How does it feel?
The first impression in tasting devil’s claw is a dry bitter taste (due mainly to its most active constituent harpagoside), with a very slight sweetness. The bitterness is not excessive but lingering and persists in the mouth for many minutes.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of devil’s claw’s key qualities below to learn more:
It is notable that indigenous Kalahari tribespeople used laolao (devil’s claw) not only for joints and muscle pains, that the other use of devil’s claw was as a digestive remedy and to reduce fever.
What can I use it for?
Devil’s claw is specifically used in modern times as a natural and safe treatment for back pain, particularly lower back pain, and osteoarthritis. It should be taken in relatively high doses for at least a month to see real benefits.
Into the heart of devil’s claw
Although modern laboratory research has not fully explained its effects it is clear that they are different from the usual aspirin-based or steroidal medicines most often used in conventional treatments for arthritis, and there are no reports of stomach or other digestive upsets. It is best to see this remedy as a gentle but potentially effective contribution to managing persistent aches and pains.
The use of devil’s claw was prominent amongst the indigenous San and Khoi people of southern Africa, and was further adopted by Bantu-speakers. These peoples used the root tuber for a range of conditions including joint and muscle pains, digestive problems, headaches and fever management, and externally for skin inflammations, wounds, ulcers, boils and the relief of pain.
What practitioners say
In modern herbal clinical practice devil’s claw is used almost entirely as a herbal substitute for anti-inflammatory medicines. Its indigenous use however reflects its bitter digestive prospects and this may merit further exploration in modern practice.
Evidence and experience suggests that devil’s claw needs to be provided in relatively large doses for real benefit, with over 3 grams per day over at least a month or two for back pain and arthritis. It is also likely to be more effective for moderate rather than severe problems.
Did you know?
Devil’s claw has a nasty way of propagating itself. The name is supposed to have arisen from the desperate dance that animals use in an attempt to extricate from their feet the grappling claws on the fruit.
Research evidence points to a very good safety profile and one systematic review of published clinical trials on devil’s claw concluded that adverse effects were comparable with placebo.
There is little consistent indication of the way in which devil’s claw could reduce inflammation but some COX2-mediated reduction in NF-kappaB activity has been reported for harpagoside.
The 2016 Cochrane review on herbal treatment for low back pain (the leading source of evidence-based systematic reviews) has concluded that with caveats for methodological quality devil’s claw has an impact on arthritic pain greater than placebo. An earlier review had concluded that there was moderate evidence of benefit in osteoarthritic conditions as well as low back pain for devil’s claw preparations delivering between 50-100mg harpagoside.
To see the references used in this summary check our downloadable Expert Herbal Reality Resource pdf
3-6 g/day of the dried root taken between meals.
- Iridoid glycosides (0.5 to 3.0%), primarily harpagoside, isoharpagoside, harpagide, procumbide
- Phenolic acids and glycosides,
It is possible that the iridoid glycosides are converted into an active monoterpene alkaloid aucubinine B by bacterial species in the gut microbiome This could be significant factor in modulating inflammation and would add to the variability in effects that have been noted in clinical trials.