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Devil's Claw - What You Need to Know

Devil's Claw Is a Dietary Supplement Used to Treat Osteoarthritis

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Updated March 30, 2009

What Is Devil's Claw?

Devil's claw is a perennial shrub that is native to Southern Africa. It has lush foliage and red flowers. It is named Devil's claw because of tiny hooks that cover its fruit. Devil's claw has branching roots and shoots. Secondary roots (called tubers) grow out of the main roots. It is the roots and tubers that are used to treat certain maladies.

As a modern, popular dietary supplement, devil's claw is used to treat degenerative joint diseases (like osteoarthritis), low back pain, and to aid digestion.

Indications for Use of Devil's Claw / How It Works

Studies have found that taking Devil's claw for several months reduces pain and improves physical function in osteoarthritis patients.

The active ingredient in Devil's claw is iridoid glycosides -- specifically harpagoside. Devil's claw appears to inhibit COX-2 but not COX-1.

Availability of Devil's Claw

You can get Devil's claw as dried or fresh root supplements -- or in capsules, tablets, liquid extract, and topical ointments. Tea can be made from the dried leaf of Devil's claw too.

Precautions and Warnings for Devil's Claw

When taken as directed, Devil's claw has few side effects. With higher dose, there may be mild gastrointestinal problems. If you have a stomach ulcer, duodenal ulcer, or gallstones -- you should not take Devil's claw. The safety during pregnancy is undetermined.

Devil's claw may interact with blood-thinning medications. There are also potential interactions with ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, medications for diabetes, diuretics, abd herbs that have blood-thinning properties.

Bottom Line

Devil's claw seems promising, but more studies to determine long-term effectiveness and long-term safety should be conducted before it is recommended as a treatment for osteoarthritis.

Sources:

Devil's Claw. Complementary Medicine. University of Maryland Medical Center. 10/27/2008.
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/devils-claw-000237.htm

Dietary Supplements for Osteoarthritis. American Family Physician. January 15, 2008. Gregory PJ et al.
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20080115/177.html

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