharmacol, 2012). From what emerges from studies carried out on the plant, the anti-inflammatory mechanism of action of the devil's claw is explained by an inhibition of particular substances, called COX-2, responsible for the activation of inflammatory processes and related symptoms such as pain and swelling. (Brendler et al, Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 2006). Thanks to these characteristics, devil's claw is beneficial in case of osteoarthritis, or arthrosis, but also, in general, joint problems, back pain and headache since it has been shown to reduce pain, crepitus felt during movement and joint stiffness while improving joint functionality (Brien et al, J Altern Complement Med, 2016 - Wegener et al, Phytother Res, 2003). It was also observed that, among 260 patients tested, 60% were able to reduce or stop taking other medications for the treatment of joint pain after the intake of devil's claw for eight weeks (Warnock et al, Phytother Res, 2007 ).
Devil's claw, where to find it and how to take it
The remedy extracted from the plant is obtained from the dried root of the devil's claw. You can find devil's claw in a chemist's or herbalist's shop, for the dosage follow the advice on the package. Generally, however, for back pain and joint pain, capsules of 600 or 1200 mg are taken, three times a day. You can also buy devil's claw gels or creams to apply to the painful area. However, it should be emphasized that the action of the topically active ingredients is somewhat less effective (Viljoen et al, Curr Med Chem., 2012).
Devil's claw, side effects
Devil's claw is a beneficial remedy, generally safe but not without side effects. In fact, its intake could cause stomach problems, hypotension and effects on the heart in predisposed people, since it could slow the heart rate. The advice is to avoid the devil's claw in the presence of gastric ulcers, if you have arrhythmias or if you are following a therapy with anticoagulants and blood pressure medications. Pay attention if you suffer from diabetes or need to keep your blood sugar under control as the devil's claw could reduce it. Avoid in pregnancy and breastfeeding and in children. In addition to these limitations, however, devil's claw treatment should be short-lived and should not be continued for more than four months (Brendler et al, Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 2006).