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The name devil's claw is derived from the peculiar appearance of the hooked fruit, which resemble miniature grappling hooks. It was introduced to Europe in the early 1900s. Since then it has gained fame in the European and American continents for its medicinal properties. It is one of the chief medicinal plants that South Africa has given the world. It has multiple medicinal uses and tons of dried tubers are exported yearly, mainly to Europe and America.

African Traditional Medicine:

For thousands of years, the Khoisan people of the Kalahari Desert have used the devil's claw root in herbal remedies. Devil's claw is used most commonly for rheumatism, arthritis, gout, general pain relief and other degenerative disorders of the musculoskeletal system. It is also used for liver, gallbladder and stomach complaints and loss of appetite.

Topically it is used as an ointment for skin injuries and disorders.

Plant Parts Used:

The thick, fleshy secondary roots are sliced and dried.

Western uses:

Properties: Analgesic, anti-arrhythmic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, hypotensive, sedative, uterocontractant and a febrifuge, cholelogue and bitter tonic.

It apparently works like cortisone but without the bad side effects of that drug. In its local areas, and increasingly elsewhere, it has also been used for fever, blood diseases, blood purification, lower back pain and pain in pregnant women, coughs, diarrhoea, diabetes, bleeding gums, syphilis, gonorrhoea, gout and lumbago. It also helps with diseases of the liver, gall bladder, kidneys, pancreas, digestive system (heartburn, peptic ulcers, constipation and lack of appetite) and small joints, as well as hypertension, high cholesterol and tuberculosis.

Externally it helps heal ulcers, boils, skin lesions and wounds

Other Medicine Uses:

Devil’s claw is very popular in the industry. It has been used as an herbal tea in Europe, a folk remedy in Africa and is increasing its foothold in the United States health food market. Devil’s claw is widely used by African and western “alternative” practitioners. Devil’s claw is a veritable cure-all, but only whole extracts have the therapeutic effect, not isolated parts. Tinctures of Devil’s claw are more effective than capsules.

European Herbals: -

The British herbal Pharmacopoeia: -

The Devils claw has approval status by the German Commission E.

Active Ingredients:

The roots are rich in sugars and also contain phytosterols, triterpenoids and flavonoids. The following iridoids are considered to be active ingredients: a cinnamic acid ester called harpagoside (the main compound in the fresh and dried root), herpagide and procumbide.

Pharmaceutical Effects:

Several studies have been done. Animal and human studies indicate analgesic and anti-arthritic effects. In Germany it is used in support of degenerative disorders of the locomotor system, for lack of appetite and dyspeptic problems. A recent clinical study indicated effectiveness in acute low backache.


Arpagophytum Procumbens

Common names: devil's claw, harpago, grapple plant, wool- and woodspider (Eng.); duivelsklou, bobbejaandubbeltjie, kloudoring, veldspinnakop (Afr.); teufelskralle, trampelklette (German); sengaparile, kanako, lekgagamare, ghamaghoe (Setswana); //x'aatataba, tloutaxaba (San); otjihangatene (Herero).

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