Harpagofito: What is it? History, Benefits for Health and Treatments

Also known popularly as “The Devil’s Claw” or simply “Claw,” it is a plant belonging to the family Pedaliaceae and is from southern Africa.

The name was derived due to the peculiar appearance of the fruit hooked. This plant is perennial and tuberous and produces creeping stems. It prefers deep, sandy soils that have little annual rainfall.

It grows in an arid climate and can be found in Madagascar, Namibia, the African continent, and the Kalahari desert.

It can be found in disturbed and dry places below 1000 m in the deserts of Arizona, southwestern California, west Texas, southern Nevada, and northern Mexico. Traditionally, the roots are used for medicinal purposes.

History of the harpagofito plant

The devil’s claw is native to South Africa and owes its name to the small hooks covering the fruit. It was used to treat liver diseases, pain, malaria, fever, and kidneys. It has been used to heal boils, sores, and other skin ailments.

In the early 1900s, it was introduced in Europe, where dried roots were used to restore appetite, relieve pain and relieve burning and inflammation.

It is widely used in France and Germany to cure low back pain, headache, arthritis pain relief, and counteract inflammation.


In 1953, OH Volk introduced it in Europe, and it was used to treat various metabolic diseases. In 1970, the root was considered a boom in Switzerland and Europe.


The devil’s claw is a perennial plant with a small, clawed fruit with a solid central root that grows up to 2 m deep.

Its secondary roots are used in teas and decoctions. It has large and gray to green leaves and red, pink, or purple flowers in the shape of a trumpet—the flower blooms in the summer and the fruits of January. Later, the flower forms a woody fruit that exhibits long and branched protuberances and barbs.

The drupaceous capsule has an inner part of the wood surrounded by a fleshy layer. The internal woody capsule is divided into two curved claws or horns at one end. About 40 black seeds are found in each capsule.

Roots of the plant

This perennial plant has a ramified root system, branches, and prostate buds approximately 1-1.5 m long. From the lateral and primary roots, it forms roots of tubers.

The primary roots have vertical sections in the form of a collar, quadrangular, obtuse, 30-60 cm thick, and 10-20 cm long with a layer of cracked cork.

The lateral root has nodules 60 mm thick that measure up to 20 cm long and color between light brown or red or brown. The roots grow to a depth of approximately 30-60 cm.


The opposite or alternate leaves are lobed and petiolated. The leaves of the leaves are widely ovate to triangular, from 6.5 cm long and 5-15 cm wide.

Benefits for the health of the devil’s claw

Botanically known as Harpagophytum procumbens, it is helpful to treat fever, pain, malaria, and liver and kidney problems. Typically, it is used for boils, skin problems, and sores. Tubers and roots are the parts of the plant used for medicine.

Although the plant is odorless, it has a very bitter taste. This plant is also used to stimulate appetite and relieve inflammation, pain, indigestion, and burning. Another health benefit is:

Treatment for obesity

Ghrelin is a peptide derived from the stomach that circulates the hunger hormone that provides an anorexigenic effect on receptor activation. In this sense, the harpagofito treats obesity and its associated diseases.

This medicinal plant has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and is used as an appetite modulator. The root extract of Harpagophytum procumbens acts as a new source of anti-obesity bioactive.

Promotes natural bioactivity to develop into functional foods and weight maintenance and loss.