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Devil's Claw (Harpogophytum procumbens)



Part used and where grown: Devil's claw is a native plant of Southern Africa, especially the Kalahari desert, Namibia, and the island of Madagascar. The name of devil's claw is derived from the herb's unusual fruits, which seem to be covered with numerous small hooks. The secondary storage roots, or tuber, of the plant is employed in herbal supplements.

1 In what conditions might devil's claw be supportive?
indigestion and heartburn
rheumatoid arthritis

Historical or traditional use: Numerous tribes native to Southern Africa have utilized devil's claw for a wide variety of conditions, ranging from gastrointestinal difficulties to arthritic conditions.

2 Devil's claw has been widely used in Europe as a treatment for arthritis. Active constituents: Devil's claw tuber contains three important constituents belonging to the iridoid glycoside family: harpagoside, harpagide, and procumbide. The secondary tubers of the herb contain twice as much harpagoside as the primary tubers. As such, these secondary tubers contain the preferable concentration of active ingredients.

3 Harpagoside and other iridoid glycosides found in the plant may be responsible for the herb's anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions. However, research has not entirely supported the use of devil's claw in alleviating arthritic pain symptoms.


4 - 5 Devil's claw is also considered by herbalists to be a potent bitter. Bitter principles, like the iridoid glycosides found in devil's claw, stimulate the stomach to increase the production of acid, thereby helping to improve digestion. How much should I take? For use as a digestive stimulant, the dose for the powdered secondary tuber is 1.5-2 grams per day. For tincture, the recommended amount is 1-2 ml per day. For arthritis, many people use 4.5-10 grams per day. Again, recent studies do not support devil's claw as a treatment for arthritis. Are there any side effects or interactions? Because devil's claw promotes stomach acid, anyone with gastric or duodenal ulcers should not use the herb.


1.Tyler, VE. The Honest Herbal, 3d ed. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press 1993, 111-12.

2.Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 238-9.

3.Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 208-10.

4.Whitehouse LW, Znamirouska M, Paul CJ. Devil's claw (Harpogophytum procumbens): no evidence for anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of arthritic disease. Can Med Assoc J 1983;129:249-51.

5.Grahame R, Robinson BV. Devil's claw (Harpogophytum procumbens): pharmacologic


Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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