Botanical Name: Harpagophytum procumbens
Part Used:
Secondary root tubers.
Anti-inflammatory, Antiarrhythmic, Antirheumatic, Analgesic, Digestive Stimulant, Hypotensive.


Devil’s Claw has been widely used in human herbal medicine to treat both acute and chronic inflammation.
In horses Devil’s Claw is considered the herbal bute. It is the single most useful general anti-inflammatory. It is especially useful for musculoskeletal problems. These include not only the strains and sprains of competition but also the inflammation caused through epiphysitis, OCD and degenerative joint disease.
As a general anti-inflammatory it is effective in weaning horses off steroidal anti-inflammatories, in allergic reactions and in acute trauma.
Mode of Action:
The full mode of action has yet to be established. However, harpagoside found in Devil’s Claw has been shown to interfere with the mechanisms that regulate calcium influx into cells.
Calcium influx is required for activation of the enzyme (phospholipase A2) that triggers the cascade of reactions which produce inflammatory eicosanoids.
This action is a common property of many anti-inflammatory and analgesic agents and partially explains Devil’s Claw’s anti-inflammatory effect.
The plant has been shown to inhibit the production of leukotrienes and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFa). This is significant because TNFa stimulates apoptosis. TNFa is released by Killer (cytotoxic) T cells, TNFa depresses the synthesis of protein.
Devil’s Claw does not alter the activity of cyclooxygenase-1, (COX-1) an enzyme involved in the production of prostaglandins, but it does inhibit cyclooxygenase- 2.
It is therefore unlikely that it acts by different mechanisms to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), however because is does not alter the activity of COX-1 it is unlikely to have the same irritant effects on the stomach as these drugs.
Chronic and prophylactic: 5 -10 ml twice daily depending on size and severity of inflammation.
Acute: up to 40 ml twice daily.
The amount of herb needed to produce an effective anti-inflammatory effect can vary between horses. Once you have established the activity of Devil’s Claw in your horse it is worth adjusting the dose to the minimum to maintain sufficient activity in the individual.
Side effects:
Because of its bitterness and associated gastric stimulatory effect it is wise to be cautious in the use of Devil’s Claw on individuals with known gastric ulceration.
Some commentators suggest that Devil’s Claw is contraindicated during gestation. There is no sound evidence to support this.

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