Several double-blind studies have reported benefit with devil's claw in people with back pain. A double-blind study of 117 people with back pain reported decreased pain and improved mobility after 8 weeks' treatment with devil's claw extract LI 174, known commercially as Rivoltan (Laudahn & Walper 2001). Use of the same extract provided significant pain relief after 4 weeks in another randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled study of 63 subjects with muscle stiffness (Gobel et al 2001). Similar results were reported in two double-blind studies of 118 people (Chrubasik et al 1996) and 197 people (Chrubasik et al 1999) with chronic lower back pain.
Devil's claw appears to compare favourably to conventional treatments. A 6-week double-blind study of 88 subjects comparing devil's claw to rofecoxib found equal improvements in both groups (Chrubasik et al 2003b) A follow-up of the subjects © 2007 Elsevier Australia
from that study who were all given devil's claw for 1 year found that it was well tolerated and improvements were sustained (Chrubasik et al 2005). In an open, prospective study, an unspecific lower back pain treatment with Harpagophytum extract and conventional therapy were found to be equally effective (Schmidt et al 2005).
Traditionally, devil's claw has also been used to treat dyspepsia and to stimulate appetite (Fisher and Painter 1996). The bitter principles in the herb provide a theoretical basis for its use in these conditions, although controlled studies are not available to determine effectiveness. The herb is Commission E (Blumenthal et al 2000) and ESCOP (2003) approved for dyspepsia and loss of appetite.
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