An extremely bitter herb, devil's claw grows in arid regions in southern and eastern Africa, where the root is collected at the end of the rainy season. Traditionally, the dried root was made into a tea used to treat indigestion, fevers and blood disorders, while the fresh root was used for an ointment to put on boils and skin lesions.
Since the herb's active ingredient, harpagoside, is believed to reduce pain and inflammation, devil's claw is sometimes recommended for arthritis; this usage, however, was not validated when the herb was clinically tested. Herbalists recommend trying devil's claw for arthritis on a case-by-case basis, especially if the arthritis is accompanied by severe pain and swelling.
Some herbalists believe that devil's claw is helpful in the treatment of liver and lymphatic disorders, and it also may lower blood sugar levels. It is also used to stimulate the appetite and aid digestion. Since it must be imported from Africa, devil's claw is very expensive.
Taken internally for:
Applied externally for:
Over the counter:
Devil's claw is available in bulk and in tinctures and capsules.
To make a decoction: 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. devil's claw ground to a powder placed in 1 cup boiling water, then simmered for 15 minutes and strained.
Compress: A pad soaked in an infusion of devil's claw for several minutes, wrung out and applied to the affected area.
Combinations: Devil's claw can be used with bogbean, celery seed and meadowsweet for arthritis.