Quality Assessment of Commercial Spagyric Tinctures of Harpagophytum procumbens and Their Antioxidant Properties

Molecules. 2019 Jun 17;24(12):2251. doi: 10.3390/molecules24122251.


Preparations from the dried tubers of Harpagophytum procumbens (Burch.) DC ex Meisn, commonly known as devil's claw, are mainly used in modern medicine to relieve joint pain and inflammation in patients suffering from rheumatic and arthritic disorders. This paper describes for the first time the chemical profile of a commercial spagyric tincture (named 019) prepared from the roots of the plant. For comparison purposes, a commercial not-spagyric devil's claw tincture (NST) was also analyzed. Chemical investigation of the content of specialized metabolites in the three samples indicated that harpagoside was the main compound, followed by the two isomers acteoside and isoacteoside. Compositional consistence over time was obtained by the chemical fingerprinting of another spagyric tincture (named 014) from the same producer that was already expired according to the recommendation on the label of the product. The two spagyric preparations did not show significant compositional differences as revealed by HPLC and MS analyses, except for a decrease in harpagide content in the expired 014 tincture. Moreover, their antioxidant capacities as assessed by 2,2'-di-phenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and 2.2'-azin-bis (3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) methods resulted in very similar IC50 values. The expired 014 tincture showed instead a lower IC50 value compared to the 019 and NST tinctures with the ferric reducing antioxidant potential (FRAP) assay, indicating a higher ferric-reducing antioxidant ability. Overall, these results indicated that the two preparations could generally maintain good stability and biological activity at least for the four years from the production to the expiration date.

Keywords: Harpagophytum procumbens; antioxidant activity; devil’s claw; harpagoside; spagyric tincture.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Antioxidants / chemistry*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Harpagophytum / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Plant Extracts / analysis
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts