Natural Anti-inflammatory: Devil’s claw equally effective as drugs

The herb devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a traditional south African anti-inflammatory remedy for pain and has been used in Europe to relieve pain from osteoarthritis over the past 50 years. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Freiburg, Germany, treated patients with low-back pain with either 60 mg of devil’s claw or 12.5 mg of rofecoxib, a leading prescription anti-inflammatory drug. For six weeks, 43 patients took the herb, while 36 took the prescription medication. The patients’ degree of pain was measured using standard clinical tests at the outset, 4 weeks and 6 weeks.

After six weeks, 18 of the patients taking the herb and 12 patients taking the drug reported more than a 50% reduction in pain. By the end of the study, 10 of the patients taking the herb reported no pain and did not require any supplemental pain-reducing medication, compared with only five of the patients taking rofecoxib. There were no differences in reported side effects between the groups.

In an earlier trial involving 122 patients with arthritis of the hip and/or the knee, a similar effect was seen. After 4 months, researchers concluded that devil’s claw and a common prescription drug for osteoarthritis available in Europe were equally effective in treating osteoarthritis of the hip or knee.

These studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory herb devil’s claw may be at least as effective in relieving pain as the leading prescription anti-inflammatory drugs. Devil’s claw is sold in health and nutrition stores as a single dietary supplement, or as an ingredient in many joint pain combination supplements.

Veris Research, June 25, 2003