plantmate of the month: miss january

There is nothing sexier than medical ethnobotany. Herbs and flowers with medicinal properties, out there healing and shit. Alleviating pain? Come on. It doesn’t get any spicier than that.

Introducing Devil’s Claw, or scientifically known as Harpagophytum procumbens. Don’t bother remembering the scientific name, I’m never mentioning that again.

Devil’s Claw is native to southern Africa, mainly Namibia and Kalahari desert. Some individuals also call it grapple plant or wood spider, but those are more intimate names. Don’t call it that unless you are familiar with Miss January.

I know you’re wondering why it is called Devil’s Claw. Well, my dear reader, its roots look like a claw. Look at that picture above. Nuts.

Due to its many hooks, animals can get caught and entangled, dying a brutal death on this plant. This dead animal’s moisture provides an excellent homey environment for the Devil’s Claw’s seeds to germinate. A tad fucked up but impressive.

The tuber/root part of the plant is what is enticing. It has anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antioxidant, and appetite suppressant effects. Those with Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis are the ones who would benefit the most from this beautiful plant. Truly mesmerizing.

Traditionally, South African healers used Devil’s Claw to treat gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, fevers, sores, ulcers, and female reproductive organ problems. The Khoikhoi and Bantu speakers have been using this shit for literal centuries. They made ointments out of it. How? I’m not too sure. That’s an investigative journey you’ll have to embark on your own.

Some German dude in the 20th century heard about this sexy plant and traveled to South Africa to get it. This was the origin of sex tourism. He started cultivating it in Germany, where it became incredibly popular and spread across the globe. It has also been integrated into traditional Chinese botanical medicine.


  • To suppress appetite. There isn’t that much data on this but fuck it, placebo works too.
  • To treat gastrointestinal disorders. Not much-published evidence either, but I’d try it.
  • To reduce inflammation. The scientists confirm this one.
  • To relieve pain. Another thumbs up from the scientists out there.
  • To treat Osteoarthritis. Been proven to be effective as well.

Now, go buy some Devil’s Claw at your local pharmacy. They sell it everywhere now in tiny bottles. Get a taste of Miss January.

Mncwangi, N., Chen, W., Vermaak, I., Viljoen, A. M., & Gericke, N. (2012). Devil’s Claw—A review of the ethnobotany, phytochemistry and biological activity of Harpagophytum procumbens. Journal of Ethnopharmacology143(3), 755–771.

Author: Vero Silvestri

A 22 year old trying to figure shit out.

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