What Is Devil's Claw?

South African Herb Studied for Osteoarthritis and Back Pain Relief

Devil's claw is the name for the Harpagophytum genus (group) of plants. And Harpagophytum procumbens (H. procumbens) and H. zeyheri are two varieties within this group.

Both of these species contain an active chemical called harpagoside. And devil's claw is thought to work through this chemical to relieve pain and inflammation (swelling).

In general, devil's claw is an herb native to southern Africa. This article will cover more on what you should know about devil's claw—its potential uses, side effects, and interactions.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLab, or NSF.

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, it doesn't mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, talking to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and checking in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications is important.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredients (s): Iridoid glycosides, like harpagoside
  • Alternative name(s): Devil's claw, Harpagophytum procumbens (H. procumbens), H. zeyheri, grapple plant, wood spider
  • Legal status: Legal in most U.S. states
  • Suggested dose: May vary based on the dosage form and medical condition
  • Safety considerations: May be unsafe during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and in children; may cause interactions with some prescription medications, herbs, plant-based medicines, and supplements

Uses of Devil's Claw

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

devil's claw
Verywell / Emily Roberts

Like many natural products, people may use devil's claw for various reasons. But several studies assess devil's claw for the following potential uses.


Devil's claw—alone or combined with other medicines—may relieve osteoarthritis (so-called wear-and-tear arthritis) pain. Devil's claw might help some people take lower doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil (ibuprofen).

A systematic review (review of a collection of studies) included examples of how people with osteoarthritis may have benefited from devil's claw. But longer-term studies are still necessary better to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of devil's claw.

Back Pain

Devil's claw was as effective as NSAIDs at relieving low low-back pain.

Results from another systematic review suggest that devil's claw may reduce low back better than a placebo (a substance with no medicine). But further research with higher-quality clinical trials is still warranted.

What Are the Side Effects of Devil's Claw?

Like many medications and natural products, side effects are possible with devil's claw. The following may not be a complete list of side effects. If you have any concerns about side effects with devil's claw, reach out to your pharmacist and healthcare provider.

Common Side Effects

In general, short- or long-term use of devil's claw appears to be safe. But some common side effects include:

Severe Side Effects

Serious side effects may include:

  • Severe allergic reaction: A severe allergic reaction is a possible serious side effect of any medication. Symptoms may include breathing difficulties, itchiness, and rash.
  • Gallstones: Devil's claw might encourage your body to make more bile (digestive fluid). And too much bile may increase your risk of gallstones.
  • Heart-related effects: Devil's claw may affect your blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm. These effects may worsen your heart-related conditions.
  • Sodium levels: Devil's claw may lower your sodium levels. If you have low sodium levels, you may experience seizures, confusion, and extreme tiredness.
  • Stomach ulcer: Devil's claw is linked to excess stomach acid that may raise the likelihood of stomach ulcers.

If you're having a severe allergic reaction or if any of your symptoms feel life-threatening, call 911 and get medical help right away.


Devil's claw may pose risks in the following situations:

Severe allergic reaction: Avoid devil's claw if you have a severe allergic reaction to it or any of its components (parts or ingredients).

Pregnancy: Devil's claw may have adverse effects on the fetus. Avoid use during pregnancy. If you have questions, talk with your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of devil's claw while pregnant.

Breastfeeding: There is little information about the effects and safety of devil's claw on nursing babies. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss the benefits and harms of devil's claw while breastfeeding.

Children: Most devil's claw product labels likely target adults—not children. Reach out to your child's healthcare provider (pediatrician) to discuss the benefits and risks of devil's claw.

Adults over age 65: Generally, oral (by mouth) versions of devil's claw are likely safe in many adults for up to 12 weeks. Some older adults may be more sensitive to medication side effects.

People with gallstones: Devil's claw may increase levels of bile (digestive fluid) within the body, which raises the risk of gallstones. If you have a history of gallstones, your healthcare provider may recommend avoiding devil's claw.

People with heart-related conditions: Devil's claw may affect your blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm. For this reason, your healthcare provider may recommend against devil's claw if you have a heart-related condition.

People with a higher risk of low sodium levels: Devil's claw may lower your sodium levels. You may want to avoid devil's claw if you're more likely to have low sodium levels. For example, certain diuretics (water pills) may increase your risk of low sodium levels. Diarrhea and vomiting may also lower your sodium levels.

People with stomach ulcers: Devil's claw might be linked to excess stomach acid, raising your risk of stomach ulcers. For this reason, your healthcare provider may avoid devil's claw if you have a history of stomach ulcers.

Dosage: How Much Devil's Claw Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

While there are some human studies on devil's claw, longer-term and higher-quality clinical trials are needed. For this reason, there are no guidelines on the appropriate dosage to take devil's claw for any condition.

If you take devil's claw, follow your healthcare provider's suggestions and product label instructions.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Devil's Claw?

There is little information about devil's claw toxicity and overdoses in humans. Overdoses with devil's claw, however, might be similar to its potential common or severe side effects, which might be exaggerated or excessive.

But a review mentioned that a study didn't notice any severe side effects with devil's claw. While devil's claw seems well-tolerated, long-term, high-quality studies are still necessary.


Use caution when taking devil's claw with the following:

Certain cytochrome P450 (CYP450) substrate medications: CYP450 is a family of liver enzymes (proteins). Some medications bind to specific CYP450 proteins to be broken down or activated—but usually to be broken down. These medications that attach to CYP450 proteins are called substrates.

