Devil’s claw – characteristics, cultivation and use

Devil's Claw
Devil's Claw by Henri pidoux

The devil’s claw is native to Africa and has fruits that look like claws, which has earned her the name. However, not the fruits are used, but the storage roots. The plant has a strong anti-inflammatory, decongestant and mild analgesic. Therefore, it is particularly suitable for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint pain.

Profile of devil’s claw:

Scientific name: Harpagophytum procumbens

Plant family: sesame family (Pedaliaceae)

Other names: grapple plant, wood spider

Sowing time / Planting time: room greenhouse in the spring

Flowering period: December – January

Harvest time: January – March (fruits)

Useful plant parts: roots, fruits

Location: partially shaded to sunny locations with large temperature jumps (day and night)

Soil quality: –

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: joint pain, lumbago, rheumatism, osteoarthritis, Crohn’s disease, neuralgia

Use as aromatic herb: no use

Plant characteristics and classification of devil’s claw

Origin and occurrence of devil’s claw

The devil’s Claw, which today is used primarily as a medicinal plant, has its origins on the African continent. It is mainly to be found in the countries of South Africa and Namibia, where today it is cultivated on a large scale and being exported. Large stocks of it can be found in the Kalahari Desert. The plant is adapted to drought or desert and steppe regions.

Plant order of the devil’s claw

The devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a member of the sesame family (Pedaliaceae) and thus a direct relative of the species sesame (Sesamum indicum). Devil’s claw presented here is not to be confused with the black rampion or spiked rampion, which belong to the family of the bellflower plants.

Look and characteristics of Devil’s Claw


The devil’s claw is a pretty distinctive plant in its appearance. The perennial and drought-specialized herb is a ground-creeping shrub that can reach lengths of between 1.20 and 1.50 meters (4 and 5 ft).


The dark green leaves sit parallel to the white shoot axis and have a lobed form with rounded corners. The shape of the leaves is reminiscent of a deer antler. Each leaf has several glandular hairs, which secrete oil-like secretions. The exact function of these secretions is not yet finally known. However, it is believed that the devil’s glands produce either the secretion as protection against predators or as a kind of lubricant for the further growth of new leaves.


The roots, which are of great medical interest, are so-called storage roots, which in addition to water also contain nutrient salts and numerous phytochemicals. The roots themselves have a yellowish to yellowish brown color.


During the flowering season, which is expected in the desert between December and February, devil’s Claw develops flowers that are up to 7 cm (3 in) in size and have a light pink to purple color. A special feature of the flowers is the funnel-shaped equipment.


Particularly striking are the woody fruits that look like tentacles or claws. Incidentally, the plant has also received its name. The fruits, botanically drupes, have hooks that resemble anchors. Each fruit capsule contains up to 40 seeds, which become free as the fruit falls off or is taken away by passing animals. The spread is made possible mainly by animals, which drag the fruits along.

Devil’s claw – cultivation and care

The cultivation of devil’s claw in our latitude is possible, but quite difficult. Since it is a desert plant, a special environment for sowing and cultivation must be created.


Particular attention should be paid to the growing substrate and to the temperature. A suitable substrate are mineral patches containing a high proportion of fine to medium-grained sand. Also, recommended is the addition aggregates such as vermiculite, as this is able to store heat and moisture. Potting soil and other organic substrates should definitely be avoided.


Devil’s claw is a light germ, therefore the seeds should only be pressed about 0.5 cm (0.2 in) into the seed substrate. For germination to take place, temperatures between 23 and 25 ° C (73 and 77 ° F) are required. The seeds should linger individually in small plant pots with diameters between 6 and 10 cm (3 and 4 in). It is recommended that the planter be wrapped in a plastic bag. Further irrigation is not necessary until germination. During the initial watering of the substrate some mineral fertilizer should also be added. The type of fertilizer is relatively unimportant. As a guide, a fertilizer with balanced NPK ratio is sufficient.

The cultivation may prove to be a game of patience, since the germination rate of the seeds is around 20 percent. The time to germination can also be between five and ten weeks.

