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Herbs Horse Owners Need to Know About - Devil's Claw

May 3, 2014

Devil’s Claw

Harpogophytum procumbens


Why You Should Know About it:

     Devil’s Claw reduces pain and inflammation in degenerative joint diseases such as arthritis and other inflammatory bone disorders, and soft tissue inflammation.


     Research has shown that Devil’s Claw has comparable pain killing effects to cortisone and phenylbutazone (Bute). Bute is one of the most commonly prescribed pain medications for horses. Unfortunately, Bute is notorious for causing gastric ulcers (more so than any other NSAID). It has been shown to cause ulcers in as little as 5 days, even at vet recommended doses. It can also cause colic and kidney disorders, and therefore is not recommended for long-term use, high doses, or for young horses or horses with specific preexisting conditions. The therapeutic window for Bute is very small, meaning that it can cause severe toxicity if the horse is given even slightly too high a dose. Devil’s Claw, conversely, has very few side effects when administered at recommended doses. The bitter aspect of the plant increase gastric secretions, which stimulates digestion but may also irritate pre-existing ulcers.


     Devil’s Claw can be extremely effective at managing pain and inflammation, and increasing joint mobility. It is a great alternative to Bute for many cases of acute pain, or for use in horses with chronic conditions such as arthritis, where Bute may not be advised long term. It is helpful to combine Devil’s Claw with other anti-inflammatory and tissue rebuilding therapeutics such as proper nutrition, vitamin and mineral supplementation, Turmeric (Curcuma longa) with Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Flax and Chia seeds), antioxidants, glucosamine and chondroitin, gentle exercise, and avoiding exposure to things like pesticides, artificial flavoring, and oxidized oils.


How to Use It:

Part Used: Root

Form Used: Dried, crushed or powdered

Dosages: 15 g or ½ oz (for an 1,100 lb. horse)

Herbal Actions: Anti-inflammatory, anodyne, antirhuemetic, sedative, digestive & appetite stimulant, hypotensive, bitter, cooling

Cautions: Do not use in pregnant mares. Do not use in horses with gastric ulcers or diabetes. Devil’s Claw interacts with some medications, such as anticoagulants, heart medications, and blood sugar regulators – be sure to check with your vet or a medical herbalist before administering to horses on prescription medications. It may cause mild allergic reaction in some horses.


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