Health Benefits of Devil’s Claw

Health Benefits of Devil’s Claw
February 17, 2014 11:00 PM

Herbs are natural, safe and efficacious way to control medical conditions. Herbs were thought just be a constituent of folk medicines. But modern researches have shown that these herbs do help in curing a number of health conditions.

What is devil’s claw?

Like many other beneficial herbs, devil’s claw is also an herb of medicinal importance. Other names for devil’s claw are harpagophytum, grapple plant and wood spider. The plant from which the devil’s claw is obtained is native to southeast Africa. It grows in the hot dessert of Kalahari. The name devil’s claw was given to this herb because of the spiked appearance of its fruit.

How does it work?

Devil’s claw is a very potent anti inflammatory and analgesic herb with a lot of health benefits. The active ingredients of this herb are iridoid glycosides. The anti inflammatory properties of devil’s claw are due the presence of these glycosides. But how can it limit inflammation? What makes this herb a perfect pain killer? There are certain facts that one should know about devil’s claw before knowing its health benefits. Subsequently, proper knowledge about action of devils claw will help in understanding the various medicinal uses of this herb. Inflammation, swelling and pain are all related phenomena. But the concept behind them is same.

There are certain chemicals produced in body called “mediators of inflammation”. The purpose of these mediators is to promote inflammation and pain. Prostaglandins are the chief mediators that play an important role in evoking inflammatory reactions and pain. The enzymes that are responsible for the synthesis of these prostaglandins are cyclooxygenase enzyme 1 and 2 (COX 1 and COX 2).

Now, this is the point where devil’s claw depicts its anti inflammatory role. The glycosides in this herb inhibit the COX 1 enzyme, leading to reduced synthesis of prostaglandins. The diminished production of prostaglandins means an ultimate reduction in the production of mediators of inflammation and decrease in inflammation and pain. This is how devil claw helps in fighting pain and inflammation.

Health benefits and medicinal uses of devil’s claw

Nature has blessed this herb with glorious properties to cure various inflammatory and painful conditions in a very effective manner. There are a number of ailments in which devil’s claw can be used safely.

In this section, we are going to discuss the various health benefits of this highly efficacious herb:


Osteoarthritis is a prevailing condition now days. With age the wearing and tearing of joints start. Normally the ends of bones and joints are covered with slippery and lubricated cartilages. These cartilages ensure the smooth, friction free movements of joints. Once the cartilages are torn out, the joint end will be exposed and will rub against each other during movement. This results in inflammation, swelling of joints and pain on movement. Several clinical trials have shown that giving devil’s claw to arthritis patients for 8-12 weeks helps in reducing the symptoms of joint inflammation and pain. The ingredients of devil’s claw keep the production of prostaglandins in check at the site of inflammation, which aids in relieving the joint pain. Devil’s claw is as efficacious as NSAIDs in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Back and knee pain

Every other person complains of back and knee pain. The hectic life and our living styles have made use prone to back and knee pain. Chronic back pain is a common problem in older people. But here again the devil’s claw has shown its efficacy in relieving the back pain.

But you might wonder: “How can the devil’s claw relieve back pain?”

Pain is actually sensation associated with inflammation. Prostaglandins are the mediators that initiate pain in a person and make him more sensitive to it. Devil’s claw helps in relieving the back pain by inhibiting the production these pain producing prostaglandins. Some clinical trials were conducted in the recent years that showed that devil’s claw was quite helpful in relieving the symptoms of back pain in those patients who took this herb for some weeks. It was observed that patients who used devil’s claw for pain treatment had fewer attacks of pain as compared to the groups receiving a placebo.

Muscle pain

Muscle sprain can be very painful sometimes. Muscle sprain or tearing evokes an inflammatory process in muscles which culminates in severe pain. Devil’s claw is helpful in relieving the muscle pain by inhibiting the synthesis of pain evoking inflammatory mediators.

Application on sore and wounds

It is a common practice to apply the devil’s claw extracts on the sores and wounds. Applying devil’s claw extracts on wounds suppresses the inflammation and pain associated with it. That is why the devil’s claw extracts are commonly used as topical analgesics for the temporary relief of pain.

Migraine headaches

The cause of migraine headache is still unknown. Analgesic action of devil’s claw makes it a beneficial herb to prevent the recurrent attacks of migraine headaches.

Lowering the cholesterol

Devil’s claw has a potential to lower the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine. It contains natural plant sterols called beta sterols. These sterols are not absorbed through intestine into blood stream. These sterols prevent the absorption of bad cholesterol as well. Therefore, devil’s claw is a very good treatment option for people having high cholesterol level.

Lowering the blood pressure

Another effect of devil’s claw is its diuretic action. This helps in excreting out the extra water from body in form of urine which lowers down the blood volume and brings it back to normal. Thus by regulating the blood volume the devil’s claw maintains the blood pressure.

Allergic condition

Devil’s claw can be used safely in various allergic conditions. This herb inhibits the secretion of chemicals or mediators, which trigger allergic reactions in body.

Upset stomach

Devil’s claw helps in relieving the symptoms of upset stomach by suppressing the inflammation of stomach. People who suffer from heart burn can gain many benefits from the use of devil’s claw because it soothes the inflammation caused by acid reflux.

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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Published: February 17, 2014 11:00 PM
Next scheduled update: February 17, 2016 11:00 PM
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