Devils Claw

Updated on November 15, 2020

Scientific: Harpagophytum [WikiPedia]

Composition: The active ingredients are various iridoid glycosides, acetylated phenolic glycosides, and terpenoids.

Appearance: This plant, which is native to Africa, gets its name from the appearance of its fruit, which is covered with hooks meant to attach onto animals to spread the seeds.

Parts Used: The roots and tubers

Common Uses: Devil’s claw is used for “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), arthritis, gout, muscle pain (myalgia), back pain, tendonitis, chest pain, gastrointestinal (GI) upset or heart burn, fever, and migraine headache. It is also used for difficulties in childbirth, menstrual problems, allergic reactions, loss of appetite, and kidney and bladder disease.

Multiple studies suggest that devil’s claw tuber may help alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis, primarily through the iridoid glycoside constituents it contains. Devil’s claw has become very popular in recent years, and appears in numerous arthritis relief formulas for dogs and other animals. However, despite its popularity, there has been many mixed reviews from veterinary practitioners and dog owners regarding its efficiency. The reasons behind this controversy may be related to how the herb is harvested. The tubers of this bizarre-looking little African plant must be selectively harvested from mature plants that are at least four years old, and the harvest must be done during a very specific stage of the plant’s growth cycle. The most sustainable practice is to harvest only one to a few of the tubers that extend from the plant’s base, leaving enough to assure the plant’s survival and the re-growth of new tubers. Unfortunately, increased demand for this herb has led to the premature harvest of too many tubers, and in many areas, we are seeing declining populations of the plant.

Because tubers from immature plants lack sufficient concentrations of active iridoid glycoside constituents, much of the devil’s claw sold on the North American market is functionally useless. With that said, there are sustainable sources for those who seek it out; aside from its bitter flavour, properly-harvested devil’s claw is an excellent joint pain remedy.

Its main ingredient are iridoid (mainly harpagoside), as well as harpagide, phenolic glycosides (acteoside and isoacteoside), procumbide together with their cinnamic and coumarin acid esters.

Alternatives and Adjuncts:

Topic Specific Research:

  • Top 5 Herbs for Animal Arthritis [Ref]
  • Devil’s Claw [Ref]
  • Review of Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Medicines [Ref]
  • Devil’s Claw [WebMD]
  • Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and chronic inflammatory diseases: A concise overview on preclinical and clinical data [PubMED]
  • Bioactive Compounds and Extracts from Traditional Herbs and Their Potential Anti-Inflammatory Health Effects [PubMED]

Used In:

PLEASE NOTE that herbal and other natural products can harm your animals – not all plants are safe and gentle! Do not attempt using any of the ingredients listed, or any other plant matter, without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.

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