Harpagophytum procumbens

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-18 (EDT)

See Also Botanical Monographs

Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory herb for the conditions such as osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. To explore the characteristics, medicinal uses and prescribing considerations of this herb in more detail, check out the references indicated.[1], [2]


  • Common Names: Devil's Claw, Grapple plant, Wood spider
  • Family: Pedaliaceae
  • Habitat: Harpagophytum is native to southern and eastern Africa, particularly Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. It prefers clay or sandy soils.
  • Parts Used: Rhizomes and tuber
  • Constituents: Iridoid glycosides (harpagoside, active constituent), flavonoids, phenolic acids, quinone, phytosterols
  • Medicinal Actions: anti-inflammatory/antirheumatic, anodyne/analgesic, digestive stimulant


Historical Uses:

Harpagophytum was used in African traditional medicine for poor digestion, arthritis, rheumatism, and as a febrifuge. It was also traditionally used as an ointment for sores, ulcers, and boils.

Medicinal Uses:

Prescribing Considerations

The information provided is intended to augment the treatment from a naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional. Although most herbs are generally safe, it is recommended that you avoid self-prescribing especially when there is an underlying ongoing medical condition, if you are on any prescription medications or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Formulations and Preparation

For Digestive Indications

  • Dried tuber in Decoction - 500mg three times daily
  • Tincture (1:5 in 25% ethanol) - 1mL three times daily

For Other Indications

  • Dried tuber in Decoction - 1/5-2g three times daily
  • Liquid Extract (1:1 in 25% ethanol) - 1-2mL three times daily
  • Dried tuber - 100-250mg three times daily


The safety and prescribing considerations for this herb include: [3] [4]

  • Generally regarded as safe.
  • Side-effects are rare and may include mild digestive upset.
  • Cautions and Contraindications: active peptic ulcers, gastritis (empirical), gallstones (speculative), and avoid in pregnancy (may be oxytocic/stimulating to the uterus)
  • Drug-Herb Interactions.[3]
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Related Antiarthritic Medications - Beneficial or supportive interaction not requiring professional management, prevention or reduction of drug adverse effect; Harpagophytum use decreases the required dose of NSAIDs and other analgesics when taken for osteoarthritis and low back pain due to its additive effect.
  • Warfarin therapy - monitor (purpura in single human case report)[2]
  • Drugs to reduce gastric acid secretion - incompatible due to bitter action[2]


  1. Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide Second Edition Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, CCNM Toronto.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul, Barlow Kerry, Gowan Matt (2011) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Advanced Botanical Medicine. V3 CCNM Press, Toronto.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stargrove Mitchell Bebell, Treasure Jonathan, McKee Dwight L (2008) Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies
  4. Brinker Francis 1997 Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions: Plus Herbal Adjuncts With Medicines, 4th Edition Eclectic Medical Publications.