What’s in a name? Sometimes a powerful anti-inflammatory agent with pain-relieving properties!

Devil’s claw is a fruit that is native to southern Africa but was introduced to Europe in the early 1900s and is used widely in Germany and France today to relieve headache, osteoarthritis, and low back pain. Devil’s claw is a fruit covered with spiny hooks. Dried or fresh, it can be used as an ointment, a tincture, or taken in capsule form. Patients can also take devil’s claw as a tea or a liquid extract.

The medicinal part of the plant, the root, has slightly bitter properties and has been identified as an effective natural tool for pain management.

One study of devil’s claw showed that the fruit relieved osteoarthritis knee and hip pain as effectively as the leading prescription pain medicines in Europe. Participants in this study also experienced fewer negative side effects and took fewer supplemental over-the-counter pain medicines during the course of the study. Additionally, an analysis of 14 other high-quality studies showed a reduction in joint pain and a higher level of functioning overall in patients who took devil’s claw for arthritis.

Other indications for devil’s claw can include upset stomach, allergy, loss of appetite, and fever. As there have been no studies for pregnant women or children in any use of devil’s claw, these two groups are advised against using this as a pain management technique.

There are very few side effects noted when taking devil’s claw. High doses over long periods of time can result in stomach irritation, and some devil’s claw does interact with other medicines that are broken down by the liver. Taking diabetes medicines with devil’s claw may cause a drop in blood sugar. Devil’s claw also increases acid production in the stomach, rendering antacids less effective. As always, when starting any new treatment, either holistic or traditional, consult with your doctor and discuss your options.

Would you give the spiny plant with the scary name a place in your pain management regimen?

Image by hobgadlng via Flickr


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