Devils claw which is a native African plant got its name from the claw-like hooks which appear on its fruits. It's also called the grapple plant and wood spider and its botanical name is harpagophytum procumbens. The tubers which grow out of the main root and the roots of the grapple plant have been used by the Africans to treat allergies, headaches, fever and digestive problems.
Harpagophytum procumbens roots have analgesic or pain relieving, sedative, diuretic and anti inflammatory properties. Its most active plant compounds are harpagoside and beta-sitosterol.
The ncbi.nlm.nih.gov website has published a report on the effects of harpagophytum procumbens on sensory, motor und vascular muscle reagibility in the treatment of unspecific back pain. The report showed that there was significant reduction in muscle stiffness on 31 patients with slight to moderate muscular tension or slight muscular pain of the back, shoulder and neck.
Another study was done at the University of Heidelberg on 183 patients with acute low back pain. The result also revealed the efficacy of the grapple plant in reducing the symptoms of the condition.
These two studies can be considered as an endorsement on the effectiveness of devils claw herb as a remedy for treating back pain.
Besides back, neck and shoulder pain, the dried roots or root extract of harpagophytum procumbens is also used as a remedy for osteoarthritis. It has shown to help reduce osteoarthritis pain in the hip and knee.
This bitter herb may also assist in stimulating appetite, eliminating excess uric acid that leads to gout and relieving sinus headaches. It is also used topically to treat skin problems and inflammations such as boils, sores and skin lesions.
However, people with gastric problems, have duodenal ulcers or other health problems should consult a doctor before taking this herbal extract or consuming it any form because it may cause side effects.