The botanical name
Harpagophytum means ‘hook plant’ in Greek, it is named after the
hook-covered fruits of the plant. Devil’s claw is native to
southern Africa and has been used traditionally as a bitter tonic
for digestive disturbances, febrile illnesses, allergic reactions
and to relieve pain.
Also known as: Grapple Plant.
Scientific name: Harpagophytum procumbens.
Botanical Family: Pedaliaceae.
Part used: The tubers which are underground
Devil's claw is traditionally used for arteriosclerosis,
osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, muscle soreness,
fibrositis, lumbago, tendonitis, pleuritic chest pain,
gastrointestinal upset or dyspepsia, fever, migraine headache,
menstrual problems, allergic reactions, loss of appetite, kidney
and bladder disease, and degenerative disorders of the locomotor
No concerns regarding safety when used orally and appropriately.
Devil's claw seems to be well-tolerated when used daily for up to
Pregnancy: Consult a medical herbalist.
Breastfeeding: Consult a medical herbalist.
Iridoid glycosides principally harpagoside
Phytosterols especially beta sitosterol.
Flavonoids; kaemferol and lutein.
Back pain. Taking devil's claw orally seems to
lessen nonspecific low-back pain. Some evidence suggests that an
aqueous extract of devil's claw at doses of 50-100mg harpagoside
daily has an anti-inflammatory effect equal to 13.5mg rofecoxib
If the resources put into even the marketing budget of Vioxx was
spent investigating this herb the tragedy of the Vioxx deaths and
ilness may not have happened.
Osteoarthritis. Taking devil's claw orally alone
or in conjunction with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs) helps decrease osteoarthritis-related
pain.(1,2,3,4,13) Evidence shows that devil's claw is
comparable to diacerhein (a slow-acting drug for osteoarthritis;
not available in the US) for improving osteoarthritis pain in the
hip and knee after 16 weeks of treatment. Patients taking devil's
claw have been able able to decrease the use of NSAIDs for pain
relief.(1) This study used a specific powdered devil's
claw root product (Harpadol, Arkopharma) containing 2% of the
constituent harpagoside (9.5mg/capsule) and 3% total iridoid
glycosides (14.5mg per capsule).(1) Another specific
devil's claw extract (Doloteffin, Ardeypharm) 2400mg/day
providing 60mg/day of the harpagoside constituent has also been
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Preliminary evidence
suggests that taking devil's claw extract orally might not be
helpful for RA.(6) More evidence is needed to rate
devil's claw for this use.
Mechanism of action.
Devil's claw contains iridoid glycoside constituents primarily
harpagoside but it appears that other compounds besides
harpagoside contribute to its effect.(7,8) It also
contains the phenylethanol derivatives and an
oligosaccharide.(8) People use devil's claw for
osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions because the
iridoid glycoside constituents seem to have an anti-inflammatory
effect.(1) Some preliminary research suggests that
harpagoside inhibits both the cyclooxygenase (COX) and
lipoxygenase inflammatory pathways.(9) Devil's claw
seems to inhibit COX-2 (but not COX-1) and nitric oxide
synthetase, a modulator of inflammation.(10) Some
evidence suggests that the anti-inflammatory effect is due to
increased synthesis and release of tumor necrosis factor by
compounds other than harpagoside.(8) However, research
in humans shows no effect of devil's claw on the arachidonic acid
Devil's claw is generally well tolerated. A small percentage of
patients complain of gastrointestinal upset. This can only be
determined by trying the herb. It is more likely in patients wih
peptic ulceration. In general if you have digestive problems
start with a lower than usual dose and increase the dose slowly
to test your tolerance level.
Devil's claw can cause allergic skin reactions following oral
Although references cite that devil’s claw may lower blood sugar
levels, upset gallstones and may affect blood pressure, these are
extrapolations from physiological effects or animal studies and I
can find no clinical studies or even case reports of problems. Be
aware that herbs alter physiology and monitor any chronic
condition for change when you use herbs.
Interactions with herbs and supplements.
Interactions with drugs.
Warfarin (Coumadin) an anti blood clotting agent.
Interactions with foods.
Interactions with laboratory tests.
Interactions with diseases or conditions.
Peptic Ulcer Disease: May cause gastrointestinal
However lower doses may be clinically indicated and well
tolerated for digestive discomfort
Recommended dose: 6-12mls per day 1:5 tincture 25% alcohol.
Liquid extract: 1-2mls 1:1 25% alchohol.
Decoction: range from 2-4 tsps. per day.
Powder/capsule: 1,500mgs per day,
The recommended dose of Dr Clare’s Joint Support Blend provides
3mls per day of 1:3 Tincture.
This is when taken at a dose of 5mls three times a day. This is
equivalent 750mgs per day.
1. Chantre P, Cappelaere A, Leblan D, et al. Efficacy
and tolerance or Harpagophytum procumbens versus diacerhein in
treatment of osteoarthritis. Phytomedicine 2000;7:177-84.
2. Chrubasik S, Thanner J, Kunzel O, et al.
Comparison of outcome measures during treatment with the
proprietary Harpagophytum extract doloteffin in patients with
pain in the lower back, knee or hip. Phytomedicine 2002;9:181-94.
3. Gagnier JJ, Chrubasik S, Manheimer E. Harpgophytum
procumbens for osteoarthritis and low back pain: a systematic
review. BMC Complement Altern Med 2004;14:13.
4. Wegener T, Lupke NP. Treatment of patients with
arthrosis of hip or knee with an aqueous extract of devil's claw
(Harpagophytum procumbens DC). Phytother Res 2003;17:1165-72.
5. Chrubasik S, Kunzel O, Thanner J, et al. A 1-year
follow-up after a pilot study with Doloteffin for low back pain.
6. Grahame R, Robinson BV. Devils's claw
(Harpagophytum procumbens): pharmacological and clinical studies.
Ann Rheum Dis 1981;40:632.
7. Lanhers MC, Fleurentin J, Mortier F, et al.
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of an aqueous extract of
Harpagophytum procumbens. Planta Med 1992;58:117-23 .
8. Fiebich BL, Heinrich M, Hiller KO, Kammerer N.
Inhibition of TNF-alpha synthesis in LPS-stimulated primary human
monocytes by Harpagophytum extract SteiHap 69. Phytomedicine
9. Chrubasik S, Sporer F, Dillmann-Marschner R, et
al. Physicochemical properties of harpagoside and its in vitro
release from Harpagophytum procumbens extract tablets.
10. Jang MH, Lim S, Han SM, et al. Harpagophytum procumbens
suppresses lipopolysaccharide-stimulated expressions of
cyclooxygenase-2 and inducible nitric oxide synthase in
fibroblast cell line L929. J Pharmacol Sci 2003;93:367-71.
11. Moussard C, Alber D, Toubin MM, et al. A drug used in
traditional medicine, harpagophytum procumbens: no evidence for
NSAID-like effect on whole blood eicosanoid production in human.
Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1992;46:283-6.
12. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug
Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications,
13. Effectiveness and safety of Devil's Claw tablets in patients
with general rheumatic disorders. Phytotherapy Research