If the germination of the plant is successful, it is important that the plant gets a dry and warm environment. Above all, it is important that during the day higher temperatures around 27 – 35 ° C ( 80 – 95 ° F) are achieved. In the evening and night, the temperature can turn out correspondingly lower. The devil’s claw is used to large temperature jumps.

Devil’s claw and its use

The devil’s claw is used exclusively as a medicinal plant. The plant contains no flavorable flavors that can be used in the kitchen.

Devil’s claw in the kitchen

The devil’s claw is not used as a spice herb. Both the leaves and the roots taste very bitter.

Devil’s claw as a medicinal herb

Devil’s Claw can be used either as a tea, as a tincture or in finished preparations.

The most common way to use the herb is probably the capsule form because, because the plant tastes rather bitter, many people do not enjoy drinking it as tea. Devil’s claw capsules are available almost everywhere, both in the pharmacy and in the grocery discounter.

Preparation of a devil’s claw tea

  • put one to two teaspoons of devil’s claw in a tea strainer in a cup
  • dash with boiling water
  • let it draw for five hours.
  • drink in small sips
  • from this tea you drink one to three cups daily.

As with all powerful herbs, you should take a break after six weeks of continuous use and temporarily drink another tea with a similar effect. Then you can drink the tea again for six weeks. The break prevents possible unwanted long-term effects and the desired effectiveness of the devil’s claw is preserved and does not diminish through habituation.

The devil’s claw is also suitable for tea blends, where their bitter taste is mitigated by the combination with other herbs and also hardly any unwanted side effects can occur, because it is naturally very low in mixed teas.

Preparation of a devil’s claw tincture

To make a devil’s claw tincture, douse devil’s claw roots in a screw-top jar with double grain or spirit until all parts of the plant are covered, and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 to 6 weeks.

Then strain and fill in a dark bottle.

This tincture is taken one to three times a day 10-50 drops.

If the tincture is too concentrated, you can dilute it with water.

Inwardly use of devil’s claw

Devil’s claw can be used internally, as a tea, tincture or finished preparation for osteoarthritis. In addition, it helps against other types of joint complaints, including those of the rheumatic type.

Where devil’s claw grows, it is also used for indigestion, liver-gallbladder problems and urinary tract disorders. The root also has a blood-thinning effect, which is certainly desirable for older patients with arteriosclerosis, but can also be dangerous in the case of bleeding.

Externally use of devil’s claw

Externally you can use devil’s claw tea or diluted tincture in the form of envelopes, baths or washes.

Devil’s claw ointments are also in use. This type of application can relieve chronic skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis. It can also be tried against badly healing wounds.

Devil’s claw can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • arthrosis
  • back pain
  • bendonitis
  • eczema
  • erysipelas
  • gall bladder problems
  • joint pain
  • kidney weakness
  • liver weakness
  • lumbago
  • menopausal symptoms
  • promoting ovulation
  • psoriasis
  • sciatica
  • shingles

Medicinal properties

  • anti-inflammatory
  • analgesic
  • blood thinning
  • decongestant

Side effects

It is not recommended to use devil’s claw in known gastric ulcers. In addition, devil’s claw should not be used in known pregnancy, as some ingredients are thought to be teratogenic.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Devil’s Claw – What is there to pay attention to?

The devil’s claw is only available in processed products or in the form of seeds. Fresh plants are currently not available. Some traders offer devil’s claw plants. However, these have nothing to do with the devil´s claw (Harpagopyhtum procumbens). These are usually the types Physoplexus comosa or Phyteuma orbiculare / Phyteuma spicatum.

However, some traders offer seeds, which unfortunately can only be obtained at rather high prices. The average cost for 10 seeds is between 4 and 10 EUR/$. It should be planned that only about 2 to 3 of 10 seeds begin to germinate.

For the medical use of devil’s claw there are relatively many finished products. Here you can choose between ointment, cut roots, capsules and tablets. For muscle or musculoskeletal disorders, ointments and capsules may be used. Who wants to use the medicinal plant due to indigestion or gastrointestinal discomfort, should go back to devil’s claw root or finished medicinal mixtures.

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