Mother Earth Living

Herb to Know: Devil's Claw

This wild African plant combats joint pain.
By Linda M. Davis
February/March 2011
Add to My MSN

Photo by ©2011 Steven Foster
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

Kitchens Get Bigger, Garages Get Smaller: 10 Most-Wanted Features for New Homes

An annual survey of home buyers found that Americans want smaller homes with a focus on casual livin...

Keep the Green Conversations Rolling on Facebook and Twitter

If you haven't joined in on our social networking fun, what are you waiting for? We'll post fun surv...

The Many Uses of Sunflowers

Sunflower seeds have been found at several archaeological sites in the United States. Discover the m...

The Path to Herbalism

The art of healing our bodies with herbs is a new fascination in Erin McIntosh's life. Learn more ab...

Devil's Claw
• Genus:
Harpagophytum procumbens
• Harpagophytum means hook plant in Greek.
• Procumbens means prostrate in Latin.
• Also known as grapple plant or wood spider
• Grows in the warm African savanna or grasslands

• Try These: Beat Joint Pain With These Products 

Devil’s claw. You only have to take one look at the grasping fingers extending from its fruit to understand the name. Despite the ominous sound of its common name, Harpagophytum procumbens is an attractive perennial valued for its healing powers.

See an image of devil's claw growing. 

This member of the sesame seed family can be found in southern Africa, where it grows wild in the savannas. Its grayish-green leaves trail the sandy terrain of the Kalahari Desert, sometimes reaching a length of several feet. It produces red, purple or pink trumpet-shaped flowers from November through April, and its flat, oval fruit produces dark brown or black seeds. However, it’s the plant’s roots and potato-like tubers that are valued the most and harvested for medicinal purposes.

How to Use Devil’s Claw

For centuries, Africans have used devil’s claw to treat ailments of all kinds: liver disorders, malaria, diabetes, fever, high cholesterol, toxins in the blood, and the pain of pregnancy, arthritis and rheumatism. Externally, it has been used in ointments to help heal ulcers, boils, wounds and skin rashes. An early 20th-century German, G. A. Menhert, reported witnessing African tribesmen using devil’s claw for insect bites and stomach ailments.

Although devil’s claw grows only in Africa, it has been popular in Europe as a remedy for joint problems since its introduction there in the early 1900s. It was introduced into the United States from Europe. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that other common uses for devil’s claw include “treatment of loss of appetite and dyspeptic complaints.” It is listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a sedative and diuretic.

In Europe and Canada, as well as in the United States, devil’s claw is widely used for joint inflammation and pain. For example, in Germany, where herbal medicines may be sold as drugs, devil’s claw has German Commission E (the country’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approval for relieving dyspepsia, stimulating the appetite and treating degenerative disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Also, it was the ingredient in nearly three-fourths of the prescriptions for rheumatism in 2001. Clinical studies have shown that, when taken by mouth, devil’s claw may help reduce osteoarthritis pain. In one study, it appeared to be as effective as diacerein, an arthritis drug prescribed in Europe for hip and knee pain. In another study, it compared favorably with rofecoxib, another prescription painkiller, for low back pain. Although these studies were inconclusive, the results were promising enough to warrant further study.

The dried roots and tubers of devil’s claw are taken in capsule or tablet form to relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis, low back pain and tendonitis. Herbalists also recommend its use externally for joint pain. In liquid form, devil’s claw is mixed with water or brewed into a tea and used as a bitter to stimulate digestion. Devil’s claw should be stored in a closed container, away from light.

Will Devil’s Claw Go Extinct?

Devil’s claw is difficult to cultivate and is not grown in gardens. The WHO reports that, due to the tons of devil’s claw exported each year, it has been overharvested to the point of becoming “extinct in the wild under current practices.” In Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, the major exporters of devil’s claw, the plant is protected and permits are required for various stages of the harvesting and exporting processes. The Sustainably Harvested Devil’s Claw project was established in Namibia in 1997, and commercial cultivation experiments also have been conducted. Devil’s claw seeds are stored in the Kew Gardens Millennium Seed Bank, which conserves the seeds of plants faced with the threat of extinction and stores them outside their native habitat. The Kew Gardens project has so far banked 10 percent of the world’s wild plant species.


Linda M. Davis is a freelance writer who raises herbs at her home in Culver City, California. 


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 


MY COMMUNITY
no image
valerykenery
8/29/2014 12:04:10 AM
no image
HarvestRight
8/21/2014 5:22:39 PM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 10:03:07 AM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 9:59:22 AM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 9:30:07 AM
no image
melisastarr
8/19/2014 12:57:22 PM






Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.