Devil's Claw: Your Best Friend for Arthritic Pain

Klaus Ferlow HMH—01/2011
Arthritis is still a scourge for humankind, affecting 20% of the US population. But help is at hand in the form of Devil's Claw — a herb, found only in Kalahari Desert in South Africa, with amazing benefits.

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE are suffering from the pain of joint inflammation due to arthritis. Today, arthritis is North America's leading cause of disability, a ever increasing crippling disease. There are at least 50 million Americans with some form of arthritis and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) projects that it will affect 60 million of Americans (20% of the U.S. population) by the year 2020. According to statistics Canada, 85% of the population over 70 and 18.5% of Canadians over 16 has or will develop arthritis. These are really grim statistics!

It is interesting to note that at least one form of this illness have been found in the skeleton of the Neanderthal man dating from about 40.000 years before the Christian area.

Despite the millions spent in recent times, despite the persistent efforts of brilliant researchers to uncover the mysteries of this ancient disease, its major forms are chronic (there is no cure) and their causes are still to be discovered.

People with arthritis live in a world with pain, helplessness, and confusion. When arthritis strikes, with its agony, swelling, and stiffness, worry and fear must follow. As the pain gets worse the worry grows, and as the stiffness begin to interfere with normal living fright becomes a daily companion. As the unfortunate sufferer struggles to find a way out he encounters only confusion when it comes to treatment. Often he is told there is nothing to be done, that there is no cure for his arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a natural but ultimately incorrect cellular response to certain stresses which creates chronic inflammation to joints throughout the body. In order to understand what happens in arthritis, we must first look at the musculoskeletal system of a healthy body. A joint is the place where the ends of two bones meet. These ends are separated from each other by a layer of cartilage that prevents them from rubbing together. Synovial fluid, secreted from the synovial membrane that lines the joint, lubricates and reduces friction of the bone ends. Damage to the joint will cause inflammation, creating pain and restricting mobility. No two people have identical patterns or progression of symptoms, a program is needed to steer the body toward a healthy response without causing unwanted side effects. Over one hundred different forms have been identified which includes bacterial and viral joint infections resulting from surgery or from another disease like tuberculosis or Lyme disease and the most common forms are:

  • osteoarthritis: it affects the weight-bearing joints and is often caused by wear and tear on those joints through sporting activities, jobs demanding high levels of physical activity or being overweight. The joints are usually affected are the hips, knees, feet, spine, thumb, finger. This condition most often starts to affect people past the age of 40 and the symptoms are generated as a direct outcome of destruction of the cartilage and the inflammation that results.

  • rheumatoid arthritis: a autoimmune disease, the immune system has lost its way and started to attack the body's own cells which creates inflammation and deterioration in the joints of the hands, wrists, knees, spine,  ankles, finger, toe, vertebrae. The damage spreads, with cartilage and bone being eroded and the pain can be intense and unremitting. It is a more destructive form of arthritis because the inflammation can cause crippling and deformation of joints at an early age. It is not uncommon for pains to wander from joint to joint throughout the body. Flare-ups can cause pronounced fatigue, low grade fever, poor appetite and weight loss. Over time knots may appear on the joints. Various organs, including the heart, lungs and eyes are also affected by this illness and it is most common in women between the ages of 25 - 50. However, it can affect anyone, including children and degrees vary widely.

  • fibromyalgia: there are widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, creates insomnia, the name "fibromyalgia" is relatively new and was known by several other names in the past including soft tissue rheumatism, fibrositis, non-articular rheumatism and chronic fatigue syndrome. Other symptoms are numbness in muscles and joints, poor memory and concentration, depression, tension, pain in the jaw, migraine headaches.

  • gout: a condition in which uric acid, a waste product that occurs naturally in the body, rises above normal levels. Instead of being flushed by the kidneys and through the urine, it normally is, it forms crystals that deposit themselves in the joints and they give rise to inflammation of the joints, causing pain, swelling, redness and tenderness of the area. Ongoing pain occurs in the big toe,ankles, knees, feet, hand, wrist, elbows, thumb and hot, red swollen skin and pressure around the painful area develops.

How to prevent arthritis?

Most of us remember the old saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." First of all there is today so much information available in health magazines, health shows, on the internet, health food stores, professional health & wellness practitioners such as Naturopathic doctors, Traditional Chinese doctors, Ayurveda doctors, herbalists, Encyclopedia of Natural Healing books, a huge variety of natural health products, herbal remedies based on traditional medicine, homeopathic products etc.

But first you have to start with a proper diet, avoiding any processed and junk food, pop drinks since what we eat and drink largely plays a major role in setting the stage for the start of arthritis. The typical North American diet contains an overwhelming amount of cooked, processed and other acid forming foods, but a healthy diet should be 70% alkaline and 30% acid and the North American diet has reversed this ratio. Besides a high acidic body is the prime breading ground for all kind of diseases inclusive cancer.

