Veterinarian Reviewed on June 15, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytumprocumbens)
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytumprocumbens) is a plant that belongs to the herbal sesame family, and its botanical name Harpagophytumprocumbens means in Greek, “hook plant”. Devil’s claw is a native plant within South Africa and derives its name from the shape and form of its fruit. The fruit has hooks all over its flesh and which is useful in attaching to animals in order to spread its seeds. The tuber and root parts are useful in making medicine. It is rich in active chemicals in promoting good health related to body metabolism, antiseptic, and cholesterol control. In the market, the Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytumprocumbens) is released through either fresh or dried root supplements. It is available in the form of tablets, capsules, topical ointments, and liquid extracts. The Devil’s claw can also be made into a tea or tincture.
History and Origin
This plant with the odd name of Devil’s Claw originated from South Africa as a perennial fruit-bearing vine. Its fruit in drupaceous capsule shape has a woody-like inner part that is covered with a fleshy layer. The end of the fruit’s protruding tubes splits into claw shaped horns, which provides for its name. It attaches to a passing animal’s fur or onto human skin. The seeds responsible for its spreading, hide inside its capsule, and are then released upon the splitting-apart of the claw. Devil’s Claw has taproots that produce secondary roots or tubers. This plant likes growing in dry plains. The useful parts of Devil’s claw such as its roots are used in many herbal preparations.
The Devil’s Claw is used mainly as a remedy in South Africa, where it originates, for sicknesses and other ailments such as Headaches, rheumatisms, Allergies, kidney and liver disorders. The Bushmen, Bantu, and Hottentot natives of Southern Africa commonly use it for their health concerns. Devil’s Claw has a history of being used for numerous inflammatory conditions because of its beta-sitosterol and harpagoside contents.
The Devil’s Claw is essential for the treatment of arteries that have hardened, as well as for treating gout, arthritis, body pains, heartburn, migraines and fevers. Its usefulness extends help for childbirth difficulties, problems in menstruation, loss of appetite, allergies, bladder and kidney disease. Common skin conditions and injuries are addressed using Devil’s Claw. People practicing herbal medicine also suggest using this plant in the treatment of osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease, tendon conditions, ligaments, joints, and lower back pain. When used externally, ointments that have made out of Devil’s claw can heal boils, sores, and evenulcers. The other uses of this plant are the cleaning out of the lymph system as well as the removal of toxins commonly found in the blood stream.
Devil’s Claw is generally safe for adults to use. The most common side effect of taking this plant as a medicine is diarrhea. Other side effects are vomiting, nausea, pain in the abdomen, ear nuisance, headaches, tastelessness, and loss of appetite. In some aspects, Devil’s Claw can cause allergic skin reactions, problems with menstruation, and varying of blood pressure. It is also unsafe for pregnant and breast-feeding women. Since it does affect the blood pressure, it may also cause heart disorders and can affect the circulatory system. People are advised to be cautious concerning Devil’s Claw especialy as far as how it interacts with some other types of medications. Therefore it highly recommended to have a word with your primary healthcare provider or a qualified naturopathic doctor for guidance prior to using Devil’s Claw.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan