Devil's Claw

afrikanische Teufelskralle

Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), also called wood spider or grapple plant, is native to the savannahs of southern Africa. As a medicinal plant it is used to relieve joint pain and intestinal disorders.

In animals, wear and tear on the musculoskeletal system sometimes occurs earlier than expected. Unfortunately, this process can neither be arrested nor predicted. Physical strain, regular training and overuse can cause inflammation in the joints, tendons and ligaments, culminating in noticeable lameness and limited mobility. However, there is a natural, plant-based treatment: devil’s claw.

Order:            Lamiales

Family:               Pedaliaceae

Genus:             Harpagophytum

Species:                    Devil's Claw

Origin and occurrence:

Southern to southwestern Africa.

Active substances:

Iridoid glycosides (harpagoside, procumbid), flavonoids, triterpenes.

Primary uses in veterinary medicine:

Adjuvant therapy or pain relief for joint arthrosis and loss of appetite. 

Primary uses in human medicine:

Taken internally to treat degenerative diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

Facts about devil’s claw 

Devil’s claw gets its name from the tiny "hooks" on all sides of the fruits, which themselves can grow to 15 cm in size. The plant spreads horizontally along the ground, growing up to 1.5 metres long. However, the tuberous root is the part used in phytotherapy (herbal medicine). The root contains the active ingredients such as iridoid glycosides.

Devil’s claw has been scientifically proven to stimulate appetite, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.

Studies show that treating rheumatic complaints with devil's claw often achieves the same results as diclofenac (a conventional painkiller and NSAID in human medicine) and that there are significant differences from the placebo groups. When one looks closely at the biochemical processes of devil's claw's inhibiting properties, however, there is a difference. Broadly speaking, many NSAIDs not only inhibit the messenger substances that reduce inflammation (COX-2), unfortunately they also inhibit those that protect the stomach mucosa (COX-1). This is why many patients are prescribed additional medication to protect their stomachs from the NSAIDs. Even with long-term use of devil's claw this is not the case, as these messenger substances are not inhibited.

Those already suffering from stomach ulcers, however, should NOT take it. Devil's claw is therefore a generally promising alternative as a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic for extended or long-term use. 

Alternative names: grapple plant, wood spider

Important: Not to be confused with phyteuma (also known in places as devil's claw) or cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa).  

Verfasserin: Bianca Becker-Slovacek


Aichberger, L., Graftschafter, M., Fritsch, F., Gansinger, D., Hagmüller, W., Hahn-Ramssl, I., . . . Stöger, E. (2012). Kräuter für Nutz- und Heimtiere. Wien: Eigenverlag Phytovet.

Blaschek, W. (2016). Wichtl - Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.

Pahlow, M. (2013). Das große Buch der Heilpflanzen. Hamburg: Nikol Verlag.



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