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Devil's claw
Harpagophytum 5.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Pedaliaceae
Genus: Harpagophytum
DC. ex Meisn.
Dry fruit of H. procumbens - MHNT
Plate from "Icones selectae plantarum", vol. 5: t. 94 (1846)

Harpagophytum, also called grapple plant, wood spider and most commonly devil's claw, is a genus of plants in the sesame family, native to southern Africa. Plants of the genus owe their common name "devil's claw" to the peculiar appearance of their hooked fruit. Several species of North American plants in genus Proboscidea and certain species of Pisonia are however also known by this name. Devil's claw's tuberous roots are used in folk medicine to reduce pain.[1]


H. procumbens is mainly found in the eastern and south eastern parts of Namibia, Southern Botswana and the Kalahari region of the Northern Cape, South Africa. H. zeyheri is found in the northern parts of Namibia (Ovamboland) and southern Angola.

Folk medicine and research[edit]

The ethnobotanical use of devil's claw originated in southern Africa.[2] H. procumbens is one of the floral emblems of Botswana where it is thought to be useful in treating a variety of pain conditions.[3]

Preparations of the plant or its extracts, such as harpagoside,[4] are presumed to have uses in folk medicine and phytotherapy as an anti-inflammatory herbal drug or dietary supplement.[1] Although there is no accepted clinical evidence of its efficacy and bioavailability, limited effects were noted for treating lower back pain and osteoarthritis.[1]

A Cochrane review of clinical research for using devil's claw to treat low back pain found little evidence for efficacy.[5]

Adverse reactions[edit]

Side effects and drug interactions with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may occur, and caution exists for a variety of conditions, such as pregnancy and cardiovascular disorders.[1] Devil's claw may cause diarrhea and may interfere with the action of ticlopidine and warfarin.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Devil's claw". MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Medicine. 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Mncwangi, N.; Chen, W.; Vermaak, I.; Viljoen, A.M.; Gericke, N. (2012). "Devil's Claw - a review of the ethnobotany, phytochemistry and biological activity of Harpagophytum procumbens". J Ethnopharmacol. 143 (3): 755–71. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2012.08.013. PMID 22940241. 
  3. ^ Pelontle, Kedirebofe (13 May 2014). "Department unveils national symbols". DailyNews. Botswana Press Agency (BOPA). Retrieved 12 July 2016. 
  4. ^ "Harpagoside". PubChem, US National Library of Medicine. 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2016. 
  5. ^ Gagnier, J. J.; Oltean, H.; Van Tulder, M. W.; Berman, B. M.; Bombardier, C; Robbins, C. B. (2016). "Herbal Medicine for Low Back Pain: A Cochrane Review". SPINE. 41 (2): 116–33. doi:10.1097/BRS.0000000000001310. PMID 26630428. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Harpagophytum at Wikimedia Commons