Devil's Claw Herb Found as Effective as Cox-2 Inhibitor Drugs in Easing Low-Back Pain

BACKGROUND: The herb devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a traditional south African anti-inflammatory remedy for pain and has been used in Europe to relieve pain from osteoarthritis over the past 50 years.

RESEARCH: Researchers treated patients with low-back pain with either 60 mg of devil's claw or 12.5 mg rofecoxib (Vioxx(, a leading COX-2 inhibitor prescription). For six weeks, forty-three of the patients took the herb, while 36 took the prescription medication. The patients' degree of pain was measured using standard clinical tests at baseline, 4 weeks and 6 weeks.

RESULTS: After six weeks, 18 of the patients taking the herb and 12 patients taking rofecoxib reported more than a 50 percent reduction in pain. By the end of the study, 10 of the patients taking the herb reported no pain and did not require any supplemental pain-reducing medication, compared with only five of the patients taking rofecoxib. There were no differences in reported side effects between the groups.

IMPLICATIONS: This study suggests that the anti-inflammatory herb devil's claw may be at least as effective in relieving pain as the leading COX-2 inhibitor prescription, rofecoxib.

Chrubasik S, Model A, Black A, et al, "A randomized double-blind pilot study comparing Doloteffin( and Vioxx( in the treatment of low back pain,"
Rheumatology, 2003;42:141-148.

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