Public release date: 17-Aug-2009
Deep in Africa’s Kalahari Desert lies the “Devil’s claw,” a plant that may hold the key to effective treatments for arthritis, tendonitis and other illnesses that affect millions each year. Unfortunately, years of drought have pushed the Devil’s claw toward extinction, so scientists are scrambling to devise new ways to produce the valuable medicinal chemicals of the Devil’s claw and other rare plants.
One group of scientists reported a major advance toward that goal here today at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). They described the first successful method of producing the active ingredients in Devil’s claw — ingredients that have made the Devil’s claw a sensation in alternative medicine in Europe. Their technique may eventually lead to the development of “biofactories” that could produce huge quantities of rare plant extracts quickly and at little cost.
Milen I. Georgiev, Ph.D., who delivered the report, pointed out that for thousands of years, native populations in Southern Africa have used the Devil’s claw as a remedy for a huge number of ailments, including fever, diarrhea and blood diseases. Today, there are dozens of medicinal and herbal products around the world that are based on chemicals derived from the Devil’s claw.
In particular, studies suggest that two chemicals — the so-called iridoid glycosides harpagoside and harpagide — may have beneficial effects in the treatment of degenerative rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and other conditions, Georgiev said.