2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Devil’s Claw

What Is It?

The deserts of southern Africa are home to the peculiar-looking devil’s claw plant (Harpagophytum procumbens), so named because of the distinctively shaped tips of its fruits. For years, people indigenous to the African continent dug up the plant’s large tuberous roots, chopped them up, and let them dry in the sun. From the dried roots, they then prepared healing formulations to treat arthritis, fever, indigestion, and a number of other conditions.

After European and North American colonists in Africa were introduced to the herb in the 1950s, it began to be examined for its chemical properties and healing potential. Today many herbalists consider devil’s claw effective in treating the aching and stiffness of arthritic joints.

Health Benefits

It remains unclear just how devil’s claw works to reduce inflammation and pain. The latest findings indicate that the plant does not exert anti-inflammatory effects in the same way that many standard anti-inflammatory medications do. Yet test-tube studies still point to slight painkilling and anti-inflammatory actions.

For example, a 1999 study published in Europe reported that devil’s claw slightly improved back pain, but the findings were inconsistent. Nearly 200 people with chronic pain were included in this double-blind study. And an earlier study of more than 115 back pain sufferers was even more disappointing, finding no benefit at all to taking devil’s claw.

Nonetheless, the popularity of devil’s claw persists, and side effects appear to be minimal. Many herbalists continue to recommend this ancient African remedy.

Specifically, devil’s claw may help to:

Lessen arthritis-related discomforts. A handful of studies support the use of devil’s claw for easing the inflammation and pain that often afflict people with arthritis. Mild pain relief and a lessening of inflammation was noted in a 1976 study that compared the devil’s claw with the effects of a common arthritis drug (phenylbutazone). Despite these results, a 1992 study failed to find that the herb provided anti-inflammatory actions similar to the ones a person would experience with standard medications. The participants took the devil’s claw capsules for 21 days.

In parts of Europe, extracts of the herb are sometimes injected around an arthritic joint. Swelling reportedly subsides as a result. Injection formulas may be hard to get in the United States, however.

Stimulate appetite and control indigestion. Sipped periodically over several days, a strong boiled tea (decoction) of the devil’s claw root, which contains powerful bitter-tasting substances, helps to perk up the appetite and soothe digestive problems. Folk healers in Africa continue to recommend it highly for these purposes. In addition, German health authorities consider this type of strong tea effective for treating discomforts due to peptic ulcers and for countering appetite loss.

Forms

tincture
powder
liquid
dried herb/tea
capsule

Dosage Information

Special tip:

–Look for a product standardized to contain 3% iridoid glycosides, the active ingredient in devil’s claw.

For arthritis-related discomfort: Take 750 mg three times a day.

For appetite loss, indigestion, and heartburn: Prepare a strong, boiled tea and drink 1 cup (8 ounces) before every meal for a maximum of 3 cups a day. To make this tea, boil 1 teaspoon of finely chopped or powered dry root in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes (some of the water will boil away); strain and allow to cool.

Guidelines for Use

The quality of devil’s claw preparations appears to vary widely, so buy the herb from a source that you trust.

General Interaction

There appears to be a risk of increased bleeding when devil’s claw is taken together with anticoagulant drugs (blood-thinners), such as warfarin (coumadin) and heparin.

Possible Side Effects

Devil’s claw has been used for centuries in parts of Africa, but information on side effects is still scanty. Some studies have reported occasional mild stomach upset, ringing in the ears, and headache.

Based on the findings of studies in small animals, there is a small risk of heart rhythm and blood pressure changes with devil’s claw. It’s not clear whether this effect on the heart occurs in humans.

Cautions

Because so much remains to be learned about the effect of devil’s claw in the body, it’s probably best to consult your doctor before taking it if you have ulcers, gallstones, or a heart problem.

Don’t take devil’s claw during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops


**Winter Solstice Celebration: An evening of Acupuncture and Shamanic Healing
Tuesday, December 17, 5:45–7:30pm
Hosted by Katie Oberlin, HTCP and Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enter the stillpoint of the Winter Solstice, reflect on the lessons of 2019, and set intentions for the new year. This will be an evening of individual and group healing, ceremony, and celebration. More →

Recent Health Tips

  • Issues with Endocrinologists: Thyroid Approaches and Big Pharma

    My beefs with endocrinologists pretty much center on how they manage thyroid gland concerns, though they rarely win prizes for managing adrenal issues either. I don’t know any endocrinologists personally and rarely refer my patients to them. Occasionally, a patient with newly diagnosed hypothyroidism (low thyroid) will want to confirm the diagnosis with an endocrinologist. I suggest she prepare for a scolding if she’s taking Read More

  • Six Beefs With Rheumatologists

    If you find yourself in the waiting room of a rheumatologist, you’re likely there because your joints hurt and have been hurting, often for years. You’ve been getting by on aspirin or Advil for the pain, but with things worsening your primary care doctor suggests you should see a joint specialist, a rheumatologist. And because there’s a shortage of physicians in this specialty, your appointment Read More

  • The Flu: How To Recognize It and What to Do

    It’s here, folks, and this year could be a doozy. How do we know? We keep a watchful eye on Australia, whose winter and flu season occur six months before our own. The New York Times reported that “In 2017, a terrible flu season in Australia presaged an American outbreak in which 79,000 died. Experts advise getting the shot soon.” More here. You may have Read More

Join our Discount Program!

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION