Harpagophytum procumbens (Burch.) DC. ex Meisn. (unresolved name)

Last updated: 03 August 2016

Scientific Name

Harpagophytum procumbens (Burch.) DC. ex Meisn. (unresolved name) [1]


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

English Devil’s claw, grapple plant, wood spider. [2]

Geographical Distributions

Harpagophytum procumbens is native to Southwest Africa. [2]

Botanical Description

H. procumbens is a member of the Pediliaceae family. [2]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

H. procumbens has been reported to contain iridoid glycosides (e.g. harpagoside, harpagide, and procumbide) and β-sitosterol. [3]

Plant Part Used

No documentation.

Traditional Use

Historically, H. procumbens or devil’s claw tuber has been used as an adjunct therapy for a variety of conditions related to the liver and kidneys. Traditionally it has also been used to treat lymph toxicity, diabetes, respiratory ailments and arthritic complaints [4]. H. procumbens reportedly helps with joint mobility and reduces pain and swelling [5][6].

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity

Experiments in laboratory animals have demonstrated the efficacy of H. procumbens in inflammation, with effects comparable to phenylbutazone [7]. Methanol extract and butanol fraction of methanol extract of H. procumbens showed some analgesic and antiphlogistic activity after administered orally and intravenously to animal models compared to pure Harpagosid [8]. It has been used to treat arthritis, being more suitable for osteoarthritis than rheumatoid arthritis. The constituents, harpagoside and β-sitosterol, have been reported to have anti-inflammatory effects [9]. Besides anti-inflammatory, the aqueous extract of the H. procumbens also has analgaesic effect [10].

Gastrointestinal activity

The bitter constituents (iridoid glycosides) found in H. procumbens have been reported to be effective in dyspepsia and in regulating bile salts [4]. These constituents have been reported inactivated in gastric acid conditions [11] but a recent in vitro study reports that the harpagoside content decreased only by about 10% in artificial gastric fluid within a period of 3 hours and remained stable in artificial intestinal fluid for a period of 6 hours [12].

Muscle contraction activity

Crude methanol extract and its active principles namely harpagoside and harpagide of H. procumbens secondary roots has been reported affected the gallbladder by relaxing smooth muscle, allowing bile to flow more readily. [13]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Clinical studies have supported that H. procumbens has anti-inflammatory activity [14], although a report has demonstrated negative results [15]. A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group study was conducted in 122 patients with hip and/or knee osteoarthritis was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of devil’s claw as compared to the slow-acting drug for osteoarthritis, diacerhein [16]. After four months, considerable improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms were seen in both groups, with no significant differences for pain, functional disability, or the Lequesne score. However, use of analgesic (acetaminophen-caffeine) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (diclofenac) medications was significantly reduced in the devil’s claw group, which also had a significantly lower rate of adverse events. The authors concluded that H. procumbens was at least as effective as the reference drug (diacerhein) in the treatment of knee or hip osteoarthritis and reduced the need for analgesic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory therapy. The results of a study revealed that patients with osteoarthritis had a strong reduction of pain and symptoms when devil’s claw extract was administered [17].


No documentation.

Side effects

Toxicity is extremely low and is not seen in recommended doses. [18]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Based on animal studies, H. procumbens should not be used in pregnancy or nursing due to stimulation of the uterine muscle. [5]

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.


Dosage Range

Infusion: 3 times a day using 4.5 g of herb to 300 mL water steeped 8 hours. [18]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Harpagophytum procumbens (Burch.) DC. ex Meisn. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Jun 30]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2839701
  2. Kuhn MA, Winston D. Winston & Kuhn's herbal therapy and supplements: A scientific and traditional approach. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/ Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008; p. 157.
  3. Ficarra P, Ficarra R, Tommasini A, et al. HPLC analysis of a drug in traditional medicine: Harpagophytum procumbens DC. Boll Chim Farm. 1986;125(7):250-253.
  4. Bradley PR, editor. British Herbal Compendium. Bournemouth:British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992; p. 78-80.
  5. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philipson D. Herbal medicines: A guide for health care professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996; p. 98-100.
  6. Baghdikian B, Lanhers MC, Fleurentin J, et al. An analytical study, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Harpagophytum procumbens and Harpagophytum zeyheri. Planta Med. 1997;63(2):171-176.
  7. Eichler O, Koch C. Antiphlogistic, analgesic and spasmolytic effect of harpagoside, a glycoside from the root of Harpagophytum procumbens DC. Arzneim-Forsch/Drug Res. 1970;20(1):107-109. German.
  8. Erdös A, Fontaine R, Friehe H, Durand R, Pöppinghaus T. Contribution to the pharmacology and toxicology of different extracts as well as the harpagosid from Harpagophytum procumbens DC. Planta Med. 1978;34(1):97-108. German.
  9. Grahame R, Robinson BV. Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens): Pharmacological and clinical studies. Ann Rheum Dis. 1981;40(6):632.
  10. Lanhers MC, Fleurentin J, Mortier F, Vinche A, Younos C. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of an aqueous extract of Harpagophytum procumbens. Planta Med. 1992;58(2):117-123.
  11. Soulimani R, Younos C, Mortier F, Derrieu C. The role of stomachal digestion on the pharmacological activity of plant extracts, using as an example extracts of Harpagophytum procumbens. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1994;72(12):1532-1536.
  12. Chrubasik S, Sporer F, Dillmann-Marschner R, Friedmann A, Wink M. Physicochemical properties of harpagoside and its in vitro release from Harpagophytum procumbens extract tablets. Phytomedicine. 2000;6(6):469-473.
  13. Occhiuto F, Circosta C, Ragusa S, Ficarra P, Costa De Pasquale R. A drug used in traditional medicine: Harpagophytum procumbens DC. IV. Effects on some isolated muscle preparations. J Ethnopharmacology. 1985;13(2):201-208.
  14. Chrubasik S, Junck H, Breitschwerdt H, Conradt C, Zappe H. Effectiveness of harpagophytum extract WS 1531 in the treatment of exacerbation of low back pain: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Eur J Anaesthesiol. 1999;16(2):118-129.
  15. Whitehouse LW, Znamirowska M, Paul CJ. Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens): No evidence for anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of arthritic disease. Can Med Assoc J. 1983;129(3):249-251.
  16. Leblan D, Chantre P, Fournie B. Harpagophytum procumbens in the teatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. four-month results of a prospective, multicenter, double-blind trial versus diacerhein. Joint Bone Spine. 2000;67(5):462-467.
  17. Wegener T, Lupke NP. Treatment of patients with arthrosis of hip or knee with an aqueous extract of devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens DC.). Phytother Res. 2003;17(10):1165-1172.
  18. PDR for Herbal Medicines, 2nd ed. Montvale, New Jersey: Medical Economics Company, 2000; p. 247-248.