Harpagophytum burchellii Decne.
Uncaria procumbens Burch.
Common Name: Devil's Claw
Devil's claw is a prostrate, sprawling plant with a stout, perennial rootstock that has a group of secondary storage tubers arising from it[
]. It produces annual stems[
Devil's claw has long been a traditional medicine of the people in southern Africa, more recently it has gained acceptance in the West where it is widely available in pharmacies and health food stores[
Many tons of dried tubers are exported each year from S. Africa, mainly to Europe. Most of this is harvested in the wild so there has been much concern about over-harvesting[
]. The plant is protected in all the regions in which it grows, and can only be collected with a permit[
]. Efforts to get the plant into cultivation have not yet led to much success.[
The plant has very spiny fruits that lay on the ground and can cause serious damage to the feet[
Southern Africa - southern Angola, Namibia, Botswana, S. Africa.
Found mainly on the Veldt in Transvaal, thriving in clay or sandy soils, preferring roadsides and waste ground, especially where the natural vegetation has been cleared[
The plant grows in the arid tropics and subtropics where mean annual rainfall can be within the range 200 - 600mm[
Succeeds in both clay and sandy soils[
Devil's Claw root contains a range of medically active ingredients, including the iridoid glycoside harpagoside; sugars, phytosterols, flavonoids and harpagoquinone[
]. It has been shown to be analgesic, antiinflammatory and a bitter digestive stimulant[
The thick, fleshy secondary roots are the only parts of the plant that are used medicinally. The strongly bitter action of the root stimulates and tones the digestive system[
It Western herbalism, the root is therefore taken internally to treat digestive problems and conditions associated with poor digestion such as arthritis and rheumatism[
The root is used in traditional African medicine for a wide range of applications such as stimulating the appetite and for treating conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, gout, peptic ulcers, fever, infectious diseases including tuberculosis, menstrual cramps, muscular aches and pains[
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