The plant is found in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa but there are concerns about overharvesting in the wild and it has proven difficult to cultivate. It is a sprawling perennial with stout roots. Leaves are greyish green, irregular and opposite. They have distinctive, spiny fruits, after which the plant has been nicknamed ‘Devil’s claw’. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and range in colour from purple/ pink with a yellow centre. Flowers can also appear all yellow, purple or white.
Whole extracts (not isolated components) is therapeutically used to treat a very wide variety of ailments and conditions. The plant has analgesic, anti-arrhythmic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, diuretic, hypotensive, laxative, purgative and sedative properties, to name a few. It is known to work similarly to cortisone and has been adopted in the west for the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. It is also used for fever, blood purification, pain, coughs, diabetes, diarrhoea, syphilis, gonorrhoea, gout, lumbago, problems in the liver, gall bladder and kidneys and many other applications.