Devil’s claw, also known as wood spider or grapple plant or harpago is an herb native to southern parts of Africa. It gets its name due to the strange appearance of its fruit that is covered with hooks. Its scientific name includes Harpagophytum, which means “hook plant” in Greek. The tubers and roots of this plant have medicinal properties and hence are used to make medicines for treating various ailments. Due to its therapeutic effects mainly anti-inflammatory properties, Devil’s claw is used in the treatment of many medical conditions like arthritis, atherosclerosis, gout, fever, chest pain, back pain, headaches etc. Fresh or dried root of this plant can be obtained in the form of tablets, capsules, topical ointments and liquid extracts. Infusions or teas can also be prepared from the dried roots of devil’s claw.
This herb grows close to ground around 1-2 feet long, however the root can go upto 2 meter deep. Pink coloured trumpet shaped flowers turns into woody fruit with spines.
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Active chemical constituents in Devil’s claw
The therapeutic properties of Devil’s claw can be attributed to the presence of various active chemicals which include iridoid glycosides such as harpagide, harpagoside,and procumbide, phytosterols such as beta-sitosterol, flavonoids such as luteolin and kaempferol, sugars such as tetrasaccharide, stachyose, aromatic acids such ascaffeic acid, cinnamic acid, and chlorogenic acid, and triterpenoids such as oleanolic acid and ursolic acid. Of these various elements, the iridoid glycosides have been found to have the highest therapeutic effects.
Benefits of Devil’s claw
Devil’s claw has long been used in Africa for treating rheumatoid arthritis, fever, skin diseases, and problems involving the kidneys, gallbladder, pancreas, and stomach. However, today it is most popularly used for relieving pain and inflammation. Some of the benefits of Devil’s claw are listed below.
Devil’s claw has antioxidant properties
Devil’s claw contains high concentrations of flavonoids and polyphenols that contribute to its antioxidant property. These antioxidants help in scavenging the effects of free radicals, which in turn is helpful in preventing early aging as well as diseases like cancer and heart diseases. The antioxidant properties of Devil’s claw may also be responsible to a great extent for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Devil’s claw for treating osteoarthritis
Devil’s claw has been found to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and hence is helpful in reducing inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis. Studies suggest that the use of devil’s claw can help in reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis as effectively as many medicines used to treat this condition. According to some studies, same benefits can also be obtained for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Devil’s claw for treating gout
Gout is a painful condition which is caused by the presence of excessive uric acid in your blood stream. This condition causes severe swelling and inflammation in various parts of the body, mainly your toes. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of Devil’s claw may be helpful in easing the pain, inflammation and swelling associated with gout.
Devil’s claw can relieve back pain
Devil’s claw is available in the form of supplements, which are found to be effective in reducing pain that may occur in the upper, middle and lower back. So people suffering from persistent back pain may try using these supplements to find relief from the discomfort and pain.
Devil’s claw increases your appetite
Although not scientifically proven, Devil’s claw has long been regarded to stimulate appetite. This herb is often recommended by many doctors as an appetite stimulant for people suffering from anorexia, weight loss, or loss of appetite.
Devil’s claw improves digestion
The high amounts of iridoid glycosides present in Devil’s claw give it a bitter taste, which is responsible for increasing the production of gastric acid, which in turn stimulates the process of digestion.
Devil’s claw for abdominal pain
Devil’s claw has been used since ancient times as a remedy for indigestion, stomach pain and upset stomach. It is also considered to be helpful in reducing gas and flatulence, and also in making your bowel movements regular, which in turn helps in preventing constipation. Devil’s claw helps in suppressing the inflammation of stomach thus alleviating the symptoms of upset stomach. If you suffer from heart burn, Devil’s claw can bring great relief as it calms the inflammation that is caused by acid reflux.
Devil’s claw relieves muscle pain
Studies reveal that Devil’s claw is effective in soothing muscle pain as well as pain in the bones.
Devil’s claw for treating migraine
Migraine is a serious and painful neurological disorder characterized by moderate to severe headaches, visual disturbances, nausea and vomiting. Due to its analgesic properties, Devil’s claw is considered to be a great remedy for relieving the symptoms of this condition.
Devil’s claw for wounds and sores
Applying the extracts of devil’s claw on sores and wounds has been found to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with it. It is this property of devil’s claw extracts that makes it a common ingredient in many topical ointments and analgesics used for getting relief from pain.
Devil’s claw lowers high blood pressure
Diuretics are substances that can increase the production of urine. Devil’s claw has been found to have diuretic effects, which helps in removing the excess water and salt from your body in the form of urine. Thus by preventing water retention, Devil’s claw helps in regulating the volume of blood, which in turn helps in maintaining normal blood pressure.
Devil’s claw is useful for kidneys
Devil’s claw helps your body get rid of uric acid and hence is useful for your kidneys. It also helps in reducing inflammation of the kidneys.
Devil’s claw lowers cholesterol
Studies show that Devil’s claw is capable of lowering cholesterol absorption from your intestine. This herb contains plant sterols known as beta sterols, which help in preventing the absorption of bad cholesterol or LDL. Hence devil’s claw can be considered to be a good remedy for lowering high cholesterol levels.
Devil’s claw for treating allergy
Devil’s claw can be used as a remedy for treating various allergic conditions. This herb works by slowing down the secretion of mediators or substances that activate allergic reactions in your body.
Devil’s claw has anti-pyretic properties
Devil’s claw has natural anti-pyretic properties which makes it effective in lowering your body temperature when you are suffering from fever.
How to make Devil’s claw tea
The health benefits of devil’s claw tea were known during the beginning of the 20th century. It was later introduced in Europe where it became popular as a remedy for digestion. Just like devil’s claw, its tea also has anti-arthritic properties and hence is effective for rheumatism and arthritis. To make devil’s claw tea, add a teaspoon of dried and chopped up devil’s claw roots into a pan and pour 2 cups of boiling water to it. Let the tea stand for a few minutes until the roots become soaked. This may take about fifteen to twenty minutes. Once the roots become completely soaked, strain the tea and let it cool before you drink it.
Caution while using Devil’s claw
Just like any other herb, Devil’s claw may also cause allergic reactions in some people. These reactions may include nausea, diarrhea, headaches and ringing in the ears. Since Devil’s claw may induce uterine contractions, pregnant women are advised not to use it. People with bleeding disorder should avoid this herb as it may increase the risk of bleeding. Devil’s claw can react with anticoagulants and so if you are taking these drugs make sure to consult your doctor before using this herb.
In spite of its diabolical name, Devil’s claw is actually a godsend that helps in curing many types of ailments. It is one of the most versatile plants that offer numerous medicinal effects whether used externally or consumed internally. Although more research and studies are required to scientifically prove the safety and benefits of this herb, it has already gained the attention of scientists and also the medical world.