Harpagophytum procumbens

Other Names: Grapple Plant, Wood Spider

Devil’s claw is native to South Africa, named because of its peculiar appearance. Its claw-like roots are used in medicines after they are chopped and allowed to dry in the sun for at least 3 days.

The dried, pulverized secondary tubers and roots are yellowish-gray to bright pink and horn-like in their hardness. They have a bitter taste.

Early research results for Devil’s Claw appeared in 1958. In a paper, devil’s claw was reported to be effective in reducing inflammation and swelling in experimentally induced arthritis. Using simple water extracts, the researcher was able to reduce swelling from 300 to 800 percent in a matter of days.

Devil’s claw as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

devil's clawDevil’s Claw has been used as a tonic, as a treatment for arthritis and rheumatism, reduce fever, ease sore muscles, reduce cholesterol, and externally the ointment is used to treat sores, boils, and ulcers. It is also used to cleanse the lymph system, and to remove toxins from the blood.

The tribal herbal traditions of South Africa employed devil’s claw to relieve pain and stimulate digestion.

In folk medicine, Devil’s Claw is used as an ointment for skin injuries and disorders. The dried root is used for pain relief; pregnancy discomforts; arthritis; allergies; metabolic disorders; and kidney, bladder, liver and gallbladder disorders. In South Africa it is used for fevers and digestive disorders. Devil’s Claw is also used for supportive therapy of degenerative disorders of the CNS system.

To this day, Devil’s Claw continues to be widely utilized to stimulate the appetite and as an aid to digestion – largely in the continent of Europe. Side effects are absent and the devil’s claw is believed to be free of toxic effects – remedies from the herb are therefore quite safe for long term use by patients.

Scientists don’t know exactly how devil’s claw works at this time, other than that it is not a COX-2 inhibitor like Celebrex or Vioxx, and therefore is not potentially injurious to the heart.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows.

  • 1.5 g of the herb for loss of appetite.
  • 4.5 g herb, otherwise.


To make an infusion, use 1 teaspoonful (equivalent to 4.5 g) comminuted drug with 300 ml boiling water. Steep for 8 hours and strain. For loss of appetite, the recommended dosage is 1.5 g of the herb; otherwise 4.5 g of the herb is used. The infusion can be taken 3 times a day.

For external use, 1 tablespoon of the tincture should be diluted with 250 ml and used for washes or poultices.

Culinary Uses of Devil’s Claw

This herb is not generally used for culinary purposes.


Devil’s claw can promote the production of stomach acid. For this reason, people affected by gastric or duodenal ulcers should avoid using the herb in any form, as it may result in unpleasant and painful side effects.

Don’t use devil’s claw if you take Coumadin (warfarin) or Plavix.

Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded. The drug has a sensitizing effect.

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