Devil’s claw Contraindications, Indications, Side Effects

Devil’s claw Contraindications/Harpagophytum also called grapple plantwood 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.

Devil’s Claw, is a genus of tuberiferous xerophytic plants native to southern Africa. Some of the taxa are appreciated for their medicinal effects and have been traditionally used to relieve symptoms of inflammation. The objectives of this pilot study were to investigate the antioxidant capacity and the content of total phenols, verbascoside, is verbascoside, and selected iridoids, as well as to investigate the capacity of various Harpagophytum taxa in suppressing respiratory burst in terms of reactive oxygen species produced by human neutrophils challenged with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), opsonisedStaphylococcus aureus, and Fusobacterium nucleatum. 

Devil's claw

Indications of Devil’s Claw

Devil’s Claw was completely ineffective in reducing edema of the rat hindfoot induced by either lambda-carrageenan or Mycobacterium butyricum. At concentrations of up to 1 x 10(5) microgram/ml, Devil’s Claw was also ineffective as an in-vitro inhibitor of prostaglandin synthetase. These results indicate that Devil’s Claw lacks the anti-inflammatory properties possessed by all antiarthritic drugs of the nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory analgesic type.

  • Preparations of the plant or its extracts, such as harpagoside – [rx] are presumed to have used in folk medicine and phytotherapy as an anti-inflammatory herbal drug or dietary supplement.[rx] Although there is no accepted clinical evidence of its efficacy and bioavailability, limited effects were noted for treating lower back pain and osteoarthritis.[rx] A Cochrane review of clinical research noted that devil’s claw seems to reduce low back pain more than placebo, although evidence was of moderate quality at best.[rx]
  • Back pain Taking devil’s claw by mouth seems to reduce low-back pain. Devil’s claw seems to work about as well as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Osteoarthritis Taking devil’s claw alone or along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) seems to help decrease osteoarthritis-related pain. Some evidence suggests that devil’s claw works about as well as diacerein (a slow-acting drug for osteoarthritis that is not available in the U.S.) for improving osteoarthritis pain in the hip and knee after 16 weeks of treatment. Some people taking devil’s claw seem to be able to lower the dose of NSAIDs they need for pain relief.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) Early research suggests that taking devil’s claw extract by mouth might not improve RA.
  • Gout
  • High cholesterol
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain
  • Migraine
  • Headache
  • Skin injuries and conditions
  • Upset stomach

Contraindications of Devil’s Claw

Devil's claw

Do not use with antiarrhythmic, chronotropic, or inotropic medicines. Because of the bitterness of the preparation and consequent increase in gastric secretion, devil’s claw is contraindicated in patients with gastric or duodenal ulcers.


Documented oxytocic adverse effects. Avoid use.

Dosage of Devil’s Claw

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

  • For osteoarthritis – 2-2.6 grams of devil’s claw extract has been taken in up to three divided doses daily for up to 4 months. A specific combination product providing 600 mg of devil’s claw, 400 mg of turmeric, and 300 mg of bromelain has been taken 2-3 three times daily for up to 2 months.
  • For back pain – 0.6-2.4 grams of devil’s claw extract has been taken daily, usually in divided doses, for up to 1 year.

Side Effects and Interactions of Devil’s Claw

Devil’s claw appears to be safe when taken in doses up to 2,610 mg daily, though long-term effects have not been investigated [rx].

Reported side effects are mild, the most common being diarrhea. Rarer adverse effects include allergic reactions, headache and coughing (30Trusted Source).

  • Heart problems, high blood pressure, low blood pressure – Since devil’s claw can affect heart rate, heartbeat, and blood pressure, it might harm people with disorders of the heart and circulatory system. If you have one of these conditions, talk with your healthcare provider before starting devil’s claw.
  • Heart disorders – Studies have indicated that devil’s claw can affect heart rate, heartbeat and blood pressure.
  • Diabetes – Devil’s claw may reduce blood sugar levels and intensify the effects of diabetes medications.
  • Gallstones – Use of devil’s claw may increase the formation of bile and make problems worse for those with gallstones.
  • Stomach ulcers – Production of acid in the stomach can increase with the use of devil’s claw, which may aggravate peptic ulcers.
  • NSAIDs – Devil’s claw may slow the absorption of popular NSAIDs, such as Motrin, Celebrex, Feldene and Voltaren.
  • Blood thinners – Devil’s claw may enhance the effects of Coumadin (also known as warfarin), which may lead to increased bleeding and bruising.
  • Stomach acid reducers – Devil’s claw may decrease the effects of stomach acid reducers, such as Pepcid, Zantac, Prilosec, and Prevacid.

This is not an all-inclusive list of medication interactions. To be on the safe side, always discuss your use of supplements with your doctor.


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Devil's claw Contraindications

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