Could Devil’s Claw be an effective treatment for gout?
By Anna Smith
Published Date: 01/10/2014
Anna Smith is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in content that informs, entertains and engages online audiences. More from this expert.
Harpagophytum or Devil’s Claw is a plant named for its prickly fruit that has been a popular herbal treatment for gout for many decades. Brought to Europe from Southern Africa in the early part of the 20th Century, it is also commonly used by those looking to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and back pain.
While experts have been unable to pinpoint the exact mechanism within Devil’s Claw that alleviates joint discomfort, most point to its active chemical ingredient - harpogoside. This compound is thought to be responsible for the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties and could be a particularly useful tool in combating gout flare ups.
What is gout?
Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis and occurs when our bodies are unable to get rid of excess uric acid. This leads to sharp crystals of sodium urate forming in joints and connective tissue causing serious pain. Harpagosides are thought to help reduce uric acid levels in the body and naturally ease inflammation.
One study suggested Doloteffin, a proprietary extract of Harpagophytum, could be just as effective in the management of joint pain and with fewer side effects than some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i).
Extracts of Devil’s Claw can be taken in many forms such as powdered dried root tablet or capsules, liquid extracts and topical ointments. An infusion can also be made by adding the dried root to boiling water.
Dosages will vary with each form and depend on the concentration of harpagoside present with 50mg-100mg of the active ingredient recommended daily. One 450mg powdered dried root extract tablet twice daily will typically provide this (ii). However, you should read the dosage instructions for each product before use.
Side effects and interactions with other medications
Devil’s Claw extract appears to be safe when used in appropriate dosages. The treatment is well tolerated and side effects are not common but are typically minor such as stomach upsets, headaches, loss of appetite and a rash or itching.
Devil’s Claw has been reported to have interactions with blood thinning medications, pain killers and stomach acid drugs. You should also speak with your doctor before adding Devil’s Claw to your existing routine if you have a heart problem.
You should not take Devil’s Claw if you are under the age of 18, pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a history of stomach ulcers.