|Devil's claw, also called cockspur, is a sprawling, shrubby vine with opposite branching and pairs of sharp, curved spines in the leaf axils. Devil's Claw is a trailing perennial, reaching five feet in length with fleshy, lobed leaves, bright red, trumpet-like flowers, and barbed, woody fruit. The fruits have beaks or claws and black seeds. Devil's claw is native to the red sand areas in the
Transvaal of South Africa and Namibia. It has spread throughout the Kalahari and Savannah desert regions. The name of the plant comes from these unpleasant spines, which can snag an unsuspecting passer-by. Devil's claw is also known as grapple plant and wood spider. The throat of the corolla is mottled purple with two lines of purplish spots or not. The nectar guides are yellow. The roots and tubers are used for medicinal purposes.
Devil's claw is a native of Southern Africa. It has long been used as a tea by indigenous peoples to treat gastrointestinal disorders and rheumatic conditions. African healers have used the tubers for centuries to treat everything from cancer, intestinal disorders, and fevers, to menstrual and pregnancy problems. The major clinical uses for Devil's claw are for pain relief in joint diseases, back pain and headache. Devil's claw contains compounds known as iridoid glucosides such as harpagoside. Harpagoside has a very bitter flavor which may make some products unpalatable. By reducing the synthesis of these inflammatory prostaglandins, both pain and inflammation may be reduced. The iridoid glycosides have dose-dependent anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects equivalent to phenylbutazone. Harpagoside inhibits arachidonic acid metabolism through both cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways. Harpagoside is believed to be responsible for reducing inflammation in the joints. Devil's claw root may help relieve pain and inflammation in people with arthritis and other painful disorders. Devil's claw may be effective for treating pain and for improving mobility in individuals with osteoarthritis.
Devil's claw helps to reduce blood pressure and decreases the heart rate. This herb may have a protective effect on the heart against irregular heart beats (arrhythmia) and poor blood flow. Devil's claw is also used for soft tissue conditions with inflammation, like tendinitis and bursitis. The bitter herb is also used as a remedy for loss of appetite and mildly upset stomach. The tubular secondary roots are also used to treat pain, dyspepsia, loss of appetite, and liver and gallbladder complaints. Devil's claw is also regarded as a remedy for headaches, heartburn, liver and gallbladder problems, allergies, skin disorders, and nicotine poisoning. Topical preparations of devil's claw are also applied to the surface of the skin to heal sores, ulcers, boils, and skin lesions.
Whole or ground devil's claw roots are available as well as capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and topical ointments. Teas (infusions) can be made from dried devil's claw root. Devil's claw is nontoxic and safe, side effects are rare if used properly. Devil's claw is traditionally contraindicated in patients with gastric or duodenal ulcers due to presumed stimulation of gastric acid secretion. Devil's claw is thought to be oxytocic and therefore to be avoided in pregnancy. Devil's claw may interact with warfarin (a blood-thinning medication) and cause bruising or bleeding disorders. Devil's claw could cause an allergic reaction or mild gastrointestinal difficulties.