Devil's Claw

Nine species of perennials make up this African genus. Harpagophytum procumbens (devil's claw) occurs in reds sands of the Transvaal and is hazardous to animals that pick up the thorny fruits on their coats or feet; the fruits are apparently used as mouse traps in Madagascar. It has large, colorful flowers but has proved impossible to cultivate outside its native habitat. Devil's claw was introduced to Western medicine by G. H. Mehnert, a South African farmer who observed local people using decoctions of the dried tubers to treat various ailments, notably digestive and rheumatic complaints. It contains bitter compounds, on a par with Gentiana lutea (See, yellow gentian), and harpagide and iridoid glycoside, as found in the distantly related Scrophularia nodosa (See, common figwort). Harpagophytum zeyheri has similar properties and uses. In 1997 the German pharmaceutical company, Sertürner Arznemittel, succeeded in selecting, cultivating, and vegetatively propagating, a high-quality chemotype of H. procumbens in Namibia.

An old folk remedy for arthritis, rheumatism, and gout, devil's claw, a desert plant from southern and eastern Africa, contains a substance that exerts a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the joints. German researchers tested the effects of devil's claw in seventy-five people with arthritis of the knee or hip and found that the herb reduced joint pain and stiffness while improving overall physical functioning of the affected joint.

Tender trailing perennial, with tubers up to 20cm (8in) long and 6cm (2½in) thick, and many stems bearing round to ovate, toothed to pinnately lobed leaves, about 7cm (3in) long, with white, hairy undersides. Solitary, red to purple, trumpet-shaped flowers, to 6cm (2½in) long, appear in spring, followed by dehiscent capsules, to 7cm (3in) long, armed with thorns, 2.5cm (1in) long.

