What is Devil’s Claw?

Also known as Harpagophytum, devil's claw is an herb found in deserts of southern Africa that is used to produce pain medication. The name comes from the hooks that cover the fruit-like appearance of a plant. These exist to hook onto the fur of animals passing through to provide them with a source of food.

Although devil's claw is currently not available in the U.S., it has demonstrated some promising effects, namely those that reduce inflammation and swelling, as well as combating arthritis and back pain. As more of it becomes available, sufferers of back pain could greatly benefit from the natural herb in relieving their pain.

How Does Devil's Claw Relieve Back Pain?

In addition to remedying artherosclerosis, chest pain, and gastrointestinal problems, devil's claw has been found to be most promising in combating short-term osteoarthritis, a condition in which the joints experience wear and tear due to age, including those along the spine.

Devils claw is similar to diacerhein, a drug used for treating osteoarthritis outside of the U.S. Diacerhein has shown to improve the effects of the condition in the hips and knees within four months of usage. As of now, it is not available for consumer usage.

The main ingredient of devil's claw is harpagoside, an anti-inflammatory chemical found naturally in the roots and tubers, which are used to produced orally-ingestible medication. A powder form is also widely used. Around 2.6 grams per day is the recommended amount of devils claw powder for effective pain relief.

Yet despite the amount of research that has been done to determine the effectiveness of devil's claw, it is still considered an alternative form of treatment that is not widely used. While osteoarthritis is certainly a condition that affects the back joints and muscles, other medications are still more likely to be used in place of devil's claw, which has yet to be widely available as an over-the-counter pain-killer.

Devil's Claw Side Effects

Although the full effects of devils claw has yet to be determined, there are some side effects that have already revealed themselves:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of taste

Taking devil's claw while living with disorders or body changes may also hinder its ability to be effective. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should consult with their primary care physician before attempting to take devil's claw for pain relief. Those with circulatory disorders, such as heart disease or heart burn, may also want to take caution. Devil's claw has also shown to lower blood sugar levels, which could be dangerous to diabetics, and increase bile production, leading to gallstones.

At any rate, consulting with a physician on the proper usage and dosage of devils claw is recommended for anyone considering using the alternative pain medication.

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