The Devil of the Kalahari
In the 1960s the well-known Swiss naturopath Alfred Vogel travelled into southern Africa to meet the tribespeople. With his natural curiosity and unassuming ways, they found him easy to relate to and were happy to teach him about the herbs they used to stay healthy or to treat illness.
One such herb is Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and Vogel was among the first Europeans to see the possibilities of this rare herb, which is found only in the sands of the Kalahari Desert.
Returning from South Africa, Alfred Vogel brought with him a quantity of the plant tubers so that he could himself research its beneficial properties. This resulted in the development of a tincture which he found of benefit in offsetting joint pain.
In recent years Devil’s Claw has become known worldwide as an effective medicine. Each year millions of wild plants are utilised to fulfil this need, increasing the risk of over-exploitation which could threaten the very existence of this amazing remedy, and the livelihood of the people who harvest it.
Cultivation with a Conscience
Aware of the potential difficulties that this growing popularity could cause and inspired by Alfred Vogel’s philosophy of working in harmony with nature, herbal remedy manufacturer Bioforce has been involved for many years with scientists from the University of Münster in Germany and with native African experts to develop a unique, sustainable method of cultivating Devil’s Claw – a herb which is notoriously difficult to cultivate.
Plants are grown from seed – and the Devil’s Claw does not give up its seeds easily. The young primary tubers are planted in carefully prepared strips of land using an organic protocol both to ensure top quality plants and to minimise impact on the natural environment.
It takes four years for a plant to mature and only then does the local workforce hand harvest the long thin secondary storage tubers from deep in the dry savannah. The main tuber is then replanted and left to grow once more to maturity.