Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum Procumbens)
The devilish plant with remedial properties

The Devil’s Claw is a prostrate, trailing plant. During the rainy season it grows stems of up to one metre long, spreading into all directions. The beautiful lilac flowers develops into a seed pod of up to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide with claw-like hooks which can intrude deeply into flesh or clothing. It is with good reason that this plant is called the Devil’s Claw. The mechanism of hooking serves to spread the plant.
The main root grows vertically into the ground, reaching a length between 1 and 2 m and a diameter of up to 5 cm. The smaller secondary roots grow mostly horizontally and form tubers of up to 10 cm thick and 30 cm long.
These secondary roots contain the active agents. They are harvested, sliced and dried. If harvesting is done with sufficient expert care the main root remains unharmed and will produce even more as the ground is loosened and the water supply increased.

Occurrence: Harpagophytum Procumbens occurs naturally mainly in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Another species, Harpagophytum Zeyeri, thrives in sandy areas in northern Namibia and Botswana as well as in Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Devil’s Claw is widespread. In many areas it forms small, densely grown fields.

History: Shortly after 1900, at the time of the colonial wars in German South West Africa, a farmer, H.G. Mehnert, had the opportunity to witness the amazing healing powers of the Devil’s Claw under Namibia’s burning sun: A traditional healer successfully treated the serious injuries sustained by a native. The healer remained tight-lipped about his secret, but Mehnert managed to follow his tracks with his dog and thus found the medicinal plant. Since then the Devil’s Claw has been used in western countries as well and has become very popular.
Ecological and social background: Between 600-1000 tons of dried Devil’s Claw are annually exported from Namibia. Sustainable use is therefore an absolute necessity.
Nowadays the plant is increasingly cultivated, too, which ensures its long-term survival. Cultivation, however, has drastic consequences for the local people who make a living from gathering the Devil’s Claw.
Ecoso is determined to secure sustainable sources of the raw material and let the gatherers have a share in them through accessible marketing channels, fair prices, training and participation in quality controls. One of the target groups are the San (Bushmen) in north-eastern Namibia.
© 2004 ECOSO DYNAMICS - all rights reserved