Harpagophytum procumbens, or harpagophytum, has been shown in several studies to significantly reduce back pain. The claw-like appearance of the fruit, native to Africa, is why German herbalists gave harpagophytum the name Teufelskralle-translating directly to “devil’s claw.”
Indigenous peoples of South Africa have used the dried roots of harpagophytum in decoctions for a variety of ailments, particularly pain and inflammation. G. H. Mehnert, a German farmer in South Africa, noticed this use of the plant, and brought the product back to Germany with him.
In the 1950’s, harpagophytum underwent clinical study and application among herbalists, physicians and commercial pharmacists – primarily in Germany and France. Since then it has been shown in a number of studies to help with arthritic issues and back pain. Here we’ll illustrate some of the back pain research.
Back Pain Research
In a German study (Laudahn and Walper 2001), 480 mg of harpagophytum extract was given to 130 back pain patients twice a day. After eight weeks, the effectiveness of harpagophytum was tested using the Multidimensional Pain Scale and Arhus Back Pain Index. Using data from 117 of the harpagophytum treatment group, the researchers observed “a significant improvement of pain symptoms and mobility” among those using devil’s claw.
In another clinical study (Chrubasik et al. 1999), harpagophytum extract or placebo was given to 197 back pain patients. After four weeks, the number of pain-free patients were double the number of placebo pain-free patients for the half-dose (50mg of harpagoside standardized harpagophytum). There were 3.3 times the number of pain-free patients among the 100mg harpagoside-standardized harpagophytum treatment group.
This information is for research purposes only. Be sure to consult your health professional if you suspect you have any disease, and before making any significant changes to your diet, lifestyle or supplements.
Baghdikian B, Lanhers MC, Fleurentin J, Ollivier E, Maillard C, Balansard G, Mortier F. An analytical study, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Harpagophytum procumbens and Harpagophytum zeyheri. Planta Med. 1997 Apr;63(2):171-6.
Laudahn D, Walper A. Efficacy and tolerance of Harpagophytum extract LI 174 in patients with chronic non-radicular back pain. Phytother Res. 2001 Nov;15(7):621-4.
Chantre P, Cappelaere A, Leblan D, Guedon D, Vandermander J, Fournie B. Efficacy and tolerance of Harpagophytum procumbens versus diacerhein in treatment of osteoarthritis. Phytomedicine. 2000 Jun;7(3):177-83.
Moussard C, Alber D, Toubin MM, Thevenon N, Henry JC. A drug used in traditional medicine, harpagophytum procumbens: no evidence for NSAID-like effect on whole blood eicosanoid production in human. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1992 Aug;46(4):283-6.
Chrubasik S, Junck H, Breitschwerdt H, Conradt C, Zappe H. Effectiveness of Harpagophytum extract WS 1531 in the treatment of exacerbation of low back pain: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Eur J Anaesthesiol. 1999 Feb;16(2):118-29.