Osteoarthritis of the knee and of hip joints, both are common conditions of joint inflammation and pain.
Whereas both types of osteoarthritic conditions are associated with joint disability.
Many of the conventional treatment involving use of analgesic and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have shown effective in decreasing the pain and inflammation in arthritis patients, but unfortunately, these medicines are also associated with a number of side effects on the human body such as stomach ulcers and intestinal problems.
Therefore there long term use is not recommended and scientist is in search of other alternative methods such as herbal remedy which are effective as well safer in treatment of both knee and hip osteoarthritis.
What is Devil’s Claw?
Devil’s Claw (botanical name: Harpagophytum procumbens) also known as Grapple Plant or Wood Spider is a member of sesame family plant found mainly in the Kalahari region in South Africa.
Devil’s claw is an herbal plant which gets its name because of the appearance of hooks on the fruit.
The hooks on the fruits have a lot of significance in the reproduction process as they get entangled in animal’s fur and hooves and helps in dispersal and spreading of seeds.
Devil’s claw is a leafy perennial plant which has branching roots and shoots.
These secondary roots called tubers which grow on primary roots are mainly used in making medicines.
The active ingredient found in devil’s claw is harpagoside which contributes mainly to anti-inflammatory properties.
Devil’s claw was used as a part of herbal remedy from ancient times in South Africa for number of illness.
It mainly finds its use in the treatment of diseases such as arthritis especially in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
It is also used in treating other joint related pains such as muscle pain, chronic back pain and tendonitis (swelling of tendons).
Ancient studies have shown this herbal medicine also played an important role in getting relief from chest pain, stomach upset, kidney problems, anorexia, headache, and fever.
Many women used this herb as a part of the herbal remedy in getting relief from menstrual problems and other complications during childbirth.
Some people applied it on the skin to cure injuries and other skin related problems.
But today in modern medicine, devil’s claw has found a lot of importance in the treatment of mainly joint-related problems that involve inflammation and pain such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, neck pain and chronic back pain.
5 Benefits of Devil's Claw In Osteoarthritis
Devil's claw has an ingredient, Harpagoside which is effective against chemical substances that necessary for joint inflammation.
It is also considered to be safe and beneficial in reducing pain and ailments.
1. Devil's claw acts an anti-inflammatory agent
Devil's claw exerts anti-inflammatory effects because of the presence of a major chemical component, Harpagoside, a natural product found in it.
More clinical trials were conducted to test what all chemicals are responsible for the devil's claw anti-inflammatory effects and it was seen that triterpenoid glycoside β-sitosterol (a white waxy powder) can also be responsible for it.
Harpagoside present in devil's claw acts on the inflammatory biochemical pathways and suppresses active proteins and enzymes hence inhibiting the synthesis of compounds, cyclooxygenase (produces pro-inflammatory compounds), leukotriene (mediator of inflammation), small proteins like IL-1, TNF-α, and IL-8 which lead to inflammation.
What does this mean? This means that devil's claw has a positive anti-inflammatory action. This makes it a useful herb reducing the pain and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis.
2. Devil's claw is an effective painkiller
Devil's claw has been known to have analgesic properties because of the presence of Harpagoside in it.
A lot of research has been conducted to test the analgesic effects of devil's claw and those studies have demonstrated that devil's claw is effective in decreasing knee and hip osteoarthritis pain.
However, the mechanism by which it does it is not well understood.
In one experiment when aqueous devil’s claw extract (2.2% harpagoside) was given to laboratory rat, writhing and stretching induced by 1.2% acetic acid was found to reduce, indicating the analgesic property of devil’s claw is basically because of its harpagoside content.
Another study also reported, administration of 20mg/kg harpagoside showed analgesic effect (as a pain killer) similar to that of 50mg/kg of phenylbutazone.
A comparison study was carried out where specific powdered devil’s claw root product (Harpadol, Arkophatma) containing 2% of the devil’s claw ingredient harpagoside (9.5mg/capsule) and 3% total iridoid glycosides (14.5mg per capsule) was used.
It was reported when this devil’s claw product when was used alone or along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) showed to decrease osteoarthritis-related pain.
And the same study showed this herbal product when used regularly was able to decrease the use of a further dose of NSAIDs drugs in the treatment of joint pains.
