Devil’s Claw, has been used for centuries as a natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, and clinical trials have proven that it provides safe and effective relief to the millions of people afflicted with arthritis and other joint pain. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease that causes painful degradation and swelling of the joints, and can develop into a crippling condition that leaves many sufferers unable to function in their everyday life. Most patients rely on strong painkillers and NSAIDS to manage their pain, but long term use of these medications has been found to cause a number of liver and gastrointestinal disorders such as peptic ulcers, acid reflux and Barrett’s esophagus. Harpagophytum procumbens, better known as Devil’s Claw relieves much of the pain, stiffness and swelling from arthritis and is a great choice for those wishing to avoid the dangerous side effects of conventional pain medicines.
What is Devil’s Claw?
Devil’s claw originates from the Kalahari and Savannah desert regions of Africa, and is a member of the sesame family. It gets its ominous sounding name from the tiny hooks that protrude from the fruit, and these hooks will latch onto passing animals in order to spread the seeds. It was discovered by colonists in Africa in the 18th century, and its large tuberous roots are used to treat a wide range of different ailments including, inflammatory pain, fever, gout, arthritis, and digestive upset. It is generally considered safe for use and may produce only mild side effects in some sensitive individuals. The active ingredients in Devil’s claw are known as harpagosides, and it is these elements that have been found to act as pain relievers when taken orally.
Clinical Trials Indicate Devil’s Claw Efficacy for Arthritis Patients
There have been more than 30 clinical trials into the use of devil’s claw as a medicinal herb, and it is routinely prescribed to osteoarthritis sufferers by physicians in Germany. One 4 week study performed there involved 31 people being given 480mg of devil’s claw extract twice a day, while 32 people were given a placebo. Those taking the medication were found to have significant pain reduction compared to the group who were taking the placebo.
Another study which appeared in the medical journal Joint Bone Spine compared the effectiveness of 60mg of harpagosides per day against 12.5mg of an anti-inflammatory drug known as Vioxx. This study involving 79 patients with acute lower back pain lasted for 6 weeks, and Devil’s Claw was found to be just as effective as the medication in controlling pain.
In almost every trial conducted, Devil’s Claw has been found to be more effective than placebos and just as effective as pharmaceuticals. It was also found to have fewer side effects than chemical drugs, and many patients were able to discontinue their use of NSAIDS after a 4 week course of harpagosides. Executive director of The American Botanical Council, Mark Blumenthal stated that, “At least two previous clinical trials on devil’s claw have supported its use as an aid in treating lower back pain and rheumatic conditions. This is significant in that it is the first to show the potential benefits of Devil’s Claw for osteoarthritis.”
Devil’s claw is available as a capsule, tincture, or a tea can be made using the dried roots. It is recommended that patients should take at least 50mg of harpagosides per day, as this is the amount that the research has found to be the most beneficial. The exact amount of harpagosides present should be indicated on the label of the medicine, and those preferring to take it as a tea should prepare one teaspoon of dried root to 2 cups of boiling water.
Side Effects and Interactions
While devil’s claw is not considered to have any dangerous side effects, it can cause mild symptoms such as diarrhea, headache, nausea, or loss of appetite. It should be avoided by people taking medications that are changed by the liver such as Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates, voltaren, warfarin, valium, celebrex, etc. as it may reduce the liver’s ability to break down these medications. Diabetics, pregnant women, and those who suffer from gastric ulcers should also avoid taking this herbal remedy.
Herbal medicine is gaining in popularity partly due to the fact that more people are becoming aware of the dangers of toxic pharmaceuticals on the body, and partly because of the evidence provided by clinical trials on the effectiveness of herbs in treating and managing disease. The majority of herbal remedies have little to no harmful side effects when used according to directions, and can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of conventional drugs. Those wishing to take a herbal supplement should do so under the guidance of a trained herbalist in order to determine the correct dosage and treatment method.
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