Devils Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
Also known as the grapple plant, devils claw is a trailing perennial plant with tubers. The leaves are hairy and white on the underside, and bloom with single red to purple trumpet-shaped flowers in the spring. The resulting fruit is large, hooked and resembles a claw. The plant is native to the desert areas of southern Africa, where it has been used to treat everything from malaria to indigestion.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Devils claw is used for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, bone cancer, neuralgia and ailments of the pancreas and gall bladder. Some people find it effective for low back pain and digestive issues like loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea and flatulence. Some women find it works well to ease the pain of childbirth and the resulting afterpains. Traditionally, the herb has been taken to remedy allergies, thin the blood, to reduce inflammation, as an antioxidant and to relieve arteriosclerosis. It has also been prescribed for diseases of the blood, coronary artery disease, diabetes, menstrual problems, swelling, fever, fibromyalgia, menopausal symptoms, migraines, as a sedative and pain reliever, tendonitis and for urinary tract infections.
Externally Devils claw can be applied topically to arthritic joints, sores, skin ulcers and boils. Historically, it has been chosen to help heal wounds, skin injuries and skin cancer.
Roots The roots are harvested, sliced and dried to use medicinally.
If you have ulcers in the digestive system, do not take this herb. Devils claw should not be combined with blood thinning drugs like warfarin. This can increase your risk of bleeding. Likewise this herb should not be combined with drugs to treat hyperglycemia and diabetes like metformin. Avoid taking this herb if you take medications to control heart rhythm. It may also interact with other herbs that affect these same problems.
Possible side effects include upset stomach, headache, ringing in the ears, loss of appetite and taste, diarrhea, low blood pressure and abnormal heart beat (possibly tachycardia or an increase in heart squeezing effects). Devil's claw is not recommended during pregnancy since it causes contractions of the uterus.
Preparation and Dosage
A standard dose of devils claw would be 0.10 to 0.25 ml of liquid extract taken three times per day. For appetite loss or upset stomach, 1.5 grams of root made into a decoction is recommended. For low back pain or osteoarthritis, 2 to 9 grams of extract is commonly prescribed. This translates to 600 to 1200 mg of tablets taken three times per day.