Devil's claw may affect how specific CYP450 proteins work—particularly the CYP2C9, CYP2C19, and CYP3A4 proteins. Changing how these proteins work may also change how quickly or slowly they break down or activate some medications. This change may lead to different levels of certain medications, resulting in more side effects or reduced effectiveness.

So, if you take CYP2C9, CYP2C19, or CYP3A4 substrate medications, your healthcare provider may closely monitor for side effects and effectiveness problems. And if necessary, they'll make adjustments to your medications.

An example of CYP2C9 substrate medication is Dilantin (phenytoin) for seizures. And a CYP2C19 substrate example is the voriconazole antifungal. And a CYP3A4 substrate example is Zocor (simvastatin) for high cholesterol.

Heart medications: Devil's claw may affect your blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm. So, devil's claw may interact or interfere with your heart medications. For this reason, your healthcare provider may want to monitor you closely. And if necessary, they'll make adjustments to your medications.

Jantoven (warfarin): Warfarin thins your blood, raising the likelihood of bleeding and bruising side effects. Devil's claw may increase warfarin's effects and worsen the bleeding and bruising side effects. If you take these medications together, your healthcare provider may want to see you more often to monitor side effects and labs.

It is essential to carefully read a supplement's ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to learn which ingredients are in the product and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications. 

How to Store Devil's Claw

Since storage instructions may vary for different natural products, carefully read the directions and packaging label on the container. But in general, keep your medications tightly closed and out of the reach of children and pets, ideally locked in a cabinet or closet. Try to store your medicines in a cool and dry place.

Discard after one year or as indicated on the packaging. Avoid putting unused and expired medicines down the drain or in the toilet. Visit the FDA's website to find out where and how to discard all unused and expired medicines. You can also find disposal boxes in your area.

Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have any questions about how to dispose of your medications or supplements.

Similar Supplements

A potential use of devil's claw is osteoarthritis. And two potentially similar supplements are:

  • Feverfew: Feverfew was also known as the "medieval aspirin" that might be used for arthritis. But presently, there is little data to support its use for arthritis. As for safety, feverfew seems similar to devil's claw. Common side effects tend to be related to the digestive system. Plus, information about feverfew is similar to devil's claw regarding use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe): One of SAMe's potential use is osteoarthritis. But according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the research results were mixed. Moreover, results from a systematic review (review of a collection of studies) were also inconclusive. Side effects, however, seem to be rare. And SAMe has been used in pregnant and breastfeeding people, but more information on its effects and safety is needed.

Do not take multiple natural products together until you first talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. They can help prevent possible interactions and side effects. They can also ensure you're giving these supplements a fair trial at appropriate doses.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most common dosage form for devil's claw?

    Devil's claw is available in several different dosage forms—with capsules likely being the most common.

  • Is devil's claw available from manufacturers in the United States?

    Yes. There are devil's claw products made by manufacturers in the United States.

  • How do I take devil's claw safely?

    In general, to safely take herbal medications—like devil's claw—first, inform your healthcare provider and pharmacist about other medications you take. This includes over-the-counter (OTC), herbal, natural medications, and supplements.

    They can let you know of possible drug interactions and side effects. They can also ensure you’re giving devil's claw a good trial at appropriate doses.

Sources of Devil's Claw & What to Look For

There are several different sources of devil's claw.

Food Sources of Devil's Claw

Devil's claw is naturally available as an herb. It might also be available as a tea for you to drink.

Devil's Claw Supplements

Devil's claw is available in various forms, including capsules and tablets. If you have difficulty swallowing pills, you may be able to find devil's claw in the following forms:

  • Liquid
  • Powder
  • Tea
  • Topical skin products

There may also be vegan and vegetarian options. Your specific product will depend on your preference and what you hope to get in terms of effects. Each product may work a bit differently, depending on the form. So, following your healthcare provider's recommendations or label directions is important.


Devil's claw is an herb native to southern Africa.

Devil's claw may have the potential to relieve osteoarthritis and back pain. And devil's claw seems well-tolerated and safe with short or long-term use. But similar to many medications and natural products, side effects and medication interactions are still possible.

More high-quality, long-term clinical trials are still needed to assess devil claw's effectiveness and safety. Before taking devil's claw, reach out to your pharmacist or healthcare provider to help you safely achieve your health goals.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Brendler T. Review of devil's claw (Harpagophytum spp.). Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021;14(8):726. doi: 10.3390%2Fph14080726

  2. ScienceDirect. Harpagophytum.

  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Devil's claw.

  4. Cameron M, Chrubasik S. Oral herbal therapies for treating osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2014;5:CD002947. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002947.pub2

  5. Oltean H, Robbins C, van Tulder MW, et al. Herbal medicine for low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(12):CD004504. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004504.pub4

  6. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary supplemet label database.

  7. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Low blood sodium.

  8. ScienceDirect. Cytochrome P450.

  9. Food and Drug Administration. Drug development and drug interactions | table of substrates, inhibitors and inducers.

  10. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Feverfew.

  11. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. S- Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAMe): In Depth.

  12. Rutjes AWS, Nuesch E, Reichenbach S, et al. S-adenosylmethionine for osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009;4:CD007321. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007321.pub2

  13. LactMed. SAM-e.

  14. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. A guide to herbal remedies.

By Ross Phan, PharmD, BCACP, BCGP, BCPS
Ross is a writer for Verywell with years of experience practicing pharmacy in various settings. She is also a board-certified clinical pharmacist and the founder of Off Script Consults.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process