Harpagophytum procumbens

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Harpagophytum procumbens

Family: Pedaliaceae (Sesame family)

Common names

  • Devil’s claw
  •  Harpago
  •  Grapple plant
  •  Wool- and woodspider 
  •  Duivelsklou
  •  Bobbejaandubbeltjie
  •  Kloudoring
  •  Veldspinnakop
  •  Teufelskralle
  •  Trampelklette
  •  Sengaparile
  •  Kanako
  •  Lekgagamare
  •  Ghamaghoe
  •  Tloutaxaba
  •  Otjihangatene

Description

Devil’s claw is an herb. The botanical name, Harpagophytum, means “hook plant” in Greek. This plant, which is native to Africa, gets its name from the appearance of its fruit, which is covered with hooks. The roots of the plant are used to make medicine.

The flowers are trumpet-shaped and can be dark red or purple or pink  and the mouth is yellow. They can be all yellow, all purple or white.

The plants flower mainly from about November to April (summer) and have fruits from about January.

Distribution

Harpagophytum procumbens is found in most of Namibia, except the far northern, northeastern and western parts, Botswana and South Africa.  In South Africa it grows in the provinces of North-West, western Free State and Northern Cape.

Cultural value

Harpagophytum procumbens is one of the most known medicinal plants in South Africa. It is used for many medical conditions.

For thousands of years, the Khoisan people of the Kalahari Desert have used the devil’s claw root in herbal remedies.
Devil’s claw is used most commonly for general pain relief, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, and other degenerative disorders of the musculoskeletal system. It is also used for the liver, the gallbladder and for stomach complaints and loss of appetite.

Topically it is used as an ointment for skin injuries and disorders.

It apparently works like cortisone but without the bad side effects of that drug. It also helps with diseases of the liver, gall bladder, kidneys, pancreas, digestive system and joints, as well as hypertension, high cholesterol and tuberculosis.
Externally it helps heal ulcers, boils, skin lesions and wounds.

Growing Harpagophytum procumbens

Little is known about cultivating devil’s claw and, as yet, it is not used in gardens.

The plants do not grow well with other plants.

Plant tubors out in October and November (early summer), 0.1 m deep and 0.5 m apart. First prepare the ground by clearing away all other vegetation in a strip 3 m wide. It does not need much fertilizer or water. In fact, over watering may lead to fungus problems. The only pests to worry about are animals eating the tubers. Flowers should appear in about the second summer after planting out. Wait 4 years for the first harvest when each plant should yield about 2 kg of fresh or ± 0.3 kg dry tuber.