Devil's claw is the common name of a group of plants in the Sesame (Pedaliaceae) family of plants native to South Africa. The specific species most often mentioned in magickal and healing circles are Harpagophytum procumbens, Harpagophytum zeyheri
Other common names and folk names for Devil's Claw include: grapple plant, wood spider, harpago,
Harpagophytum procumbens is native to Namibia, Botswana, and the Kalahari region of South Africa
Harpagophytum zeyheri is found in Namibia and southern Angola.
Both plants are considered medicinal and are used for similar purpose. Over harvesting in the wild has led these plants to enjoy protected status in their native range.
Description of Devil's Claw
Devil's claw is really quite a lovely plant to behold, if not to handle. It is a creeping, prostrate plant with opposite, irregularly-lobed, grey-green leaves on trailing stems.The silvery color of the leaves are due to small white cells of mucilage that cover their surface and may be the key to their survival in their arid native habitat. The flowers appear in the summer (November to April in their native range), are trumpet-shaped and typically red to purple-pink with yellow throats, but there is some variety to the color. All yellow and even white specimens can be found. Around January, the flowers give way to the distinctive fruits that give this plant its name. They are woody, oval capsules filled with seeds and protected by rows of long, horned arms and spines that extend in all directions.
The real treasure of the devil's claw plant lies beneath the surface, however. It puts down tubers to store nutrients through its dormant period. These tubers are one of the most exported of African medicinal plants. They are also a valuable food source for the native fauna.
Growing Devil's Claw
Devil's claw does not appear to do well at all in captivity though Avontuur farm in South Africa has been cultivating Devil's Claw since 2002, after much trial and research.
In the wild, devil's claw thrives in the savanna and enjoys deep, dry, sandy soil, though it can be found in rocky areas as well. It is most often found on the plains and at the bases of sand dunes. Devil's claw should be harvested in its fourth year for best results.
Devil's Claw for Healing
Devil's claw has been used as medicine by the San people of the Kalahari for centuries. It was first exported to Germany in the early 1900s and the demand has increased and expanded world wide since then. The San have used it for fevers, muscle pain, inflammation, venereal disease, blood diseases, diabetes, coughs and gout. In modern medicine it has been show efficacious for pain, inflammation and arthritis.
The tuberous root is the part of the plant that is used for medicine. It is available in capsule form from several sources. Devil's claw must be taken for several months continuously to achieve gradual relief of symptoms.
Devil's claw may interfere with some anti-coagulant drugs and it may also increase the production of stomach acid.
Devil's Claw in Magick
I do not recommend devil's claw's use in magick due to its delicate status in its native habitat. However it is aligned with the element of fire and the planet Mars and is useful for banishing, exorcism and purification.
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