Arthritis treatment: Devil’s claw may rival ‘conventional medicines’ – what is it?

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Arthritis is a general term for conditions that cause pain and inflammation in a joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting nearly nine million people. In osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint, explains the NHS.

According to the health body, the severity of osteoarthritis symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and between different affected joints.

If you are experiencing particularly painful arthritis symptoms, there are ways to lessen their impact.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is paramount to alleviating osteoarthritis symptoms.

One of the most promising areas of research has focused on the role of herbal supplements.

Devil’s claw, scientifically known as Harpagophytum procumbens, is an African plant that has attracted the attention of researchers.

Supplements derive from the root of the plant, which tends to be dried out, powdered, and used in remedies.

According to Versus Arthritis, the UK’s leading arthritis research charity, “evidence suggests that devil’s claw may be as effective as conventional medicines for osteoarthritis.”

What does the research say?

Versus Arthritis, the UK’s leading arthritis research charity, says ‘evidence suggests that devil’s claw may be as effective as conventional medicines for osteoarthritis.

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A study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that patients with hip or knee arthritis taking a supplement containing devil’s claw over eight weeks saw a 54 percent and 39 percent improvement respectively in their pain levels.

Furthermore, a two-month study in 42 individuals with chronic osteoarthritis found that supplementing daily with devil’s claw in combination with turmeric and bromelain, which are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects as well, reduced pain by an average 46 percent.

It’s thought devil’s claw may have this effect due to anti-inflammatory compounds called iridoid glycosides, especially harpagoside, that help suppress the body’s inflammatory responses.

General lifestyle tips

One of the most robust ways to lessen the effects of osteoarthritis is to engage in regular exercise.

This may seem counterintuitive, particularly if you are suffering from pain and stiffness, but exercise has the reverse effect.

As the NHS explains, regular exercise that keeps you active, builds up muscle and strengthens the joints usually helps to improve symptoms.

“Exercise is also good for losing weight, improving your posture and relieving stress, all of which will ease symptoms,” says the health body.

It adds: “Your GP, or possibly a physiotherapist, will discuss the benefits you can expect from an exercise programme and can give you an exercise plan to follow at home.”

Is there an optimal exercise?

According to the Arthritis Foundation (AF), range of motion or flexibility exercises are best.

“These exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span,” explains AF.

According to the health body, doing these exercises regularly can help maintain and improve the flexibility in the joints.

Examples include:

  • Aerobic/endurance exercise
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Aquatic (water) exercises.

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