In various doses, devil’s claw has been reported to show anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic properties which is due to the presence of iridoid glycosides and harpagoside in plant extract.
What does this mean? Devil's claw and its active ingredient helps in reducing pain that is caused by osteoarthritis.
3. Devil's claw has antioxidant property
In osteoarthritis, there is an increase in the concentration of harmful substances which cause oxidative stress.
This oxidative stress facilitates the degradation of lipids which leads to tissue damage and inflammation.
Devil's claw has been shown to reduce this degradation of lipids and prevent inflammation.
What does this mean? Devil's claw is an effective anti-oxidant which helps in reducing tissue damage and inflammation.
4. Devil's claw protects bone and joints
A chondroprotective is a compound that prevents the degradation of cartilage and the progression of osteoarthritis.
Devil's claw inhibits the pro-inflammatory mediators and hence is a chondroprotective. It also inhibits matrix metalloproteinases and elastase that facilitate cartilage degradation.
What does this mean? Devil's claw is beneficial in decreasing the progression of osteoarthritis by preventing cartilage degradation.
5. Devil's claw helps is clinically proven to be effective in osteoarthritis
A study was conducted in which patients with osteoarthritis of hip or knee were treated with aqueous extract of devil's claw for 12 weeks.
The results demonstrated that devil's claw had a significant effect in reducing the pain and symptoms of arthritis.
Hence it was considered to be beneficial to be used in the clinic to treat patients with osteoarthritis.
Another clinical study was done in which the efficacy of devil's claw capsules was tested in patients with osteoarthritis.
The severity of osteoarthritis and the assessment of pain were done at the end of the study.
It was observed that the capsules had significantly lowered the frequency of adverse effects of osteoarthritis and also reduced the pain in patients.
In a clinical study, half patients with osteoarthritis were treated with devil's claw whereas the other half were given placebo.
At the end of 30 and 60 days, it was observed that patients who were treated with devil's claw experienced a significant reduction in pain.
Another trial was conducted in which the effectiveness, safety, and tolerability of devil's claw were tested.
At the end of the study, it was observed that devil's claw was effective in preventing the progression of osteoarthritis by reducing pain, swelling, and stiffness and also improving joint function and quality of life.
What does this mean? All these studies and experiments demonstrate that devil's claw is effective in decreasing pain, stiffness, and swelling in patients with osteoarthritis. It is hence safe to use clinically to improve their quality of lives.
Dosage of Devil's Claw For Osteoarthritis
Devils claw is an herb and mainly used to decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation caused in diseases such as arthritis, gout, chronic back pain, skin injuries, and other conditions.
It is very important to consult your doctor to find the right dose. However, the generally recommended dose for powdered devil's claw is 2.6 grams per day.
If you are taking devil's claw tablets, then the recommended dose is 2400 mg per day.
Some of the examples and the recommended dose are E.g. for osteoarthritis, studies have shown that devil’s claw root product such as Harpadlol, Arkopham which contain 2% of harpagoside and 3% of iridoid glycoside can be used.
Whereas for back pain, another root extract product is known as Doloteffin and Ardeypharm containing 50 – 100mg of active ingredient harpagoside can be used successfully in treatment.
Precautions while using Devil's claw
Although the devil’s claw is found to be very effective in decreasing joint inflammation and pain related to many diseases, some people have shown side effects to this herbal medicine too.
Some common side effects associated with this herb is diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and headache, loss of appetite and loss of taste.
It can also cause allergic skin reactions, menstrual problems and changes in blood pressure.
Therefore it is usually not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Similarly since devil’s claw can affect heartbeat, blood pressure, it can affect people having heart and blood pressure problems.
They are also found to increase the production of stomach acids and hence can harm people with stomach ulcers.
This herbal medicine is also not suggested for diabetic patients as they can lower further blood sugar leading to more complications.
Herbal therapy such as devil’s claw is found to be very effective in the treatment of degenerative arthritis such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
The research shows us that it is safe to take devil's claw for treating osteoarthritis if taken at appropriate doses and for a limited period of time.
No long term toxicities and drug reactions are known for devil's claw.
It has analgesic properties, hence is useful in reducing pain. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which make it useful in reducing swelling, stiffness, and tissue damage.
Hence, it can be used clinically to treat osteoarthritis and might soon reduce the dependence of people on painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.