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The devil’s claw tuber contains three important constituents belonging to the iridoid glycoside family: harpagoside, harpagide, and procumbide. The secondary tubers of the herb contain twice as much harpagoside as the primary tubers and are the chief source of devil’s claw used medicinally.9 Harpagoside and other iridoid glycosides found in the plant may be responsible for the herb’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions. However, research has not entirely supported the use of devil’s claw in alleviating arthritic pain symptoms.10, 11 In one trial it was found to reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis as effectively as the slow-acting analgesic/cartilage-protective drug diacerhein.12 One double-blind study reported that devil’s claw (600 or 1200 mg per day) was helpful in reducing low back pain.13
Devil’s claw is also considered by herbalists to be a potent bitter. Bitter principles, like the iridoid glycosides found in devil’s claw, can be used in combination with carminative (gas-relieving) herbs by people with indigestion, but not heartburn.
As a digestive stimulant, 1.5–2 grams per day of the powdered secondary tuber are used.14 For tincture, the recommended amount is 1–2 ml three times daily. For osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, 4.5–10 grams of powder are used per day. Alternatively, standardized extracts, 1,200–2,500 mg per day, may be taken.
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