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Low Back Pain and Sciatica and Devil's Claw

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Effect of Devil's Claw on Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Devil's claw has been used for the treatment of osteoarthritis, and has been tried for back pain as well. When the pain is arthritic in nature, is likely the best time to use devil's claw for the treatment of back pain or sciatica.

Read more details about Devil's Claw.

Research Evidence on Devil's Claw

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 197 individuals with chronic back pain found devil's claw only marginally effective at best.38

Similarly poor results were seen in an earlier 4-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 118 individuals with acute back pain.39

However, a 4-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 63 people with mild to moderate chronic muscular tension in the neck, back, and shoulders did find some benefit.27

Safety Issues

Devil's claw appears to be safe, at least for short-term use. In one study, no evidence of toxicity emerged at doses many times higher than recommended. 1 In a review of 28 clinical trials dating back 20 years, researchers found no instances where adverse effects were more common than those associated with a placebo. Minor adverse effects, most gastrointestinal in nature, occurred in roughly 3% of patients. 2 Devil's claw is not recommended for people with ulcers. A 6-month open study of 630 people with arthritis showed no side effects other than occasional mild gastrointestinal distress. According to one case report, the herb devil's claw might increase the potential for bleeding while taking warfarin . 3 Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • Blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin : Devil's claw might enhance their effect, possibly producing a risk of bleeding.

References

  1. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Harpagophyti radix (devil's claw). Exeter, UK: ESCOP; 1996-1997. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Fascicule 2.
  2. Vlachojannis J, Roufogalis BD, Chrubasik S. Systematic review on the safety of Harpagophytum preparations for osteoarthritic and low back pain. Phytother Res. 2008;22:149-152.
  3. Shaw D, Leon C, Kolev S, et al. Traditional remedies and food supplements: a 5-year toxicological study (1991-1995). Drug Safety. 1997;17:342-356.
  1. Gobel H, Heinze A, Ingwersen M, et al. Effects of Harpagophytum procumbens LI 174 (devil's claw) on sensory, motor and vascular muscle reagibility in the treatment of unspecific back pain. Schmerz. 2001;15:10-18.
  1. Chrubasik S, Junck H, Breitschwerdt H, et al. 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;16:118-129.
  1. Chrubasik S, Zimpfer CH, Schutt U, et al. Effectiveness of Harpagophytum procumbens in treatment of acute low back pain. Phytomedicine. 1996;3:1-10.

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