Devil's Claw

Common Names

  • Grapple plant
  • Wood spider

For Patients & Caregivers

Available evidence indicates that devil’s claw can benefit those with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, and back pain.

Devil’s claw is a plant native to South Africa and is used in traditional medicine to treat rheumatism, arthritis, inflammation, and stomach disorders. Currently, preparations of devil’s claw root are used as anti-inflammatory agents and to releive pain. Laboratory and animal studies show that devil’s claw has anti-inflammatory, pain releiving, antioxidant and appetite suppressant effects. It also helps slow bone loss caused by inflammation. Human studies indicate its benefits in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, and rheumatic disorders. More research is needed.

 

  • To suppress appetite
    Animal study suggests that devil’s claw can suppress appetite. Human data are lacking.
  • To treat gastrointestinal disorders
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To reduce inflammation
    Lab and animal studies show that devil’s claw is effective against inflammation.
  • To relieve pain
    Clinical data indicate benefits of devil’s claw for relief of back pain.
  • To treat osteoarthritis
    Devil’s claw was shown effective against osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.

A case controlled study suggests increased risk of acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) with use of devil’s claw.

  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450 1A2/2C8/2C9/2C19/2D6 and 3A4 enzymes: Devil’s claw may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs. But according to another study, the interaction may not have any clinical significance.
  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of P-glycoprotein: Devil’s claw may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion) has been reported following consumption of a devil’s claw extract.
  • Ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding have occurred with use of devil’s claw root.
  • Intake of a product containing devil’s claw for osteoarthritis resulted in systemic hypertension in a 62-year-old healthy postmenopausal woman.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Doloteffin ™
Harpagophytum procumbens

Devil’s claw is a plant native to South Africa and is used in traditional medicine to treat rheumatism, arthritis, inflammation, and stomach disorders. Currently, preparations of devil’s claw root are used as anti-inflammatory agents and to releive pain.

In vitro and animal studies indicate that devil’s claw has antioxidant (5), anti-inflammatory (9) (15), analgesic (16), anti-osteoporotic (17) (18) and appetite suppressant (19) effects.

Limited data from clinical studies suggest benefits of devil’s claw for osteoarthritis of the hip or knee (6), back pain (7) (20) and rheumatic disorders (21). Additional well-designed clinical trials are needed to determine the potential of devil’s claw for arthritic conditions.

  • Anorexia
  • GI disorders
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain

Harpagide, an iridoid glycoside isolated from devil’s claw, is responsible for the herbs’s anti-inflamamtory effects. It was shown to inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines including interleukins IL-1beta, IL-6, and tumor-necrosis factor (TNF-alpha) in mouse macrophage cells (15). A devil’s claw extract also demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity via inhibiting the induction of pro-inflammatory gene expression, possibly by blocking the activator protein (AP-1, a transcription factor) pathway (9).

Harpagide may also prevent bone loss by regulating the stimulation of osteoblast differentiation and the suppression of osteoclast formation in  mice (17). In another study, it was shown to block lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced bone loss in a model of inflammatory osteoporosis. However, harpagide was not effective in preventing bone loss mediated by ovariectomy in postmenopausal osteoporosis (18).

Investigations of the mechanisms underlying the pain-releiving activity of devil’s claw showed involvement of the heme oxygenase-1/carbon monoxide (plays a role in nociceptive processing) system in carrageenan-induced inflammatory pain (22). Devil’s claw  exerts antioxidant effects by scavenging both superoxide and peroxyl in a dose dependent manner (5).

Beta-sitosterol, a sterol found in devil’s claw, has anticancer properties but the mechanism of action is unknown (23).

  • A case controlled study suggests increased risk of acute pancreatitis with use of devil’s claw (10).
  • Dyspepsia has been reported following consumption of a devil’s claw extract (6).
  • Ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding have occurred with use of devil’s claw root (11).
  • Intake of a product containing devil’s claw for osteoarthritis resulted in systemic hypertension in a 62-year-old healthy postmenopausal woman (12).
  • Cytochrome P450 enzymes: Devil’s claw root can inhibit CYP1A2/2C8/2C9/2C19/2D6 and 3A4, and may interact with substances metabolized by these enzymes (8). But conflicting data suggest that the interactions are not clinically relevant (13).
  • P-Glycoprotein (P-gP): Devil’s claw modulates both the activity and expression of P-Gp, and may affect the transport of drugs mediated by this protein (14).

  1. Newall CA, et al.Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.

  2. Wichtl MW. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 1994.

  3. Schulz V, et al. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies, 3rd ed. Berlin (Germany): Springer; 1998.

  4. Fiebich BL, et al. Inhibition of TNF-alpha synthesis in LPS-stimulated primary human monocytes by Harpagophytum extract SteiHap 69. Phytomedicine 2001;8:28-30.

  5. Gagnier JJ, van Tulder MW, Berman B, et al. Herbal medicine for low back pain. Spine 2007;32(1):82-92.

  6. Douros A, Bronder E, Andersohn F, et al. Drug-induced acute pancreatitis: results from the hospital-based Berlin case-control surveillance study of 102 cases. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Oct;38(7):825-34.

  7. Cuspidi C, Sala C, Tadic M, Grassi G, Mancia G. Systemic Hypertension Induced by Harpagophytum procumbens (devil’s claw): A Case Report. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2015 Nov;17(11):908-10.

  8. Romiti N, Tramonti G, Corti A, Chieli E. Effects of Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) on the multidrug transporter ABCB1/P-glycoprotein. Phytomedicine. 2009 Dec;16(12):1095-100.

  9. Lim DW, Kim JG, Han D, Kim YT. Analgesic effect of Harpagophytum procumbens on postoperative and neuropathic pain in rats. Molecules. 2014 Jan 16;19(1):1060-8.

  10. Torres-Fuentes C, Theeuwes WF, McMullen MK, et al. Devil’s Claw to suppress appetite—ghrelin receptor modulation potential of a Harpagophytum procumbens root extract.  PLoS One. 2014 Jul 28;9(7):e103118.

  11. Warnock M, McBean D, Suter A, Tan J, Whittaker P. Effectiveness and safety of Devil’s Claw tablets in patients with general rheumatic disorders. Phytother Res. 2007 Dec;21(12):1228-33.

  12. Parenti C, Aricò G, Chiechio S, Di Benedetto G, Parenti R, Scoto GM. Involvement of the Heme-Oxygenase Pathway in the Antiallodynic and Antihyperalgesic Activity of Harpagophytum procumbens in Rats. Molecules. 2015 Sep 15;20(9):16758-69.

  13. Lomenick B, Shi H, Huang J, Chen C. Identification and characterization of β-sitosterol target proteins. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2015 Nov 1;25(21):4976-9

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