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.
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
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.