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Devil's Claw

Scientific names: Harpagophytum procumbens

Common names: Devil's claw is also known as grapple plant, grapple vine, Radix Harpagophyti, wood spider, xwate.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Devil's Claw?

Devil's claw grows in the Kalahari Desert and Namibian steppes of southwest Africa. The plant is a weedy perennial whose fruits have small, claw-like protrusions. It has a strong central taproot growing up to 2 m deep, with secondary roots that are used in decoctions and teas. The plant has large and grey-green leaves, and produces pink, red, or purple, trumpet-shaped flowers.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Devil's claw has been used among native people of South Africa as a folk remedy for diseases ranging from liver and kidney disorders to allergies, headaches, and, most commonly, rheumatism. Devil's claw was reportedly introduced to Europe by a German soldier in the mid-1900s, and thereafter its popularity increased among British, Canadian, and European herbalists.

General uses

Devil's claw is marketed in Canada and Europe as a home remedy for the relief of arthritis. Clinical trials generally support its use as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic in low back pain and osteoarthritis.

What is the recommended dosage?

Devil's claw has been studied for low back pain, muscle pain, and osteoarthritis using daily doses of crude root up to 9 g, 1 to 3 g of extract, or harpagoside 50 to 100 mg.

How safe is it?


Because of the bitterness of the preparation, which increases stomach secretion, devil's claw should be avoided in patients with stomach or duodenal ulcers.


Documented adverse effects on the uterus. Avoid use.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Rare, generally consisting of headache, ringing of the ears, or loss of appetite.


Clinically important toxicity has not been observed in limited, short-term use.


  1. Devil's Claw. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; April 2012.

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