Here is a list of things you should not eat or do in order to prevent arthritic and rheumatic symptoms:

Eat: more of oily fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna (mercury free!) or fish oil supplements, sardines, green leafy vegetables, oats, dried fruits like figs, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, pineapple, papaya, mango, guava, Acidophilus, Rasayana DX, Molkosan, dead sea or Himalayan crystal salt bath, keep joints warm, physical activities, relaxation.

Limit intake of: dairy products, red meat, citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, tangerines, coffee, tea, cold cuts, white rice, white flour,

Avoid: processed food, pop drinks, white refined sugar, tobacco, stress

Finding relief from this painful arthritis condition can be a real challenge. I had my own experience many years ago when my mother at the age of 82 suddenly out of now where developed arthritic pain in her fingers curling up and one of her knees which was extremely painful. It was so bad that she could not dress herself anymore and woke up many times at night due to excruciating pain and put her hand into cold water for pain relief. At that time we were just in the process developing herbal medicinal creams and personal care products without harmful ingredients and after studying many herbal books and Encyclopedias of natural healing we developed a herbal cream called Devil's Claw (harpagophytum procumbens). I suggested that she use the cream especially in the evening before retiring and in the morning and also exercise with her fingers. The amazing result was that the cream took the pain away almost instantly and later she also used the Devil's Claw herbal tincture successfully and she was a happy person again being in charge of our own body and health. Mother Nature at work!

The herb Devil's Claw can only be found in the sands of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa and to survive in the harsh conditions in the wild, it burrows deep into the dry Savannah, creating long storage roots or tubers containing its healing properties (contains iridoids, such as harpagoside, harpagide, procumbide, phenolic glycosides such as acetoside, isoacetoside, raffinose,glucose, iron, mangnese, phosphorous, silicon, unsaturated fatty acids, sodium, oligosccharides and zinc).

It was not until after the 1st World War that a German agricultural pioneer by the name of G.H. Mehnert discovered the Devil's Claw in the Kalahari Desert and their many applications. The natives would always brew a tea from it, but he was mostly interested in the claim of relief from painful symptoms of arthritis. After 40 years of extensive studies he was convinced of its efficacy and he also perfected a method of drying the roots  which would preserve its potency. Today high quality herbal creams, capsules and tinctures are available worldwide. The tincture is classified as a "bitter tonic" useful in the management of various gastrointestinal complaints including dyspepsia, digestive upset due to poor gallbladder and pancreatic function. It also acts as a powerful detoxifier and liver cleanser.

Here is a list of other benefits of the Devil's Claw:

  • stomach and intestinal diseases are eliminated in a matter of days
  • Old age symptoms: through regular use the blood vessels are rendered elastic again
  • rejuvenation of the skin and increase of virility
  • blood pressure is normalized
  • liver, gall kidney, bladder diseases
  • colic relief
  • stones are discharged
  • brings relief in cases of: dropsy, sciatica, neuralgia, acne, varicose veins, eczema, overweight, thrombosis, lumbago, heartburn, headaches, nicotine poisoning, remia, allergies (hay fever, bronchial asthma)

People who are not familiar with the versatility of the healing power of the Devil's Claw and rely on the use of analgesics (drugs used to manage pain without inducing unconsciousness) for pain control with the claim "last at least for eight hours" promoted "as seen on TV" and prescription drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also known as NSAIDs. need to consider that they are known to damage connective tissue, increase uric acid levels and inhibit cartilage repair, thus exacerbating arthritic and rheumatic symptoms. Many people are ironically on these drugs to control the inflammatory symptoms of arthritis.


The versatile benefits offered by the Devil's Claw are most welcome. If arthritic pain is bothering you, Devil's Claw could be your best friend. In combination with proper diet, exercise, relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and nutritional supplements, this herb can be a very effective in keeping rheumatic problems under control the natural way. In our modern society where we are constantly bombarded with the harmful effects of debilitating pollution, virus infections, photo-chemical smog, chemicals in the water & food, super bugs in hospitals, hay fevers in the summertime, even radiation fallout from nuclear weapons tests, we need healing effects of this wonderful herb. It certainly measures up to some pretty stiff expectations for relieving a large number of common diseases and conditions. Fortunately, the medical world is beginning to take increased notice of this most remarkable medicinal plant.



Arthritis, Wholistic Therapy, Kurt W. Donsbach, DC, ND, PhD., H. Rudolf Alsleben, MD, DO, Phd.

How to eat away arthritis, Laura M. Aesoph, ND

Devil's Claw, Hildegard Pickles

Arthritis and Folk Medicine, Dr. C. Jarvis, MD

The key to Natural Arthritis Treatment, Martin Stone, BSc., MH

Flax Oil as a true aid against arthritis & other diseases, Dr. Johanna Budwig