Origin - Africa, particularly southern Africa
Description - Devil's Claw, also called grapple plant, and wood spider (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a perennial, herbaceous plant that grows in the steppes of Namibia and the Kalahari Desert. In Europe, particularly Germany, Devilís claw derives its name from its large hooked, claw-like fruit which has been known to harm and trap livestock grazing nearby. The tuber is used medicinally and has become a primary treatment for arthritis and rheumatism. In the Kalahari Desert and Namiblan steppes, the root is also used as a treatment for indigestion and other gastrointestinal problems in the same manner as Western bitters are used. Devilís claw is also used externally as an ointment to treat arthrosis, tendonitis, skin rashes, wounds, etc.
Medicinal uses - Devilís claw has been used in Africa and in German medical clinics for liver, gall bladder and kidney ailments, lymphatic system toxicity, diabetes, nervous malaise, respiratory ailments, blood diseases and indigestion. Most clinical studies have shown that this plant has strong anti-inflammatory properties and is extremely helpful for sufferers of arthritis and inflammatory diseases. Devilís claw was reported helpful to reduce swelling relieve pain, improve motility in the joints, and improved feeling of well-being. The British Herbal Pharmacopoea recognizes devilís claw as having anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties. In addition devilís claw has proved effective in treating such complaints as dyspepsia and conditions relating to the proper functioning of bile salts, the gallbladder, and the enterohepatic circuit.
Pharmacology - Two components of the plant, harpogoside and beta sitosterol have anti-inflammatory properties. Whole Devilís claw, however, was found to be superior to isolated harpogoside. Devilís claw also possesses a bitter value of 6,000 Ė equivalent to gentian root, the main western bitter. In veterinary medicine studies on this plant are contradictory - some claiming a marked analgesic and anti-inflammatory response (reduction in edema, effect in chemical stimulus tests), and others reporting that the plant is completely inactive. The main difference between the two extremes seems to be the avenue of administration of the plant. When veterinary researchers injected freeze-dried acqueous extract, results were statistically significant, but orally fed devil's claw seems to elicit little or no response. One theory is that the ruminatory stomach acid of animals like horses affects the chemical structure of the active phytochemicals. The controversy is unresolved, but oral Devil's Claw is regularly used effectively in human medicine!
Toxicity, Cautions & Contraindications - Side effects are rare. Devilís claw should be avoided during pregnancy as it has been suggested that it stimulates the uterine muscle. Devilís claw has extremely low toxicity.
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