Herbal Meds

Using Devil's Claw as an herbal chronic pain reliever

This herbal remedy derives its name from the fruit which has thorns at the end of fleshy stalks, making it look like a claw.  Native to southern Africa, this plant has been used in herbal medicines for thousands of years.  It was first introduced to Europe in the early 1900's and the dried roots were used for relieving pain and inflammation and to assist with digestive disorders.  Today, devil's claw is used as a digestive tonic and as a long-term herbal remedy for the treatment of joint pain and arthritic conditions.

The parts of devil's claw that are used to make herbal medicines are called tubers, which are the fleshy, underground stems.  The components responsible for this plant's medicinal properties are called harpagoside, harpagide and procumbide and are part of the iridoid glycoside family which all act as pain-killers and anti-inflammatories.

Studies conducted with devil's claw show that this herbal remedy has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties useful in the treatment of fibrositis and fibromyalgia, gout, lumbago, rheumatic disease and other arthritic conditions.  It was noted that devil's claw was most efficient in treating chronic pain, making it ideal to use over the long-term.  The tubers of the devil's claw plant also contain flavonoids, which are powerful anti-oxidants with healing properties.  

A study to test the effectiveness of devil's claw was conducted on 122 people suffering with hip and knee osteo-arthritis.  The devil's claw herbal medicine not only reduced pain and inflammation, but markedly improved functional ability.  The same effect was reported as that of a leading prescription medicine for osteo-arthritis.  Fewer side effects were also reported amongst people using devil's claw.

In another study conducted, people who suffered from lower back and neck pain were treated with a standardized devil's claw herbal medicine for 4 weeks.  These subjects all reported a significant decrease in chronic pain and needed fewer commercial pain killers.  

An excellent bitters, with a bitters value equaling that of gentian root, devil's claw is widely used in Europe as a digestive tonic.  This herbal remedy is used to treat gastrointestinal complaints such as dyspeptic symptoms, flatulence and gallbladder disorders.  An infusion made of the roots of devil's claw can also ease mild digestive disorders such as nausea, stomach upsets and gastric ulcers.

Traditionally, devil's claw was used to make an ointment used topically to treat minor wounds and skin abrasions, ulcers and boils, however more research into the effectiveness of this herbal remedy as an ointment is needed.

What are the side effects of Devil's Claw?

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

Side effects are rarely reported, but a few cases of headaches and slight digestive discomfort was reported in some patients.  Devil's claw is nontoxic and at the recommended dosages, is one of the most effective long-term herbal pain relievers.

Devil's claw should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.

People using blood thinning medication such as Warfarin should not use devil's claw.  If you are using medication for high blood pressure or any heart disease, do not take devil's claw.

How do I use Devil's Claw?

When purchasing devil's claw herbal supplements, make sure that it is from a reputable manufacturer, as unpure and unsafe forms have been found in some stores.

The active ingredients in devil's claw work synergistically, so look for supplements that contain both the raw root powder and the extract of the root.  

For the treatment of pain and inflammation, take 400 mg of the herbal extract three times a day.  

To make an infusion of devil's claw, use a cup of boiling water with 1.5 g of powdered dried root.  Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, then strain and drink.  

Improvement is usually seen within three to four weeks and you should not use devil's claw for a period longer than five months.  Discontinue use for a few weeks and then continue taking the herbal medicine at the recommended dosages.

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