Many native African tribes have been using devil's claw for centuries. Found in the Kalahari savannas and Namibian forests of southern Africa, locals use it to treat fevers, blood diseases, dyspepsia and postpartum pain. Additionally, they make an ointment for treating sores, ulcers, and sprains.
The name "devil's claw" comes from the translation of the German word for it used by the Namibian farmers. This herb first became known in Europe in the mid-1900s thanks to a German soldier who was studying native medicines of the Bushman, Hottentot and Bantu.
The first studies on devil's claw were done in German universities over forty years ago. However, research on the healing properties of devil's claw is continuing to this day. In fact, devil's claw is among the herbs that are approved by the German Commission E and the European Scientific Cooperation on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Both of these organizations consider devil's claw to be a safe and effective alternative for treating rheumatism, arthritis, osteoarthritis, and tendonitis due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
This herb is found in the same family as sesame. Devil's claw is a perennial herb, growing for more than one season. Unless killed by harsh weather, it does not need to be replanted each year.
Studies done on this herb show that it has the ability to reduce pain and improve mobility in patients who are suffering from rheumatic and arthritic conditions in only a few short weeks.
Additional studies have revealed that this herb has hypotensive and artiarrhythmic properties, along with bitter qualities which have been shown to relive stomach complaints. However, currently the clinical use of devil's claw is limited to only the treatment of dyspepsia and rheumatism.
Scientists believe that devil's claw is more effective with chronic conditions such as arthritis and back pain than it is on acute conditions.
Recent studies done by Europeans have tested the effects of devil's claw on back pain. Although the study results vary, one study found that lower back pain was reduced by twenty percent compared with eight percent in a placebo group.
Devil's claw is typically used in conjunction with traditional treatments by European doctors because there are no reported negative drug interactions for devil's claw.
Actually, there are no reported serious side effects for devil's claw. In some few cases, patients have experienced mild gastrointestinal discomfort from the gastric-stimulating effects produced by devil's claw. Because of this, devil's claw is not recommended for those people who have ulcers.
Active compounds in devil's claw, which are called iridoid glycosides, are associated with a wide range of bioactivity.
The dosages in scientific studies on devil's claw have ranged anywhere from twenty to 1,200 mg of the herb compounds per kilogram of body weight.
Effective preparations such as infusions, capsules, and topical salves are made from the dried tubers or an extract of the herb.