Devil's claw

Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Prof. Dr. med. Martina Bacharach-Buhles

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Last updated on: 29.11.2022

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African Devil's Claw; harpagophytum procumbens; harpagophytum zeyheri; Trampoline chain

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Devil's claw is a perennial, prostrate, herbaceous plant of the sesame family (Pedaliaceae). It is native to the savannahs of Namibia and South Africa. Extracts of the widely ramified wuzrel plant are used as a medicinal plant with indications for pain of the musculoskeletal system.

The bulbous storage roots (devil's claw root - Harpagophyti radix) are used phytotherapeutically.

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In laboratory tests, extracts from devil's claw root show anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. The exact ingredients responsible for this are not yet known. It is possible that harpagoside plays the decisive role (Ungerer G et al. 2020). Experimentally, an inhibition of the prostaglandin synthesis can be proven. Interleukin-2, matrix metalloproteinases and cholinesterase are further inhibited. Among the isolates, verbascosides (5, 6 and 8), which contain a caffeoyl and a 3,4-dihydroxyphenethyl group in their structure, showed effective AChE inhibitory activity. The results suggest that verbascoside derivatives may be partially related to the anti-Alzheimer effect of this medicinal plant (Bae YH et al. 2014).

Field of application/use
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Indications according to Commission E

Loss of appetite

Soft tissue rheumatism

Chronic inflammatory polyarthritis: Whether the root really helps is not scientifically proven. Human studies come to contradictory results and there is a lack of conclusive high-quality research. Nevertheless, many people report that their joint pain eases when they take devil's claw (Menghini L et al 2019).

Dyspeptic complaints: The bitter substances contained in the root stimulate digestion and increase appetite. Devil's claw is therefore traditionally used for flatulence, bloating and lack of appetite.

Furthermore, harpagoside is attributed a neuroprotective effect (Ungerer G et al. 2020).

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Daily dose for loss of appetite 1.5 preparations with appropriate bitter value, otherwise 4.5g drug.

Undesirable effects
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Devil's claw root can cause nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Headaches, dizziness and allergic reactions are also possible.

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Duodenal ulcer, ventricular ulcer...

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Devil's claw is the parent plant of Harpagophyti radix, the South African devil's claw root. The devil's claw owes its name to the woody fruits that bear anchor-like hooks. These hooks cause the fruits to stick to passing animals.

The potential effects of Harpagophytum procumbens root extracts only occur protractedly after several weeks. The analgesic effect is only weakly pronounced (Schilcher 2015). The plant is not suitable for acute pain. In addition, the studies that have come to positive results show that a high dosage is necessary for any effect to be noticeable. Devil's claw preparations should therefore be taken as finished medicines.

Tea preparations contain too small amounts of the potentially active substances to be effective for joint pain. Tea preparations are suitable for digestive complaints such as flatulence or bloating.

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  2. Wenigmann M.(2017) Phytotherapy medicinal drugs phytopharmaceuticals application. Urban & Fischer: 5.108 Rockweed (Meliloti herba) p 204-205.