Devil’s Claw – the Natural Anti-Inflammatory Treatment

Summary: The use of devil’s claw as a natural treatment for many musculoskeletal problems may not be common with modern medicine, but has shown effective for centuries in its native Africa and then Europe. Although, sought to treat mainly arthritic issues, the herb has many health benefits when taken.

Devil’s Claw is an herb described by the Greeks as a “hook plant”. The plant is a native of Africa and the names comes from the fruit that is covered with hooks. The hooks attach to those that pass by (human or animal) and spread the fruit along with its seeds to a new location to propagate. The shape of the fruit may have helped devil’s claw to be considered a symbol of protection in many countries. Folk medicine many times takes the shapes of plants and the commonly known name to add a level of mystery to the treatment of illnesses. The root is what is used in medicine along with the tubular off shoots. Devil’s claw has been used to treat the following:
• hardening of the arteries
• arthritis
• gout
• back pain
• chest pain
• migraine headaches
• muscle pain
• rheumatoid arthritis
• tendinitis

The chemicals found in devil’s claw’s roots have been shown to decrease inflammation and swelling. The use of devil’s claw has resulted in pain relief from joint inflammation associated with arthritis. Some studies have shown a benefit in preventing cancer cell growth and even to aid with treating diabetes type 2. Before taking devil’s claw, talk with a physician if currently being treated for any of these disorders:
• pregnancy and breast feeding
• heart problems
• high blood pressure
• low blood pressure
• diabetes
• ulcers
• gallstones

Studies performed in Europe have shown that the herbal use of devil’s claw have had similar results in pain relief as the other anti-inflammatory medications on the market at the time of the study. Devil’s Claw gave similar results in a study with current market drugs, placebos and the herb. In later part of 2000, a study found that the sale of devil’s claw accounted for over 70% of all medications purchased by those studied to treat rheumatism. The overall results of many studies proved that devil’s claw worked in much the same way as prescription anti-inflammatory with an added benefit in producing changes in the body’s leukotrienes that is involved in inflammation being produced. The devil’s claw played a part in preventing the inflammation from occurring.

The devil’s claw is available dried and fresh from a local herbalist or specialty store. An herbalist is available to discuss the conditions and provide the method of taking the devil’s claw that meets one’s needs. Devil’s claw is a supplement available in these forms:
• capsules – the root is ground and the powder placed in an easy to swallow capsule
• tablets – the root is ground then pressed into tablet form
• liquid extracts – the root is boiled and strained then mixed for easy consumption
• topical ointments – creams and salves are made from the root’s oil

Teas or infusions can be made by using the dried root along with boiling water. Steep the dried root and water mixture for 10-15 minutes, straining and then drinking up to three times daily. The root has a bitter taste and one might want to add honey or mix with brandy for easier digesting. Capsules or tablets are easily taken with water.

Recipes Using Devil’s Claw

Devil’s Claw Rubbing Salve

6-8 Tablespoons of devil’s claw infused oil
1 Tablespoon beeswax or emulsifying wax
6 teaspoons olive or mineral oil

Using a double boiler, melt the beeswax or emulsifying wax with the olive or mineral oil over medium heat and stir until smooth. Add the devil’s claw infused oil and continue to stir occasionally over medium heat until blended. The mixture will begin to thicken. Take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Place mixture in a glass jar with a tight lid. Store the salve in a cool dark place for the best results. Dark colored jars are great to store the salve in as it keeps the light out. Use as needed for aches and pains.

Basic Herbal Tea Recipe

4 cups of water
½ to 1 teaspoon of dried devil’s claw crushed
2 inch cuts of fresh ginger
Lemon slice and honey to taste (optional)

Put the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Peel and slice the ginger root. Add the slices of ginger and devil’s claw to the boiling water. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain the liquid out, add lemon and honey to taste. Drink 2 cups daily for a month to determine if arthritis is improving. Note: this can be made with green tea and substituting 1 tsp celery seed for the ginger.