Devil’s Claw is a plant belonging to the family Pedaliaceae. It is native to southern and eastern Africa, and is found most commonly on the veldt of the Transvaal. Devil's claw thrives in clay or sandy soils, preferring roadsides and waste ground. Propagated from seed in spring, the young tubers (underground stems) are unearthed in autumn and cut into pieces about 2cm long. Care is taken not to mix the tubers - which contain the active constituents - with the roots, since this can render the herb ineffective.
The common name for devils claw is derived from the plant's peculiar fruits, which are covered with small grappling hooks.
Devil’s claw contains iridoid glycosides (harpagoside, harpagide and procumbine), sugars, gum resin and beta-sitosterol. They are extracted from the tuber and roots of the plant.
Devil’s claw was originally used by natives of the Kalahari Desert and Namibian steppes as a treatment for indigestion and other gastrointestinal disorders, and to alleviate pain in pregnant women, especially those anticipating a difficult delivery. Traditionally, it was also used as a tonic, a treatment for arthritis and rheumatism, to reduce fevers, and as an ointment for sores, ulcers, and boils.
Current Western use of devil's claw is in line with its traditional application. It is used for;
Arthritic and rheumatic conditions
Pain arising from a range of joint and muscular problems, including gout, back pain, and rheumatoid arthritis
Diseases of the liver, kidneys and bladder
The strongly bitter action of devil's claw also stimulates and tones the digestive system. Analgesic effects, reductions in abnormally high cholesterol and uric-acid blood levels, and significant anti-inflammatory activity has been observed during research on constituents such as harpagoside, the principal one of several iridoid glycosides occurring in devil's claw.