Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and chronic inflammatory diseases: A concise overview on preclinical and clinical data

Phytother Res. 2019 Sep;33(9):2152-2162. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6395. Epub 2019 Jul 4.


Devil's Claw is a traditional medicine that has been long used a wide range of health conditions, including indigestion, fever, allergic reactions, and rheumatism. The main compounds are iridoid glycosides, including harpagoside, harpagide, and procumbide. However, harpagoside is the most responsible for therapeutic activity, and its content is used as reference standard. Here, we analyzed and summarized preclinical and clinical studies focusing on therapeutic efficacy of devil's claw preparations in pathological conditions in which inflammation plays a key causative role.

Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is an herbaceous plant, which can be found in the arid steppes of South Africa, particularly in the Kalahari Desert. As traditional medicine, devil's claw has been long used in the forms of infusions, decoctions, tinctures, powders, and extracts. The main compounds of devil's claw are iridoid glycosides, such as harpagoside, harpagide, and procumbide, which are present in the plant tubers. Additionally, chemical constituents such as sugars (mainly the tetrasaccharide stachyose), triterpenoids (oleanolic and ursolic acid), phytosterols (primarily β-sitosterol), aromatic acids (caffeic, cinnamic, and chlorogenic acids), and flavonoids (luteolin and kaempferol) can be found in the plant. In order to investigate the applicative potential of devil's claw as therapeutic agent, we performed a review by focusing on its potential role in managing inflammation- and oxidative stress-related diseases, including arthritis, osteoporosis, inflammatory bowel disease, low-back pain, diabetes, and neurodegeneration.

Keywords: arthritis; atherosclerosis; inflammatory bowel disease; neurodegenerative diseases; osteoporosis; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Harpagophytum / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods*