With the enchanting name of Devil’s Claw, it is amazing that anyone ever tried this herb, Harpagophytum radix, which has had widespread use in treating a variety of pain problems, most commonly arthritic conditions. Analgesic, antiphlogistic and anti-inflammatory effects have been reported. Interestingly, the effects are not immediate and the pain relieving benefit often begins only after 3 weeks of therapy. Standardized extracts are critical and, as with most herbs, one has to be careful of the source as herbal preparations vary considerably. In general, if we can find the product at NOW, that is the one we choose to have available through Self-Health Systems.
As with any effective treatment, undesirable effects may occur. The ones reported occasionally are headache, tinnitus, decreased appetite (great for some people!), loss of taste, or loose stools. And, of course, one should never take Devil’s Claw with NSAIDS, which the herb is used as a safer substitute. And, it should never be taken during pregnancy or while nursing a baby. It also has some anticlotting effects, so should not be taken when one is on coumadin.
For those suffering from osteoarthritic pain, the side effects of Devil’s Claw appear to be less than those of virtually any NSAID. The dose is 500 to 1000 mg (containing 50 to 100 mg of harpagoside ) twice a day, taken with a full glass of water. Remember that it takes 3 weeks for significant effect! I have written earlier about other natural anti-inflammatory herbs. In general I would still recommend trials first of turmeric (curcumin) and Boswellin (frankincense). But if they do not provide adequate pain relief, I would try Devil’s Claw above any NSAID. And in case I have not said it before, I do NOT consider Tylenol, or acetaminophen of any value as a pain reliever, and it is especially useless as an anti-inflammatory. The complications of liver disease and other ”side effects” are overall worse with Tylenol than with any of the herbals.