Devilís Claw for Back, Knee, and Hip Pain
A standardized extract of the herb devilís claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is effective for the majority of people with low back, knee, or hip pain, according to a study published in Phytomedicine (2002;9:181Ė94).
In this study, 250 men and women reporting pain in the low back, hips, or knees took two tablets, three times daily of devilís claw standardized extract (providing 60 mg of total harpagoside per day) for eight weeks. The authors of the study monitored each person for clinical improvement and for side effects.
Between 50 and 70% of those treated noted some improvement in pain with the devilís claw treatment, with an average reduction of 30 to 40% in pain reported. In general, the herb tended to be more effective against hip or knee pain than against low back pain. Also, younger people tended to have more noticeable pain relief than older people.
Only 29 people (11.6%) reported adverse effects that could possibly be attributed to the medication. Complaints included gastrointestinal upset, nausea, vomiting, and allergic rash. Ten people discontinued devilís claw due to side effects.
Devilís claw is thought to work, at least in part, by inhibiting the release of molecules that promote inflammation. Because devilís claw stops inflammation rather than simply blocking the perception of pain, the researchers believe that the herb may be able to actually slow the progression of joint destruction in people with arthritis. The common prescription medications for arthritis, on the other hand, do not help slow joint breakdown, although natural remedies such as glucosamine and chondroitin do appear to have such an effect.
Previous studies with devilís claw have shown it to be more effective than placebo and as effective as rofecoxib (Vioxx®) for the treatment of arthritic pain. Devilís claw also causes fewer side effects than commonly used pain-relieving medications, and is less expensive than many of the common prescription drugs such as rofecoxib.
Devilís claw is an herb native to the southern part of Africa. In addition to its use as a treatment for joint pain, it has commonly been used to treat indigestion. As devilís claw may stimulate the production of stomach acid, it should not be used by people with peptic ulcers. People on blood-thinning medication (e.g., warfarin) should also avoid devilís claw.
Matt Brignall, ND is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Bastyr University. He works at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, where he specializes in complementary medicine approaches to cancer. He has been published in several journals, including Alternative Medicine Review, Coping With Cancer, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Brignall also teaches clinical nutrition at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. He is a regular contributor to Healthnotes, Healthnotes Newswire, and the Healthnotes Quick!Reference series.
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