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Devil's Club

Monograph of Devil's Club
Oplopanax horridus

Devil's Club

c.  Susun S Weed

Oplopanax horridus, Panax horridum, Echinopanax horridum, Fatsia horrida

Alaskan ginseng, Tlingit aspirin, cukilanarpak (“large plant with needles”), devil’s walking stick,

Araliaceae (ginseng family)   “Makes one a warrior.”

Grows in moist ravines and well-drained soils along the Alaskan coast and up to 100 miles inland, and on islands in Lake Superior, where it can form impenetrable thickets of noxiously thorny plants 4-15 feet high. It has a special place in the medicine and lore of the natives of Alaska and British Columbia where it is understood that its “magical” powers impart great strength to the user, that it is a link to the spirit world, and that hanging a piece in a doorway protects the home.


Decoction or infusion of the bark/cambium of the root or the stem, sipped as needed.

Tincture: 25-100 drops, 2-3 xpd.

Poultice to prevent/ reduce swelling, pain, and infection in cuts, burns, contusions, sores, wounds.

Dried root selling for $50 pound in 2019.

Contains: 2-3 % volatile oil. 7% triterpene saponins. Four sesquiterpenes. Lignans including stigmasterol and β-sitosterol. Minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, saponins, glycerides, flavonoids, coumarin, and tannins.  Cardiac glycosides. NO alkaloids ?!

Effects: Antioxidant, antipyretic, antitussive, antirheumatic, anticholesteremic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, local antiseptic, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, moistening.

Purgative, emetic, and cathartic in high doses.

Anti-infective activity strong: Methanol extract of the inner bark = partial inhibition against the respiratory syncytial virus, anti-Candida activity, antimycobacterial activity against both Mycobacterium tuberculosis, isoniazid-resistant Mycobacterium avium , and leprosy (a mycobacteria).

Used to Counter

  • Respiratory distresses including flu, colds, coughs, sore throat, chest pain, TB

  • Intestinal/digestive pain such as ulcers, gallstones, indigestion, constipation

  • Joint pain, arthritis, rheumatism, measles, diabetes, cancer, any problem after childbirth,

  • The root bark infused in oil or fat is more effective against psoriasis than hydrocortisone.

  • Insulin resistance* Hyperlipidemia

  • Depression* Fatigue, mental and physical

  • After-effects of surgery* ED, lack of libido

  • Antiproliferative in breast and ovarian cancer cell lines

  • Timidity and weakness* Dry skin, dry eyes, dry mouth

Warnings: No cases of significant toxicity have been reported.

The spines covering the stem irritate and scratch. Berries are considered unsafe to eat.

Devil's club’s slow growth, late age of reproduction, and dependence on dense, moist, old-growth conifer forests make it highly sensitive to human disturbance. Use the stalk, not the root.

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