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Taking Devil's Claw for Arthritis

Updated on November 4, 2012
Devil's claw is a herbal remedy for arthritis.
Devil's claw is a herbal remedy for arthritis. | Source

What is Devil's Claw?

Devil's claw is a plant native to the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa. The fruit of the plant is covered in small claws which is how it got it's name. The natives of the Kalahari have used the plant medicinally for centuries in two ways. They dry and chop the roots either to be ingested for pain and indigestion. They also use it topically for treatment of sores and skin problems.

At the end of the First World War a German named Mehnert began work on the study of devil's claw for the treatment of arthritis, having discovered it in the Kalahari desert. He developed a system of drying the roots and studied the value of this plant for 40 years, concluding that it did indeed have a place in the management of arthritis pain as well as having other medicinal uses, for example, as a cleanser and detoxifier for the liver.

Research and Devil's claw

There are have been research studies conducted on the use of devil' claw in the treatment of arthritic pain .The research findings differ from one study to the next and the results are inconsistent. In one study comparing it to a prescription medication, it was found to be just as effective in reducing pain and increasing mobility over a four month period. However this study also qualifies the results in the context of another study which concluded that the prescription medication that it was compared with was not effective in treating arthritis.

Three other arthritis studies comparing the use of devil's claw in comparison with a placebo found that there was a significant improvement in pain relief for those who were using devil's claw.

Similar results were found when using devil's claw to treat neck and lower back pain and again when compared to a prescription medication, it was found to be just as effective with fewer side effects.

A 2002 study reported that after taking 60mg of devil's claw daily over an eight week period, between 50% and 70% of the 227 participants had reduced pain along with increased mobility and joint flexibility.

Clearly, there is ample evidence from clinical trials that devil's claw is an effective remedy for arthritis. However, it is not yet known how it works and it is said to be more widely known and used in Europe than in America.

Other Uses, Side Effects and Contraindications

The active ingredient in devil's claw is harpagoside and it is also attributed with having other medicinal ingredients. It is claimed to be effective in reducing uric acid in the treatment of gout.

It is also used in the treatment of loss of appetite, heartburn and other digestive conditions. Hay fever, bronchial asthma, eczema, headaches and obesity as well as other conditions are treated by using devil's claw.

Devil's claw is contraindicated in pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is not recommended for use with anti-coagulant drugs. It is recommended to consult a doctor before taking it if one has a heart condition, gallstones or ulcers. It is also contraindicated for use by diabetics.

Perhaps the safest approach is to consult a doctor prior to taking it even if one does not have any of these conditions particularly if one is taking other medications to avoid adverse drug reactions.

The side-effects of devil's claw are reported to be headache, tinnitus and stomach upset.

The long-term effects of taking devil's claw are unknown but even though there are contraindications for taking it in some instances (i.e. to avoid adverse interactions with other medicines etc.) , it is clear that it does have a part to play in the management and treatment of arthritic pain. It can be used effectively for arthritis as an alternative to some prescription medications.

Have you ever used devil's claw?

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    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 4 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Glad you like it ologsinquito and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

      Hi Kate,

      I have never heard of devil's claw until now, even though I'm very interested in natural healing. This was very interesting. Voted up.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Glad the hub was of use to you innerspin and thank you for taking the time to comment-much appreciated.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      This was interesting because I bought some devil's claw capsules a couple of months ago. They've had no effect, mainly as they are sitting unused in my cupboard. Your hub has reminded me why I chose to buy them, the studies seem worthwhile. I'll go put the capsules on my table as a reminder to take them!