Devil's ClawHarpagophytum procumbens
• Pain and Inflammation:
• Digestive Problems: Loss of Appetite,
Devil's claw is a native of South Africa, so named because of its rather peculiar appearance. Its large tuberous roots are used medicinally, after being chopped up and dried in the sun for 3 days.
Native South Africans used the herb to reduce pain and fever and stimulate digestion. European colonists brought devil's claw back home, where it became a popular treatment for arthritis.
What Is Devil's Claw Used for Today?
In modern Europe, devil's claw is used to treat all types of joint pain, including osteoarthritis
Like other bitter herbs, devil's claw is said to improve appetite and relieve mild stomach upset.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Devil's Claw?
The evidence for devil's claw is fairly preliminary, with the largest and most well-designed studies showing marginal benefits at best. Most studies have evaluated it for treatment of arthritis.
A double-blind study compared devil's claw to the European drug diacerhein. 1
In this trial, 122 individuals with osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee were given either devil's claw or diacerhein for a period of 4 months. The results showed that devil's claw was as effective as diacerhein, as measured by pain levels, mobility, and need for pain-relief medications (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen). While this might seem impressive, diacerhein itself is only slightly effective,
Another double-blind study followed 89 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis for a 2-month period. The group given devil's claw showed a significant decrease in pain intensity and improved mobility.
Other studies have evaluated devil's claw for treatment of muscular tension and discomfort. One of these was a 4-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that evaluated 63 patients with muscular tension or pain in the back, shoulder, and neck.
We don't know how devil's claw might work. Some studies have found an anti-inflammatory effect, but others have not.
A typical dosage of devil's claw is 750 mg 3 times daily of a preparation standardized to contain 3% iridoid glycosides.
Devil's claw appears to be safe, at least for short-term use. In one study, no evidence of toxicity emerged at doses many times higher than recommended.
In a review of 28 clinical trials dating back 20 years, researchers found no instances where adverse effects were more common than those associated with a placebo. Minor adverse effects, most gastrointestinal in nature, occurred in roughly 3% of patients.
Devil's claw is not recommended for people with ulcers. A 6-month open study of 630 people with arthritis showed no side effects other than occasional mild gastrointestinal distress. According to one case report, the herb devil's claw might increase the potential for bleeding while taking
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
1. Leblan D, Chantre P, Fournie B. Harpagophytum procumbens in the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Four-month results of a prospective, multicenter, double-blind trial versus diacerhein. Joint Bone Spine . 2000;67:462-467.
4. Chrubasik S, Junck H, Breitschwerdt H, et al. Effectiveness of Harpagophytum extract WS 1531 in the treatment of exacerbation of low back pain: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Eur J Anaesthesiol. 1999;16:118-129.
8. 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;46:283-286.
11. Gobel H, Heinze A, Ingwersen M, et al. Effects of Harpagophytum procumbens LI 174 (devil's claw) on sensory, motor und vascular muscle reagibility in the treatment of unspecific back pain. Schmerz . 2001;15:10-18.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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