Weekly Herb Review – Devils Club

Common Name: Devil.?Club (Alaskan Ginseng)

Scientific Name: Oplopanax horridum (Fatsia horrida, Panax horridum, Echinopanax horridum)

Family: Araliaceae (Ginseng family)

Parts Used: Stem and Root bark .?here is a debate about whether it is the whole bark or just the inner bark that should be used; shoots can also be peeled, cooked and eaten when they are very young. Berries used on scalp.

Harvesting: Harvest with care, if at all! Devils Club is a very spiny, prickly shrub. It grows in moist woods, especially by streams and in rich soil. It can grow up to 12 feet.

Constituents/Nutrition:Volatile oils, daucosterol, b-sitosterol, rhamnose, and syringin (may account for the adaptogenic effects) have all been isolated.

Traditional Properties/Actions: Adaptogen, expectorant, to regulate blood sugar, antirheumatic, analgesic, antiviral, pulmonary tonic, blood purifier, emmenogogue, and many, many more uses according the indigenous people of NW North America. Considered the native adaptogen of the Pacific North West.

Traditional Uses/Indications: Internal and external infections, including tuberculosis; type-2 diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorders, toning the blood and liver, cold/flu/cough/fever, external sores, emetic. Berries can be rubbed on the scalp for treatment of lice, dandruff and to get shiny hair.

Folk History/Magical Uses: Very little research has been done on this plant. Most of the knowledge we have comes from native uses from the many tribes of NW North America. Devils Club is extremely important to the indigenous people living where it grows, not just medicinally, but spiritually. It is used by different tribes for purification and cleansing; for protection against the supernatural, epidemics and evil influences; to bring on luck; for fighting witchcraft; as face paint; and in ritual to gain supernatural powers. Devil.?club is thought to be a link between the mundane and supernatural worlds.

Cautions/Side Effects: There are so many traditional uses described for this plant, but unless you are a part of the indigenous tribes where Devil.?Club grows, I would recommend you use a better known herb for your medicine. Aside from the small amount of information written about the herb, it grows mainly along the western coastline of Canada and Alaska. So, why not chose an herb that is native to your region instead?

My Thoughts: I know nothing about this plant except what you read here. I was working with Devils Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and thought I would check out Devils Club to see what the differences are. I found only one reference to Devil.?Club in all of my herb books, and that was just to say that it was a ..poglycemic..erb. I also found very little from online searches. But the best read out there is through the American Botanical Council.

–Devil’s Club: A Medicine Cabinet for Alaska Tribe. Retrieved December 2, 2005 from

–Devil.?Club: An Ethnobotanical Review. Retrieved December 2, 2005 from

–Oplopanax. Retrieved December 2, 2005 from

–Oplopanax. Retrieved December 2, 2005 from

–Oplopanax horridus. Retrieved December 2, 2005 from
http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Oplopanax horridus&CAN=COMIND

–Petersburg Ranger District. Retrieved December 2, 2005 from

–Wonder Weed: Can Devil’s Club Beat TB, Other Ills? Retrieved December 2, 2005 from

2 thoughts on “Weekly Herb Review – Devils Club

  1. Wow, you would think with its rich history and historical value there would be more info about it. I also noticed you said it was a part of the ginsing family..I’m suprised that it is primarily the bark that was used…DOnt we typically use the root of ginsing…or am I thinking ginger.. ?

  2. I think that there is lots of history, but not all of it has been written down and translated for us average americans to understand:-) And you are right, it is the root of ginseng that you use, and either the bark of the shoots, or roots, of the Devil’s Club. Do you have it anywhere near you?

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