Devil's claw was traditionally used by tribes in southern Africa and it has been adopted in modern western herbalism for pain management and digestive disorders to a lesser degree. The Commission E approved the use of devil's claw root for loss of appetite, dyspepsia, and degenerative disorders of the locomotor system. Devil's claw root has been used to treat painful arthroses, tendonitis, indigestion, blood diseases, headache, allergies, rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago, neuralgia, and fever, and externally for sores, ulcer, boils, and skin lesions.
The root contains a variety of phytochemicals and in particular the iridoid glycosides (harpagosides), that possess anti-inflammatory action. They work by inhibiting multiple enzymes involved in inflammation including inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Its analgesic properties may improve opioid analgesic efficacy thus reducing dependency for pain management. Devil's claw is primarily used to decrease pain associated with osteoarthritis and low back pain and is supported by research. Also, it appears to inhibit degradation of the cartilage therefore possibly playing a role in slowing the progression in joint degeneration and the development of arthritis.
Published clinical trials support the use of devil's claw for back pain and arthritis.
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