This Herb Is Bedeviling to Arthritis Pain
Aptly named for its formidable-looking multi-barbed fruit, devil’s claw delivers a powerful blow to pain.
Devil’s claw is native to Southern Africa, where it holds a revered place in traditional herbalism for pain and fever reduction, healing skin conditions and as a treatment for liver and kidney ailments.
Western herbalism recognizes devil’s claw primarily as an analgesic and arthritis remedy.
The Devil’s in the Details
Devil’s claw contains a number of active constituents that may be effective at reducing the pain and inflammation of arthritis.
Notably, this herb works by increasing your body’s levels of the highest-powered antioxidants – and most effective weapons – it uses to suppress cell-damaging oxidation, namely, superoxide dismutatase, catalase and glutathione .
Devil’s claw also directly shuts down pain messages, according to a laboratory study in which the herb inhibited pain-promoting messages that result when carbon monoxide levels rise at a site of injured tissue .
Devil’s claw has been found to inhibit COX-2, an intermediary molecule in the inflammatory cascade .
Osteoarthritis of the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee and back have all shown good response to devil’s claw in various studies.
While drug manufacturers have been largely unsuccessful at developing drugs to target this part of the inflammatory cascade that are safe enough for long-term use, devil’s claw is regarded as highly safe.
It has not been found to cause any long-term toxicity or drug-interactions and its most common side-effects include minor stomach upset.
Preserve and Protect
One study found that one of devil’s claw’s main active compounds inhibits molecules that stimulate tissue-destroying activity of white blood cells. Devil’s claw may also have an anabolic, or building-up effect, decreasing arthritis symptoms by promoting bone production and fending off osteoporosis .
In a laboratory animal study, devil’s claw extract stimulated bone-producing cells and suppressed activity of cells that break bone down. Supplementation with devil’s claw resulted in lower levels of blood markers that indicate active bone loss.
However, if you are a postmenopausal woman seeking to prevent bone loss, devil’s claw may not be your herb of choice. Its bone preserving benefits seem to be related to inflammation-mediated and not hormone-related bone loss .
A Team Player
When dealing with a complex condition such as arthritis it helps to take a multi-faceted approach. In one such experiment, devil’s claw proved to be a determining factor in overall outcome .
In the experiment, a combination of devil’s claw with glucosamine, chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and bromelain – four of the most widely-used joint health supplements, protected against cartilage damage in laboratory animals.
A similar formula without devil’s claw failed to prevent joint damage. While both groups had lower inflammatory markers, the devil’s claw group showed larger decreases in a greater variety of pro-inflammatory molecules.
The Devil You Know
The contents and effectiveness of commercially available devil’s claw preparations varies widely.
While some brands provide anti-inflammatory benefits, others have been found to contain devil’s claw compounds in proportions that may actually promote inflammation .
Though scientists seek to identify active constituents the scientific approach often fails to account for the presence of cofactors.
To obtain the best possible results from supplementing with devil’s claw choose a high-quality, whole-plant supplement from a source you trust.
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