Devil's Claw

Common Names

  • Grapple plant
  • wood spider

For Patients & Caregivers

There is limited proof from clinical trials that devil’s claw can reduce inflammation or relieve pain.

Devil’s claw is a root extract. It has been studied to some extent in test tubes and in animals, but its biological effects in humans are still not sorted out. In laboratory animals, devil’s claw extracts reduce inflammation and cause pain relief, and also acts as an antioxidant. One study showed possible benefits for relieving some forms of arthritis, however, another study showed that devil’s claw is not as effective as drugs such as aspirin in reducing inflammation. In rats, different doses of devil’s claw have different effects on the heart: low doses seem to cause reduced heart rate and increased strength of contraction, while high doses seem to weaken heart contractions and coronary blood flow. These effects have not been shown in humans.

  • To increase appetite
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat gastrointestinal disorders
    No scientific evidence supports this use. Devil’s claw might increase acid production by the stomach.
  • To reduce inflammation
    Studies in animals show a weak anti-inflammatory activity, but studies in humans do not support this use.
  • To relieve pain
    Studies in animals suggest that devil’s claw can relieve pain, but there is no proof from clinical trials that this effect occurs in humans.
  • To treat osteoarthritis
    Studies in animals suggest that devil’s claw can reduce inflammation, but there is limited proof from clinical trials that this herb can treat osteoarthritis.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You are taking antacids or H2 blockers (Devil’s claw can increase the production of stomach acid and reduce the effectiveness of these medications).
  • You are taking beta blockers or digoxin (Devil’s claw might interfere with these medications).
  • You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners (Devil’s claw might increase the risk of bleeding).
  • Diarrhea
  • Slowed heart rate (bradycardia) is a potential side effect
  • Upset stomach
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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 for the treatment of a variety of diseases. Currently, preparations of devil’s claw root are used as anti-inflammatory agents and to releive pain. It is thought that the iridoid glucosides, constituents of the herb, may be responsible for its activity, but they are not active when administered separately from the whole root extract. Analysis of commercial products reveals wide variance in chemical components and the basis for chemical standardization is unknown.

An open clinical study showed that devil’s claw may benefit patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee (6). A systematic review of clinical trials suggests it may also be effective in treating low back pain (7).

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

Devil’s claw exerts antioxidant effects by scavenging both superoxide and peroxyl in a dose dependent manner (5). Its anti-inflammatory activity was shown to be via inhibiting the induction of pro-inflammatory gene expression, possibly by blocking the activator protein (AP-1, a transcription factor) pathway (9).

In vitro and in vivo animal studies have shown some evidence that devil’s claw might be cardioprotective. Lower doses seem to cause bradycardia and increase the strength of contraction, and high doses seem to weaken heart contractions and coronary blood flow (2).

  • 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. Langmead L, et al. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2002;16:197-205.
  6. Wegener T, Lupke NP. Treatment of patients with arthrosis of hip or knee with an aqueous extract of devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens DC.). Phytother Res. 2003 Dec;17(10):1165-72.
  7. Gagnier JJ, van Tulder MW, Berman B, et al. Herbal medicine for low back pain. Spine 2007;32(1):82-92.
  8. Unger M, Frank A. Simultaneous determination of the inhibitory potency of herbal extracts on the activity of six major cytochrome P450 enzymes using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry and automated online extraction. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2004;18(19):2273-81.
  9. Fiebich BL, Muñoz E, Rose T, Weiss G, McGregor GP. Molecular targets of the antiinflammatory Harpagophytum procumbens (devil’s claw): inhibition of TNFα and COX-2 gene expression by preventing activation of AP-1. Phytother Re. 2012 Jun;26(6):806-11.
  10. 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.
  11. Devil’s claw root: ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding? Prescrire Int. 2013 Dec;22(144):296.
  12. 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.
  13. Modarai M, Suter A, Kortenkamp A, Heinrich M. The interaction potential of herbal medicinal products: a luminescence-based screening platform assessing effects on cytochrome P450 and its use with devil’s claw (Harpagophyti radix) preparations. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2011 Mar;63(3):429-38.
  14. 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.
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