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What are the characteristics of Harpagophytum?

Harpagos, which means grapple in Greek, gives its name to the harpagophyton because its fruits are provided with hooks curved in the shape of grapples; they cling to the fur and hooves of animals which frantically struggle in all directions to get rid of them, hence its other name of "Devil's Claw".

The native Bushmen and Bantu used the roots orally to treat indigestion, fever and labor pains, externally, as an ointment, to treat small wounds and skin diseases. . In South Africa, it is also traditionally used against seizures in children.

It was a German farmer, Menhert, who at the turn of the century observed in South Africa the beneficial effects of a treatment provided by a healer on a war wounded man. Helped by his hunting dogs, as the healer did not want to reveal his secret, he discovered the place where the roots had been harvested and where the leaves of the plant had been hidden and buried and succeeded in identifying the species. Later the roots were introduced to Europe. They are indicated against migraines, allergic reactions, rheumatism and as a bitter tonic.

Latin name :

  • Harpagophytum procumbens DC.

Botanical family :

  • Pedaliaceae

Producing organ :

  • Secondary lateral root tuberous, cut and dried

Usual dosages :

  • Traditional galenic form: decoction-maceration:
    • Pour 300 ml of boiling water over 4.5 g of finely chopped drug, let stand at room temperature for 8 hours, filter, 3 times during the day (2.5 to 5 g)
  • Nebulisate (hydro-alcoholic dry extract) 1.5 to 3 grams per day
  • Dried root: 4.5 g in 500 ml of water, in three doses
  • Aqueous dry extract 5-10: 1 => 600 to 800 mg per day
  • Hydro-alcoholic dry extract 2.6-4: 1 => 460 mg up to 1.6 g

Known or suspected mode of action :

  • Inhibition of the biosynthesis of cysteinyl leukotrienes and the degradation of thromboxane which play an important role in inflammatory pathologies
  • The activity would result from a synergy between harpagoside, harpagide, 8-coumaroylharpagide, verbascoside
  • Harpagoside indiscriminately inhibits the activity of COX-1 and COX-2 cyclo-oxygenases and greatly reduces the production of NO
  • The pure iridoids: harpagid, harpagoside and 8-Op-coumaroylharpagide are transformed into aucubinin B , monoterpene alkaloid, by chemical, enzymatic and microbiological route under the action of intestinal bacteria
    • In addition, the iridoids would be chemically transformed into other alkaloids called Beatrin 1 and Beatrin 2

Precautions for use :

  • Moderate risk of increased gastric acidity (caution when combining with H2 receptor antagonists, proton pump inhibitors, and antacids)
  • Increased risk of bleeding when taken with medicines such as NSAIDs or anticoagulants (as a COX-2 inhibitor)
  • Effects on cytochrome P450 isoenzymes, harpagophytum is an inhibitor of CYP450 subunits 3A4, 2C8, 2C9 and 2C19, risk of drug interactions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
  • Caution when combined with hypoglycemic drugs
  • In combination with certain antihypertensive drugs, increased antihypertensive effect and induction of hypotensive episodes
  • Moderate risk of change in the rate and strength of cardiac contraction, caution in patients taking antiarrhythmics or digoxin
  • Caution in case of kidney failure
  • Interaction with P-glycoprotein
  • Recommended duration of treatment:
    • 1 month for joint pain
    • 15 days for digestive disorders
  • Contraindicated in pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Reserved for adults

Main components of the plant :

  • Iridoids (0.1 to 2%): harpagoside, procumboside, harpagide and its cinnamic ester
  • Water extractable polysaccharides: stachyose, raffinose, sucrose, glucose (up to 70% of the dry weight)
  • Flavonoids and flavonols, acteoside, isoacteoside, harpagoquinone
  • N-alkanes, sterols, lipids, waxes
  • Harpagophytum procumbens contains more harpagoside
  • Harpagophytum zeyheri contains 8-Op-coumaroylharpagide , which allows them to be distinguished
    Both species have the same anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities

Harpagophyton is dispensed in pharmacies; the root is included in the list of medicinal plants of the French Pharmacopoeia and has a control monograph from the European Pharmacopoeia as well as a community monograph from the EMA. It is an ingredient authorized in food supplements in France.

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