Scientific name: Harpagophytum procumbens

Common names: Grapple Plant, Wood Spider

Ayurvedic names:

Chinese names:

Bangladesh names:

Arabic names:    مخلب الشيطان (mikhlab alsh-shaytaan)

Rain Forest names:

Family: Pedaliaceae  (Sesame???)

Approximate number of species known:

Common parts used: Root


Annual/Perennial: Perennial

Actions: Anti-Inflammtroy, analgesic, antirehumatic, anodyne bitter, diuretic, sedative

Known Constituents: normally 1.2-33% Harpagoside (C24, H30, O11), harpagide, iridoid glycosides including harpagoside, isoharpagoside, harpagide procumbine

Constituents Explained:


Considered to be a weed.  In the Northern Territory in Australia it is considered class A (to be eradicated) and Class C (not to be introduced)  The difficulty comes from the fact the seeds can remained preserved in the sapsules for upto 5 years, meaning an eradication program can take five years or more.

It’s believed European colonists brought Devil’s claw home to treat arthritis.

This has been native to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Central and South America.  Most of the world’s supply comes from Nambia??? It was imported into Europe in 1953.  The fruit is protected by a number of prottruding spines. Once the fruit is opened, the spines claw to protect the fruit.  The lain name harpagophytum comes from the greek word harpagos meaning grappling hook.

The flowers are large and shaped like a bell, they’re violet, red-violet, or yellow-violet.   The flower grows about 5cm long.

The root can grow up to 2m, with secondary roots which can grow upto 1.5m.  The secondary root is normally used. The root is normally greyish brown to dark brown

Traditional Use:

In South Africa it has often been used for fever, malaria and the  gastric system.

A hugely popular remedy for arthritis, inflammation, back pain, headache or chronic joint problems.   This action has been attributed to at least one ingredient harpagoside.

It’s bitter taste may help stimulate appetite and hence aborbtion of the product.  Also used for liver and the gall-bladder.

It has been used for fevers.  Some herbalits have used it for cardiac arrhythmais.7  It has been recommended by the European Pharmacopeoia that Devil’s claw should contain at least 1.2% of haragoside when dried.  The species of H. procumbens is sometimes substitued with H zeyheri.7

Externally it has been used for skin problems and wounds.

For joint or cartlidge problems it should be one of the first remedies on a herbalists shelf.  It is very bitter to taste.

Clinical Studies:

A study evaluated the efficacy and safety of Harpagophytum in the treatment of hip and knee osteoarthritis comparatively with the slow-acting drug for osteoarthritis, diacerhein. 

A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group study was conducted in 122 patients with hip and/or knee osteoarthritis. Treatment duration was four months and the primary evaluation criterion was the pain score on a visual analog scale. Harpagophytum 2,610 mg per day was compared with diacerhein 100 mg per day.

After four months, considerable improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms were seen in both groups, with no significant differences for pain, functional disability, or the Lequesne score.

However, use of analgesic (acetaminophen-caffeine) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (diclofenac) medications was significantly reduced in the Harpagophytum group, which also had a significantly lower rate of adverse events.

In this study, Harpagophytum was at least as effective as a reference drug (diacerhein) in the treatment of knee or hip osteoarthritis and reduced the need for analgesic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory therapy.


Leblan D, Chantre P, Fournie B. “Harpagophytum Procumbens In The Treatment Of Knee And Hip Osteoarthritis . Four-Month Results Of A Prospective, Multicenter, Double Blind Trial Versus Diacerhei.” 2000