Devil’s Claw Benefits for Back Pain

There are numerous devil’s claw benefits for your health.

Don’t be fooled by the hostile appearance or by the name.

© Wasana Jaigunta |

If you know what devil’s claw looks like, you also know where it gets it name. The hooks and barbs of this plant aren’t all that friendly. But don’t be fooled by the hostile appearance or by the name; there are numerous devil’s claw benefits for your health. Most notably, devil’s claw has pain-relieving properties for back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions like osteoarthritis.

What is devil’s claw?

Devil’s claw (Harpgophytum procumbens) is a plant native to southern Africa. It has a long history of medicinal use and has been used to treat conditions ranging from joint diseases to digestive problems to headache. Devil’s claw exerts its beneficial effects in the body through anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, and cartilage-protective actions.[1] 

The active component responsible for many of the devil’s claw benefits is harpagoside. Harpagoside has pain-relieving properties that help treat conditions like back pain and osteoarthritis. The plant also contains antioxidants like flavonoids and phytosterols like beta-sitosterol, which give it additional healing properties.[1]

In terms of pain reduction, researchers believe that devil’s claw may have a broader mechanism of action compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).[2] And as NSAIDs can cause adverse effects such as stomach bleeding, ulcers, and kidney damage, natural alternatives like devil’s claw are appealing for the treatment of inflammatory conditions like back pain.

Devil’s claw for back pain

Devil’s claw extract has effectively reduced low back pain and improved mobility in numerous studies, and there is evidence that it may be as effective as conventionally used drug treatments for this type of pain.[3,4,5] An initial study found that 60 mg Doloteffin (a devil’s claw formulation) was as effective as rofecoxib, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, with no significant differences in pain between patients taking the two.[3] Another study found that 60% of patients taking devil’s claw reduced or stopped their other pain medications because they experienced such significant improvements in pain, stiffness, and function.[4]

Devil’s claw seems to be well tolerated for long-term use in low back pain.[6] Researchers conclude that the evidence is strong for the use of about 50 mg of harpagoside from devil’s claw to treat non-specific low back pain.[7]

Dosage, side effects, and usage

To try devil’s claw, choose a devil’s claw product (Harpagophytum procumbens) that contains 50 to 60 mg of harpagoside, the active component of this herbal remedy. Take daily. Studies show that less than 50 mg is not nearly as effective in relieving pain.[1]

In general, devil’s claw is safe to use and tolerated well. Occasional mild side effects have been reported, which mainly consist of mild gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating and heartburn, but they are rare.[2] Some compounds in devil’s claw may be harmful to people who have gastric or duodenal ulcers. People on anticoagulants should also avoid using devil’s claw.[2]

Other effective back pain treatments

If you suffer from back pain, read these blogs for other ideas on how to find natural relief:

Share your experience

Do you have back pain? Have you ever experienced any of the devil’s claw benefits for back pain? What other natural remedies for back pain do you use? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

[1] Altern Med Rev. 2008 Sep;13(3):248-52.

[2] Holist Nurs Pract. 2007 Jul-Aug;21(4):203-7.

[3] Rheumatology (Oxford). 2003 Jan;42(1):141-8.

[4] Phytother Res. 2007 Dec;21(12):1228-33.

[5] Phytother Res. 2001 Nov;15(7):621-4.

[6] Phytomedicine. 2005 Jan;12(1-2):1-9.

[7] BMC Complement Altern Med. 2004 Sep 15;4:13.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

View all posts by UHN Staff

Comments Comments Policy
  • Started yesterday- great relief from lower back pain and arthritis- better than Alleve.
    I was taking 2 capsules 188 mg – might reduce to 1 capsules 3x day

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Enter Your Login Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.