Devil’s Claw – a natural anti-inflammatory
Devil’s Claw, otherwise known as Harpagophytum procumbens, is a plant found in the arid regions of South Africa and Namibia. It has been found to be as effective as NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) in reducing inflammation and killing pain, but with far fewer side-effects.
The benefits of Devil’s Claw
How Devil’s Claw works and the best way to administer it are both under discussion still but itseems that it works in several different ways:
- it is a potent anti-oxidant (it mops up free radicals which are associated with arthritis)
- it inhibits the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme
- it inhibits the production of the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor
- it inhibits neutrophil elastase, which is also associated with arthritis
Devil’s Claw and the FEI
The FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) publishes a list of substances that are not allowed to be used during competition. This list is called the ‘Equine Prohibited Substances List’ (EPSL) and you can download the latest version here.
The FEI categorise a prohibited substance as either prohibited or controlled.
- ‘Banned Substances’are substances that are deemed by the FEI to have no legitimate use in the competition horse and/or have a high potential for abuse. They are not permitted for use in the competition horse at any time.
- ‘Controlled Medication’are substances that are deemed by the FEI to have therapeutic value and/or be commonly used in equine medicine. Controlled Medication have the potential to affect performance and/or be a welfare risk to the horse.
Devil’s Claw (or its active ingredient – Harpagoside) was added to the FEI 2016 Equine Prohibited Substances List as a Controlled Medication in 2016. It is listed for its ‘Anti-inflammatory’ activity.
So is it legal to use Devil’s Claw?
The FEI adding Devil’s Claw (or its active ingredient Harpagoside) to their Prohibited Substances List means 2 things:
- Devil’s Claw isn’t banned
- Devil’s Claw can be used for its ‘anti-inflammatory therapeutic value’ outside of competition not NOT during competition because this would give the horse unfair advantage.
In cases like this, if you are using Devil’s Claw (or any other ‘FEI Controlled Substance’ for that matter), you need to make sure that you stop using the substance and allow for a period for it to clear out of your horses’ system BEFORE you compete.
THE FEI website says this:
“Before giving any substance to a horse competing at FEI events, athletes and their support personnel should always check if the substance is prohibited. If so, a withdrawal time must be observed before competing and the FEI publishes a ‘List of Detection Times’
The FEI List of Detection Times provides the detection time – the approximate period of time for which a drug (or its metabolite) remains in the system of a horse so that it can be detected by the laboratory – for a limited number of substances regularly used to treat horses during the time they are not competing, i.e. Controlled Medication Substances.
Devil’s Claw (Harpagoside) isn’t on the FEI List of Detection Times
So if you are giving your horse Devil’s Claw (Harpagoside) before an event, when should you stop to make sure you aren’t contravening the FEI controlled substance list? Unfortunately the FEI List of Detection Times doesn’t include Devil’s Claw. In situations like these they recommend you ask your vet to determine a withdrawal period and also use common sense to make a decision.
In an article appearing in the French veterinary press (La Semaine Vétérinaire 30 May 2008), data coming from the anti-doping referenced International French horse racing Laboratory was presented that shows the elimination time (as assessed by urinary excretion of harpagoside, the main indicator for Devil’s Claw administration in the horse), after oral administration, to be very short in fact less than 24 hours.
If you aren’t competing in FEI events, there is no reason to not supplement with Devil’s Claw. In fact, the FEI are tacitly acknowledging that Devil’s Claw (Harpagoside) does have anti-inflammatory properties and that is why we include in some of our products.
If you are competing, the limited research we have found shows that Harpogosde will leave your horse’s system within 12 hours. We would rather sit on the safe side and recommend a withdrawal period of 72 hours (3 days) prior to your competition.
If you still feel uncomfortable, please don’t use any of our products that contain Devil’s Claw (Harpagoside):
Use our products to keep your horse healthy, please don’t use them to compete unfairly
This is good to see the matter of Devil’s Claw being addressed since it is growing in popularity. I have been getting more clients asking about it, including which is the best brand to use. I sometimes will direct them to this site, https://www.horsegroomingsupplies.com/devils-claw-for-horses/ , but then their next question tends to be about if it is allowed or banned.
Thanks to your article, I now have another resource to direct them to. Thanks for putting this information out there for the equine community.