All Hallows Eve is approaching, and this year is a bit different from the last. However, we are still enjoying our scary stories, pumpkin patches, and the time-honored tradition of decorating our homes with skeletons and other creepy décor. In keeping with the theme of this wonderfully spooky season, I decided to share with you a devilishly wondrous herb.
Native to Southern Africa, Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is named after the tiny hook-like structures that cover its fruit. It has a long tradition of use as a medicine. Some of its traditional uses include as a pain reliever, to improve the function of the liver and kidneys, to reduce fever, and treat malaria, as well as to help improve the healing of skin problems such as boils and minor wounds. This plant is one where you should be acquainted with the botanical name as opposed to the, much more interesting, common name. Several plants in North America also are known as Devil’s Claw, including species in the genus Proboscidea and certain species of Pisonia.
Harpagophytum procumbens is a member of the Bignoniaceae, or Sesame, family and is mainly found in the eastern and southeastern parts of Namibia, Southern Botswana, and the Kalahari region of the Northern Cape, South Africa. This plant prefers deep, sandy soils, and areas with low annual rainfall. It is a perennial, tuberous plant with annually produced creeping stems. The stems emerge after the first rains and die back during droughts or after frosts. They grow from a primary tuber and several secondary tubers grow from the same primary tuber at the end of fleshy roots. The fruit, once it’s mature, opens slowly so that, in a given year, only 20-25% of its seeds may come into contact with soil. The seeds have a high degree of dormancy and may remain viable in a seed bank for more than 20 years.
Today, Devil’s Claw is known and used worldwide to fight inflammation and arthritis pain. It is used most widely in Germany and France, however, it has made its way into most medical modalities. This has caused a few concerns about sustainability. The countries in its native range have developed regulations about ethical harvesting and have, thus far, prevented it from being protected by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Common Names- Devil’s Claw, Grapple Plant, Wood Spider
Scientific Name- Harpagophytum procumbens
Summary of Actions- Alterative, Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-osteoporotic, Antioxidant, Bitter, Cardiac Tonic
Parts Used- Root, Fruit, and Tuber
Ayurveda- Known as Baghnakh in Ayurveda, this herb is often used in the treatment of migraines and headaches.
Arthritis, Gout, & Joint Pain- The majority of research on this herb seems to revolve around its uses to help reduce inflammation in joints, relieve pain caused by arthritis, and even its ability to increase mobility in joints affected by arthritis and gout. Devil's claw seems to work about as well as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Several studies have also concluded that people afflicted with these issues may even reduce their dependence on NSAIDs by adding Devil’s Claw to their daily routine.
Digestion- Devil’s Claw is a bitter herb traditionally used to ease several digestive complaints. Like other bitter herbs, taking a tincture of Devil’s Claw 15 – 20 minutes prior to eating may help stimulate digestion and improve nutrient absorption, particularly with heavy meals.
Blood Pressure & Atherosclerosis- While some inflammation is necessary to defend your body against harm, chronic inflammation has been to heart disease, diabetes, and brain disorders. Devil’s claw has been proposed as a potential remedy for inflammatory conditions because it contains plant compounds called iridoid glycosides, particularly harpagoside. In test-tube and animal studies, harpagoside has curbed inflammatory responses. Reducing chronic inflammation helps to reduce blood pressure and improve atherosclerosis. Devil’s Claw is also traditionally used in treating Arrhythmia.
Migraine and Headache- The combination of Devil’s Claw’s analgesic (pain-relieving) properties with its anti-inflammatory ones makes this herb a great help in many headaches. It can even be fairly effective for migraines.
Skin & Wound Care- This herb’s anti-inflammatory nature lends itself well to a wide variety of treatments including boils and sores. It also works just as well for minor wounds, scratches, and bruises.
Fever and Malaria- Devil’s Claw is traditionally used to lower body temperature, which helps to reduce fever.
Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- High doses can cause mild stomach problems in some people. People with ulcers or gallstones should not take Devil's Claw. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take Devil's Claw since studies in these populations are lacking. People with heart disease, high blood pressure, or low blood pressure should ask their doctors before taking Devil's Claw. If you are on medication, check with your doctor before adding this plant to your routine.
I only included a basic introduction to this devilishly useful herb. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!
Devil’s Claw: Flora Health: https://www.florahealth.com/us/herb-encyclopedia/devils-claw/
Devil’s Claw: Gaia Herbs: https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/herbs/devils-claw
Devil’s Claw: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/devil-claw
Devil’s Claw: Mount Sinai: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/devils-claw
Devil’s Claw: PennState Hershey: http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=000237
Devil’s Claw: RxList: https://www.rxlist.com/devils_claw/supplements.htm
Devil’s Claw: Versus Arthritis: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/devils-claw/
Devil’s Claw: WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-984/devils-claw
Devil’s Claw - Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/devils-claw
Devil’s Claw: Kaiser Permanente: https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2079001
Devil's Claw (harpagophytum procumbens): Acupuncture Today: https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/devils_claw.php#:~:text=Other%20studies%20have%20found%20the,acid%2C%20which%20helps%20improve%20digestion.
Devil’s Claw (harpagophytum procumbens): Annie’s Remedy: https://www.anniesremedy.com/harpagophytum-procumbens-devil-claw.php?gc=64&gclid=Cj0KCQjw8fr7BRDSARIsAK0Qqr6tnj9t2kLlOH7-3KToivjXQbNSbZusnsdQGO7yZ3NU9HYo-GPVLtUaAo_MEALw_wcB
Devil’s Claw (harpagophytum procumbens): Ayur Times: https://www.ayurtimes.com/devils-claw-harpagophytum-procumbens/
Devil’s Claw, Herb Uses, Benefits, Cures, Side Effects, Nutrients: Herbpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Devil's-Claw-Cid1607
Health Benefits of Devil’s Claw: Facty Health: https://facty.com/lifestyle/wellness/health-benefits-of-devils-claw/?style=quick&utm_source=adwords&adid=269624907797&utm_medium=c-search&utm_term=%2Bdevil%27s%20%2Bclaw&utm_campaign=FH-USA---Search---Health-Benefits-of-Devils-Claw&gclid=Cj0KCQjw8rT8BRCbARIsALWiOvTwM1URgKpOKcGQLe6N6AwVMp8dwXQU1dJaibvLlFzoLfIzFt2BktAaAnTzEALw_wcB
Joint Pain - Devil’s Claw: Network Nutrition: http://www.networknutrition.com/content.cfm?Encrypt=1&Pass=163D22310B0D062D09042E583A3A3C38200017543A1F1A3F0017211B08785850
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