Habitat & Cultivation : Devil’s claw is indigenous to Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, and it is considered a protected species due to concerns about over-harvesting of wild plants. The plant thrives in clay or sandy soils, particularly in areas such as roadsides and wasteground where natural vegetation has been cleared. Propagation typically involves the use of seeds in the spring, and the young tubers are unearthed in autumn. These tubers, which contain the active constituents, are then cut into pieces about 2 cm (¾ in) long.
It’s important to exercise caution and prevent the mixing of tubers with the roots during harvesting, as this can potentially render the herb ineffective.
- Iridoid glycosides (harpagoside)
- Sugars (stachyose)
- Digestive stimulant
- Anti-inflammatory : French research (1992) indicated that devil’s claw is anti-inflammatory, but opinion is divided on its effectiveness in practice.
- Pain relief : There is some evidence to confirm devil claw’s use as an analgesic as it seems to be effective in easing the symptoms of joint pain.
- Bitter : The intense bitter action of devil’s claw serves to stimulate and tone the digestive system. In many cases, arthritic conditions are linked to poor digestion and inadequate absorption of food. The stimulating effect of devil’s claw on the stomach and gallbladder contributes to its overall therapeutic value as an anti-arthritic remedy. By promoting better digestion and nutrient absorption, devil’s claw may indirectly support the management of arthritic conditions.
Traditional & Current Uses
- African traditional remedy : Devil’s claw has been traditionally used by various peoples in southern Africa, including the Khoisan and the Bantu, for a range of health purposes. Among its traditional uses, devil’s claw has been employed as a tonic, particularly for digestive issues. Additionally, it has been used for managing arthritis and rheumatism, reducing fevers, and as an ointment for treating sores, ulcers, and boils. The plant holds a significant place in traditional medicine practices in the region for its diverse therapeutic applications.
- Western uses : The contemporary use of devil’s claw in Western cultures closely aligns with its traditional applications. It is frequently available over-the-counter in tablet form, specifically for addressing arthritic and rheumatic conditions. Devil’s claw is known to provide relief from pain associated with various joint and muscular issues, including gout, back pain, fibrositis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Its accessibility in different formulations reflects its continued popularity as a natural remedy for managing a range of musculoskeletal discomforts.