What is Devil’s Claw Extract?
The deserts of southern Africa are home to the peculiar-looking devil’s claw plant (Harpagophytum procumbens), so named because of the distinctively shaped tips of its fruits. For years, people indigenous to the African continent dug up the plant’s large tuberous roots, chopped them up, and let them dry in the sun. From the dried roots, they then prepared healing formulations to treat arthritis, fever, indigestion, and a number of other conditions.
After European and North American colonists in Africa were introduced to the herb in the 1950s, it began to be examined for its chemical properties and healing potential. Today many herbalists consider devil’s claw effective in treating the aching and stiffness of arthritic joints.
Devil’s claw root is the common name for Harpogophytum procumbens, an herbaceous plant native to the Kalahari savanna of Southern Africa, the Namibian steppes, and Madagascar. Devil’s claw root refers to the dried roots of the plant, which are used medicinally, primarily in Africa and Europe. According to the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) the roots should contain not less than one percent of the compound harpagoside. Devil’s claw root plays a valuable role in African folk medicine, where it has been used as a digestive tonic, for blood disorders, to reduce fever, as an analgesic, and to relieve various complaints during pregnancy.
according to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Germans spent more than $30 million Euros on devil’s claw in 2001. More than 70 percent of prescriptions for rheumatoid arthritis were for devil’s claw extract.
Chemical constituents of Devil’s Claw Extract
The major chemical component thought to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory activity of devil’s claw is harpagoside, a monoterpene glucoside. Other iridoid glycosides include procumbide, harpagide, 8-para-coumaroyl-harpagide, and verbascoside. Harpagoside is found primarily in the roots; secondary tubers contain twice as much glucoside as the primary roots. Flowers, stems, and ripe fruits are essentially devoid of the compound, while traces have been isolated from the leaves. Harpagoside can be progressively hydrolyzed to harpagid and harpagogenin. Commercial sources of devil’s claw extract contain 1.4% to 2% of harpagoside.
Benefits of taking Devil’s Claw Extract supplements:
Analgesic, antiphlogistic and anti-inflammatory
In France Devil’s claw root products can be marketed with a claim for traditional use for symptomatic relief of painful joint disorders. The herb is approved by ESCOP for painful arthritis, tendinitis, loss of appetite and dyspepsia.
One study on Devil’s claw was performed on patients with slight to moderate muscular tension or slight muscular pain of the back, shoulder and neck. On a double-blind randomized basis, a total of 31 patients received doses of Devil’s claw root extract twice daily, and 32 received a placebo. The duration of the therapy was 4 weeks. A highly significant clinical efficacy was achieved with Devil’s claw extract in cases of slight to moderate muscular pain.
In another study published in the journal Joint Bone Spine, devil’s claw extract was shown to relieve pain, increase mobility, and reduce the need for other medications in patients with knee and or hip osteoarthritis. The European Journal of Anesthesiology reported that in a blinded study more than 150 people reported a greater decrease in back pain when taking devil’s claw extract compared to placebo.These and other studies conclude that this botanical extract works in much the same way as prescription anti-inflammatory medications like Celebrex by reducing the inflammation associated with many conditions like arthritis.
In a published analysis of several Devil’s claw root studies, extracts of Devil’s claw root proved valuable for the supportive treatment of degenerative painful rheumatism. Use of devil’s claw extract improved motility and a reduction of pain sensation in several clinical studies. Pharmacological experiments have shown analgesic, antiphlogistic and anti-inflammatory actions.
Older animal studies demonstrated cardiac effects of extracts of H. procumbens , including dose-dependent reduction in blood pressure, decreased heart rate, and anti-arrhythmic activity, with mixed results or inotropic and chronotropic effects for different iridoids. Clinical studies are lacking.
>Central nervous system
A study in rats showed anticonvulsant effects of an extract of H. procumbens , possibly via CNS depression and gamma aminobutyric acid neurotransmission. Anticholinesterase activity has also been described.
Numerous anti-inflammatory agents have been shown to exert chemopreventive activity by targeting cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, a rate-limiting enzyme involved in the inflammatory process. Topical application of Devil’s Claw extracts inhibited TPA-induced COX-2 expression in mouse skin. Devil’s Claw extracts diminished TPA-stimulated catalytic activity of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK), which is known to regulate the activation of eukaryotic transcription factors mediating COX-2 induction.
Side effects and safety of Devil’s Claw Extract
Devil’s Claw side effects are mainly headache, ringing in the ears, loss of appetite, or loss of taste. Allergic reactions to Devil’s Claw may also occur and they are difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives.
Dosage of Devil’s Claw Extract supplement:
Devil’s claw has been studied for low back pain, muscle pain, and osteoarthritis using daily doses of crude tuber up to 9 g, 1 to 3 g of extract, or harpagoside 50 to 100 mg.