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Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

    Common devils claw

    Family: Pedaliaceae

    Grow zone: 9-11

    Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a plant native to the southern regions of Africa. It has a long history of traditional use in African medicine for various health conditions. The name “devil’s claw” comes from the plant’s peculiar appearance, characterized by its fruits that have hooked appendages resembling claws.

    In modern herbal medicine, devil’s claw is primarily known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The plant contains several active compounds, including harpagoside, harpagide, and procumbide, which are believed to contribute to its therapeutic effects.

    Here are some of the potential health benefits and uses of devil’s claw:

    1. Pain relief: Devil’s claw is commonly used to alleviate pain, particularly associated with conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, and lower back pain. It is thought to reduce inflammation and inhibit certain pain pathways in the body.
    2. Anti-inflammatory effects: The plant’s active compounds have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce swelling and relieve symptoms of inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
    3. Digestive disorders: Devil’s claw has been used traditionally to treat digestive ailments, including indigestion, loss of appetite, and gastric ulcers. It is believed to stimulate digestive secretions and promote a healthy digestive system.
    4. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure: Some studies suggest that devil’s claw may have a positive impact on cholesterol levels and blood pressure. However, further research is needed to establish its effectiveness in this regard.
    5. Skin conditions: Topical preparations of devil’s claw have been used to soothe skin irritations, eczema, and psoriasis. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties may help reduce itching and inflammation.

    Devil’s claw is typically available in various forms, including dried roots, capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and topical creams or ointments. It is important to follow the recommended dosage instructions provided by the manufacturer or consult a healthcare professional for proper usage.

    While devil’s claw is generally considered safe for short-term use, some individuals may experience mild side effects such as digestive discomfort, diarrhea, or allergic reactions. People with gallstones, gastric or duodenal ulcers, or those taking blood-thinning medications should exercise caution and consult a healthcare provider before using devil’s claw.

    Medicinal Effects:

    Alterative (Health - increase; Vitality - increase): Restoring proper functioning to the body's metabolism, increasing health and vitality as well
    Analgesic (Pain - reduce; Anodyne): Relieves or diminishes pain
    Anti-inflammatory: Alleviate inflammation throughout the body
    Anti-rheumatic (Arthritis - Relief): Alleviate symptoms associated with arthritis, such as joint pain and stiffness. Available in various forms, including capsules, extracts, and topical creams, which are used for joint pain relief.
    Arthritis - Reduce Inflammation/Swelling (Anti-rheumatic): Alleviate symptoms associated with arthritis, such as joint pain and stiffness. Available in various forms, including capsules, extracts, and topical creams, which are used for joint pain relief.
    Sedative (also see Hypnotic):

    How to grow and harvest:

    Growing and harvesting devil’s claw requires specific conditions and attention to ensure the plant’s successful growth.

    1. Climate and Growing Conditions:
      • Devil’s claw is a plant native to the arid regions of southern Africa. It thrives in hot, dry climates.
      • Choose a location with full sun exposure, as devil’s claw requires at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
      • The soil should be well-draining, sandy, and slightly acidic with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
      • Ensure that the temperature remains above freezing throughout the growing season.
    2. Obtaining Seeds or Seedlings:
      • Devil’s claw can be propagated from seeds or seedlings.
      • Seeds can be obtained from reputable seed suppliers or harvested from mature devil’s claw plants.
      • Seedlings can be purchased from nurseries specializing in medicinal plants.
    3. Planting Devil’s Claw:
      • Plant devil’s claw seeds or seedlings after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up.
      • Dig a hole that is large enough to accommodate the root system of the seedling or sow the seeds directly into the soil.
      • Space the plants about 2 to 3 feet apart to allow room for growth.
      • Gently cover the roots or seeds with soil and water thoroughly.
    4. Watering and Maintenance:
      • Devil’s claw is a drought-tolerant plant, but it still requires regular watering, especially during dry spells.
      • Water deeply, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings to prevent overwatering and root rot.
      • Weed the area around the plants regularly to minimize competition for nutrients.
    5. Harvesting Devil’s Claw:
      • Devil’s claw is typically harvested for its roots, which are the most medicinally potent part of the plant.
      • The roots are usually harvested when the plant reaches maturity, which can take about 3 to 5 years.
      • Wait until the foliage has died back naturally before digging up the roots.
      • Carefully dig around the base of the plant, avoiding damage to the roots.
      • Shake off excess soil and cut off the foliage, leaving only the roots.
      • Clean the roots by gently washing them to remove any remaining soil.
      • Allow the roots to dry thoroughly in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight.
      • Once the roots are completely dry, store them in a cool, dry place in airtight containers.

    How to use as medicine:

    Devil’s claw can be used as medicine in various forms, and the appropriate method of use depends on the specific condition and the product you have. Here are some common ways to use devil’s claw:

    1. Capsules or Tablets: Devil’s claw is often available in the form of capsules or tablets, which contain powdered extract of the herb. Follow the dosage instructions provided on the product packaging or consult a healthcare professional for the appropriate dosage. Typically, the capsules or tablets are taken orally with water or a meal.
    2. Liquid Extract: Devil’s claw can also be found in liquid extract form. The extract is usually mixed with water or juice before consumption. Again, it’s important to follow the recommended dosage instructions on the product or consult a healthcare professional.
    3. Topical Creams or Ointments: For skin conditions or localized pain, there are topical preparations of devil’s claw available in the form of creams or ointments. Apply a thin layer of the product to the affected area and gently massage it into the skin. Follow the instructions on the product packaging for frequency of use.

    When using devil’s claw as medicine, it’s essential to:

    • Read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or consult a healthcare professional for appropriate dosage and usage instructions.
    • Start with the lowest effective dose and gradually increase if necessary.
    • Be consistent with the recommended dosage and usage duration for optimal results.
    • Monitor your body’s response and discontinue use if you experience any adverse effects or if the symptoms persist or worsen.

    Devil’s Claw Tincture Recipe

    Creating medicine with devil’s claw typically involves extracting the active compounds from the plant material. Here’s a general outline of how you can make a simple homemade devil’s claw extract:


    • Dried devil’s claw roots
    • High-proof alcohol (such as vodka or brandy)
    • Glass jar with a tight-fitting lid
    • Cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer
    • Dark glass bottles for storage


    1. Measure out the desired amount of dried devil’s claw roots or powdered extract. It’s best to start with small quantities until you determine the appropriate strength for your needs.
    2. Place the devil’s claw material into a glass jar.
    3. Pour enough alcohol to completely cover the plant material. Ensure that the alcohol has a high enough proof (at least 40%) to effectively extract the active compounds.
    4. Seal the jar with the lid and give it a gentle shake to ensure that the plant material is fully saturated.
    5. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for about 4 to 6 weeks. During this time, the alcohol will extract the beneficial compounds from the devil’s claw.
    6. Shake the jar gently every few days to promote the extraction process.
    7. After the extraction period, strain the liquid using a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer to remove the plant material. Squeeze the cloth or strainer to extract as much liquid as possible.
    8. Transfer the resulting devil’s claw extract into dark glass bottles for storage. Dark glass bottles help protect the extract from light degradation.

    Dosage and Usage:

    • The dosage of homemade devil’s claw extract can vary depending on the strength and desired effect. It’s recommended to start with a small dose and gradually increase if needed. Follow the dosage instructions provided by a healthcare professional or reputable source.
    • Devil’s claw extract is typically taken orally by adding the desired amount to water, juice, or tea.
    • It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using homemade devil’s claw extract, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

    Please note that the process described here is a general guideline, and the potency and effectiveness of homemade devil’s claw extract may vary.