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Health Encyclopedia

Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

General Description

Devil's claw is a perennial plant native to desert regions of southern Africa and Madagascar. The common name of the plant, which is actually a translation of the German Teufelskralle, is derived from the plant's unusual fruits, which are covered with thorny, claw-like barbs. The plant lies dormant most of the year, awakening during times of sporadic rainfall to bring forth lush green leaves and bright red, trumpet-shaped blossoms. In order to store enough moisture to survive in its desert habitat, devil's claw has developed a specialized root system consisting of primary roots, which are roughly 1 meter in length, and several secondary storage roots, or tubers, which resemble potatoes. These tubers are harvested in autumn and dried for health purposes.

Health Applications

  • Joint health
  • Digestive aid

Chemical Composition

Pharmacological experiments conducted on devil's claw extracts have shown analgesic and antiinflammatory activity. The constituents believed responsible are a group of compounds known as iridoid glycosides, one of which, harpagoside, is widely viewed to be the herb's main active component.


The daily dosage approved by Commission E is 4.5 grams of dried root or equivalent preparations. There are no known side effects at this dosage. Clinical trials have used extracts providing the equivalent of 6 grams of dried root per day with no apparent toxicity. Devil's claw is not recommended for people with gastric or duodenal ulcers.

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