If you haven’t heard about devil’s claw root, it’s time you learned about this powerful little herb that boasts big anti-inflammatory benefits.
Known also as grapple plant or wood spider, devil’s claw root hails from eastern and southern Africa, notably from Namibia and Botswana and quite frequently found in South Africa. It’s a green, weedy perineal that has purple, trumpet-like flowers.
Its botanical name is Harpagophytum procumbans.
Devil’s claw root gets its name from the claw-like appearance of its fruit. In the middle of the devil’s claw fruit is a capsule that splits open at the ends into hook-like tubes that resemble a large arachnid.
Medicinally, its roots or tubes are dried for a minimum of three days and then chopped and made into another form, usually, a powder, a capsule, a medicinal tea or a liquid concoction mixed in alcohol.
This traditional herb has been used across Africa for decades to treat many ailments including pain. It has a bitter taste.
Inside the root is a chemical compound containing harpagosides, part of a greater group of compounds known as iridoid glycosides. These compounds are where the root gets its anti-inflammatory properties. Devil’s claw root helps reduce indigestion, heal sores and treat the pain that comes from inflammatory disorders. Here are a few ways that devil’s claw root has been used to help treat chronic pain and other pain issues.
Thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of the root, the herb can be used to treat all types of arthritis pain. Back pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, and muscle pain can all benefit from the use of devil’s claw root. Current studies are interested in the role the herb could play in the treatment of osteoarthritis. One European study in 2000 showed patients who used devil’s claw root experienced the same improvements with pain reduction and increased joint movement as their counterparts who used an analgesic drug treatment. The idea that devil’s claw may be a natural treatment that would eliminate the need for other types of drug treatment is an avenue worth exploring. Another 2002 study showed improvements in pain reduction, mobility and improved flexibility after just eight weeks of using devil’s claw root as in comparison to a group receiving a placebo. Though the consensus is that more studies need to take place before devil’s claw root is used in place of other pain regimens for osteoarthritis, the idea is intriguing for the prospect of treating chronic pain.
The compounds within the root not only treats inflammation in the bones and joints, but it also helps with stomach upset and gastrointestinal pain. For those with gout, it may lower uric acid levels and help lead to less pain and inflammation. It can also help boost appetite and help aid in the process of digestion.
Other ailments that devil’s claw root may be helpful for include menstrual cramps, allergies, skin issues and kidney, and bladder conditions. Studies are also trying to look at its effect on atherosclerosis, a condition where the arteries harden.
It’s always important to check with your doctor before adding any new herbs to your daily regimen. Those who are pregnant or nursing should avoid using the herb. Also, those with cardiac conditions, ulcers, those taking an antacid and especially those on blood thinners, like Warfarin, should avoid using devil’s claw root in their treatment plan. Long-term use has not been studied, so make sure to keep a check on yourself if you plan on using for a longer duration.
Devil’s Claw Root has been used for decades to treat ailments that cause pain and stomach upset. Its fame has traveled with it from the Kalahari Desert to the streets of Europe to today’s global landscape. Though more studies are needed before this traditional herb becomes a natural medicine cabinet staple, it’s definitely worth the discussion with your doctor about the benefits it could mean for you.
For those of us that live with chronic pain each day, the effects of devil’s claw root on our pain is an exciting avenue to explore. The anti-inflammatory properties paired with the folklore that’s lasted through the ages provides a look at exciting advancements in back pain, arthritis, and gastrointestinal issues.