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Devil's Claw

Devil's claw is a tender trailing perennial with tubers and many round to oval-shaped stems. The leaves have white, hairy undersides. Solitary, red to purple flowers, shaped like trumpets appear in spring followed by the characteristic large, hooked and claw-like fruit.

Devil's claw is a plant native to southern Africa. Its name comes from the small hooks on the plant's fruit. The active ingredients in devil's claw are believed to be iridoid glycosides called harpagosides, which are found in the secondary root.

Devil's claw has been used for thousands of years in Africa for fever, rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions, and conditions involving the gallbladder, pancreas, stomach and kidneys.

In the early 1900's, devil's claw was brought to Europe. It is used to improve digestion, as the bitter taste of devil's claw tea is thought to stimulate digestive juices.

Devil's Claw Essential Oil

Description: Devil's claw is a bitter, astringent, sedative and painkilling herb that reduces inflammation and stimulates the digestive system. Its main ingredient are iridoid glycosides (mainly harpagoside) as well as harpagide, phenolic glycosides (acteoside and isoacteoside), procumbide together with their cinnamic or coumarin acid esters.

Devil's Claw is known for its anti-inflammatory effects particularly in the maintenance of healthy joints.

Common Name: Devil's Claw, Grapple Plant, Wood Spider

Botanical Name: Harpagophytum procumbens

Family: Pedaliaceae

Plant Part: The sliced and dried secondary roots are used for medicinal purposes.

Therapeutic properties: analgesic, sedative and diuretic

Medicinal Uses: The two active ingredients in Devil's Claw are harpagoside and beta-sitosterol. It is claimed that these possess anti-inflammatory properties. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognises Devil's Claw as having analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties. Most studies involve chronic use rather than acute treatment of pain.

Devil's Claw is also claimed to be beneficial for treating diseases of the liver, kidneys, gallbladder and bladder, arthritis and rheumatism. It is said to help alleviate problems with and improve the vitality of the joints, as well as stimulating appetite and aid digestion, increase cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood.

Devil's Claw has been recommended for treating diabetes, hardening of the arteries, lumbago, gastrointestinal disturbances, menstrual difficulties, neuralgia, headache, heartburn and gout

Common Uses: the primary use of devil's claw today is for conditions that cause inflammation and pain:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tendinitis

Internal use

  • Devil's claw is used internally to treat rheumatoid arthritis, neuralgia and problems involving the gall bladder and pancreas.
  • It is also very effective in treating lower back pain, as well as digestive problems, loss of appetite and the treatment of pain during and after childbirth or labor.

External use

  • Devil's claw is used externally to treat swollen, arthritic joints as well as boils, sores and skin ulcers.
  • Aromatherapy and essential oil use o None noted.

Side effects: Devil's claw has been known to trigger an allergic reaction.


Devil's claw may interfere with the action of Ticlopidine and Warfarin, and patients should consult with a physician before combining Devil's claw with these medications. In addition, Devil's Claw promotes the secretion of stomach acid, leading to difficulties in those with peptic ulcers, gastritis or excess stomach acid. Care should also be taken for individuals with gallstones.

  • Devil's claw should not be used by people with gastric or duodenal ulcers.
  • People with gallstones should consult a doctor before using devil's claw.
  • People with diabetes or who are taking medication that affects their blood sugar should only use devil's claw under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner. In one study, devil's claw extract resulted in reductions in blood glucose in fasted normal and diabetic animals.
  • Devil's claw should not be used by people who are or may be pregnant, as it is believed to cause uterine contractions.

GENERAL SAFETY INFORMATION: Caution should be taken when using Essential Oils. Do not use any oils without consultation from a qualified aroma therapy practitioner. All Essential Oils should be kept out of the reach of children.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided purely for informational purposes only, and does not in any way purport to be medical or prescriptive suggestions. Any reference to medicinal or health benefits is not meant to treat or diagnose any problem and is not meant to replace professional medical advice and should not take the place of any prescribed medication that has been prescribed by a physician.

The material in this website is not meant to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Since the actual use of essential oils by others is beyond our control, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken. Essential oils are to be used at your own discretion. Any application of the recommendations is at user's sole risk. The Altiec disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of this information and assumes no responsibility for any actions taken.


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