Devil's Claw

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Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
+1 (Slight Evidence)
Lower back pain
+1 (Slight Evidence)


  • Devil’s claw (Hapagophytum procumbens) is a plant native to Africa. The name comes from the appearance of the fruit, which is covered in hooks that become attached to animals whose natural roaming behavior spreads the seeds.
  • An extract made from dried tuberous roots of the plant has historically been used in southern and southeastern Africa to treat a wide range of conditions, including fever, malaria, and indigestion.
  • Devil’s claw is used in Europe as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic for joint disease, back pain and headaches.
  • Some studies show that devil’s claw may be effective for treating low back pain and osteoarthritis, possibly due to anti-inflammatory activity.


  • Devil’s claw is available in capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, topical ointments and teas made of dried root. The amount of active ingredient [iridoid glycosides, harpagoside] content responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect varies markedly among these products. Preliminary evidence shows no better than marginal effects overall, and well-design studies are lacking.
  • Potential side effects include gastrointestinal upset (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain) and diarrhea.
  • Devil’s claw increases stomach acid production and may decrease the effectiveness of two classes of stomach acid reducers: histamine-receptor blockers (e.g., famotidine, ranitidine) or proton pump inhibitors (e.g., pantoprazole, omeprazole).
  • In patients with a history of stomach ulcers, devil’s claw may re-activate the ulcer. Several cases of gastrointestinal bleeding associated with the use of devil’s claw have been reported, so it should be avoided by patients taking blood thinners such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or warfarin.
  • Devil’s claw may lower blood sugar with additive effects to diabetes medications such as insulin.
  • Devil’s claw can affect heart rate, blood pressure and heart contractility. It must be used with great caution in patients with heart disease, especially arrhythmias (abnormal rhythms) and those on antiarrhythmic drugs.
  • Devil’s claw may increase bile production and affect patients with gallstones. It should be avoided in this group of patients.
  • A case-control surveillance study for drug-induced pancreatitis showed that devil’s claw may increase risk of acute pancreatitis.
  • Short-term use of devil’s claw appears to be moderately safe, but safety and efficacy data are available for no longer than 2-3 months.

DOSAGE:Taken as an extract, effective dosing of devil’s claw contains 50-100 mg harpagoside daily, divided into three doses, for 2-4 months.

CONCLUSION:If you elect to try Devil's Claw, remember to include it in your list of medications when you visit your doctor and other health care providers.

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