Although its name may sound somewhat frightening, this botanical native to southern Africa is rather angelic, especially for those concerned about joint comfort and movement. Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is especially effective in the management of healthy inflammatory response.
In the regions of southern Africa, this abundant botanical has been used by native peoples to address pain, fever, degraded and aching joints, and even as a balm to heal sores, boils and other skin maladies.
Travelers took Devil's claw to Europe within the past 100 years; Europeans have adapted its dried roots to manage healthy appetite, and also to soothe aches and pains stemming from unhealthy inflammatory response. Currently, people in Germany and France consume Devil's claw primarily to manage inflammatory response and discomfort.
Devil's claw contains a group of phytochemicals called iridoid glycosides, of which harpagoside is found in high concentrations. According to researchers Viljoen et al, "research has confirmed that iridoids exhibit promising anti-inflammatory activity which may be beneficial in the treatment of inflammation."
Studies of note:
An illuminating mechanism of action study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed how herpagoside works to manage healthy inflammatory response. In their study, Huang, et al, concluded, "These results suggest that the inhibition of the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and inducible nitric oxide by harpagoside involves suppression of NF-kappaB activation, thereby inhibiting downstream inflammation and subsequent pain events."
The following study information is published on the University of Maryland Medical Center website (umm.edu):
"Several studies show that taking devil's claw for 8 to 12 weeks can reduce pain and improve physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis. One 4-month study of 122 people with knee and hip osteoarthritis compared devil's claw and a leading European medication for pain relief. The people who took devil's claw had as much pain relief as the people who took the medication. Those who took devil's claw had fewer side effects and needed fewer pain relievers throughout the study.
"An analysis of 14 studies using devil's claw to treat arthritis found that higher quality studies showed devil's claw may relieve joint pain. And a review of 12 studies using devil's claw for treating arthritis or low back pain found that devil's claw was at least moderately effective for arthritis of the spine, hip, and knee.
"Preliminary evidence suggests that devil's claw may help relieve neck and low back pain. In a small study of 63 people with mild-to-moderate back, neck, or shoulder pain, taking a standardized extract of devil's claw for 4 weeks provided moderate relief from muscle pain. In a larger study of 197 men and women with chronic low back pain, those who took devil's claw every day for a month said they had less pain and needed fewer painkillers than those who took placebo.
"A 54-week study compared 38 people who took devil's claw with 35 people who took the pain reliever rofecoxib (Vioxx). For these people, devil's claw worked as well as Vioxx to relieve pain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took Vioxx off the market because it increases the risk of heart problems."
WebMD recommends capsules, tincture, powder and liquid; take 750 mg to 1,000 mg three times a day.
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University of Maryland Medical Cente
Viljoen, et al. Curr Med Chem. 2012 May; 19(14): 2104–2127.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Mar 8;104(1-2):149-55.