Common Name:
Devil's Claw
Other Names:
Grapple Plant, Wood Spider
Botanical Name:
Harpagophytum procumbens
S Africa
Sandy soil in sun.
By seed sown in spring.
Tubers are lifted when dormant and dried for use in decoctions, ointments, powders and tinctures.
40cm (16in)
1-1.5m (3-5ft)
Min. 5-10°C (41-50°F)
Parts Used:
Root, Tubers (fleshy rounded stem or root)
A bitter, astringent, sedative, painkilling herb that reduces inflammation and also stimulates the digestive and lymphatic systems.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondylosis, neuralgia, and digestive problems involving the gall bladder and pancreas. Externally for arthritic and rheumatic joints. Not given to patients with gastric or duodenal ulcers.
To treat ailments and injuries, allergies, metabolic disturbances, and problems with digestion, the kidney, bladder, liver, and gallbladder; to relieve pain. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of devil's claw to treat loss of appetite, dyspeptic complaints such as bloating and heartburn, and rheumatism.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of devil's claw may range from 1 to 2 gm of dried powdered root taken three times a day.
Possible Side Effects:
Devil's Claw's side effects include nausea and vomiting.
Drug Interactions:
Ticlopidine, Warfarin
Taking devil's claw with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin)
Indomethacin, (Indocin, Novo-Methacin)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Meloxicam, (MOBIC, Mobicox)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Urokinase, (Abbokinase)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking devil's claw with these drugs may interfere with the action of the drug:
Aluminum Hydroxide, (AlternaGel, AluCap)
Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Carbonate, (Gaviscon Extra Strength, Gaviscon Liquid)
Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Maalox, Rulox)
Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Trisilicate, (Gaviscon Tablet)
Aluminun Hydroxide, Magnesium Hydroxide, and Simethicone, (Maalox, Mylanta Liquid)
Calcium Carbonate, (Rolaids Extra Strength, Tums)
Calcium Carbonate and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Mylanta Gelcaps, Rolaids Extra Strength)
Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
Esomeprazole, (Nexium)
Famotidine, (Apo-Famotidine, Pepcid)
Famotidine, Calcium Carbonate, and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Pepcid Complete)
Lansoprazole, (Prevacid)
Magaldrate and Simethicone, (Riopan Plus, Riopan Plus Double Strength)
Magnesium Hydroxide, (Ducolax Milk of Magnesia, Phillip's Milk of Magnesia)
Magnesium Oxide, (Mag-Ox 400, Uro-Mag)
Magnesium Sulfate, (Epsom Salts)
Nizatidine, (Axis, PMS-Nizatidine)
Omeprazole, (Losec, Prilosec)
Pantoprazole, (Pantoloc, Protonix)
Rabeprazole, (Aciphex, Pariet)
Ranitidine, (Alti-Ranitidine, Zantac)
Sodium Bicarbonate, (Brioschi, Neut)
Taking devil's claw with these drugs may increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar):
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetohexamide, (Acetohexamide)
Chlorpropamide, (Diabinese, Novo-Propamide)
Gliclazide, (Diamicron, Novo-Gliclazide)
Glimepiride, (Amaryl)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glipizide and Metformin, (Metaglip)
Gliquidone, (Beglynor, Glurenorm)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Glyburide and Metformin, (Glucovance)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Nateglinide, (Starlix)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Rosiglitazone and Metformin, (Avandamet)
Tolazamide, (Tolinase)
Tolbutamide, (Apo-Tolbutamide, Tol-Tab)
Taking devil's claw with these drugs may increase the risk of hypotension (excessively low blood pressure):
Acebutolol, (Novo-Acebutolol, Sectral)
Amlodipine, (Norvasc)
Atenolol, (Apo-Atenolol, Tenormin)
Benazepril, (Lotensin)
Betaxolol, (Betoptic S, Kerlone)
Bisoprolol, (Monocor, Zebeta)
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Candesartan, (Atacand)
Captopril, (Capoten, Novo-Captopril)
Carteolol, (Cartrol, Ocupress)
Carvedilol, (Coreg)
Chlorthiazide, (Diuril)
Chlorthalidone, (Apo-Chlorthalidone, Thalitone)
Clonidine, (Catapres, Duraclon)
Diazoxide, (Hyperstat, Proglycem)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Doxazosin, (Alti-Doxazosin, Cardura)
Enalapril, (Vasotec)
Eplerenone, (Inspra)
Eprosartan, (Teveten)
Esmolol, (Brevibloc)
Felodipine, (Plendil, Renedil)
Fenoldopam, (Corlopam)
Fosinopril, (Monopril)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Guanabenz, (Wytensin)
Guanadrel, (Hylorel)
Guanfacine, (Tenex)
Hydralazine, (Apresoline, Novo-Hylazin)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene, (Dyazide, Maxzide)
Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
Irbesartan, (Avapro)
Isradipine, (DynaCirc)
Labetalol, (Normodyne, Trandate)
Lisinopril, (Prinivil, Zestril)
Losartan, (Cozaar)
Mecamylamine, (Inversine)
Mefruside, (Baycaron)
Methyclothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Methyldopa, (Apo-Methyldopa, Nu-Medopa)
Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Metoprolol, (Betaloc, Lopressor)
Minoxidil, (Loniten, Rogaine)
Moexipril, (Univasc)
Nadolol, (Apo-Nadol, Corgard)
Nicardipine, (Cardene)
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)
Nisoldipine, (Sular)
Nitroglycerin, (Minitran, Nitro-Dur)
Nitroprusside, (Nipride, Nitropress)
Olmesartan, (Benicar)
Oxprenolol, (Slow-Trasicor, Trasicor)
Perindopril Erbumine, (Aceon, Coversyl)
Phenoxybenzamine, (Dibenzyline)
Phentolamine, (Regintine, Rogitine)
Pindolol, (Apo-Pindol, Novo-Pindol)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Prazosin, (Minipress, Nu-Prazo)
Propranolol, (Inderal, InnoPran XL)
Quinapril, (Accupril)
Ramipril, (Altace)
Reserpine, (Reserpine)
Spironolactone, (Aldactone, Novo-Spiroton)
Telmisartan, (Micardis)
Terazosin, (Alti-Terazosin, Hytrin)
Timolol, (Betimol, Timoptic)
Torsemide, (Demadex)
Trandolapril, (Mavik)
Triamterene, (Dyrenium)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Valsartan, (Diovan)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Disease Effects:
  • May worsen cardiovascular ailments by affecting the heart rate and blood pressure.
  • May worsen ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by increasing stomach acid.
  • May interfere with attempts to control blood sugar in diabetes.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 230
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. PP. 183-186