Herb: Devil's Club

Latin name: Oplopanax horridus

Synonyms: Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Panax horridum

Family: Araliaceae (Ginseng Family)

Medicinal use of Devil's Club:

Devil's club was widely employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it especially for its pain-relieving properties. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism, though it probably merits further investigation. The root bark and stems are analgesic, antirheumatic, antiphlogistic, appetizer, blood purifier, cathartic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, hypoglycaemic, ophthalmic, pectoral and tonic. An infusion is used in the treatment of coughs and colds, bronchitis, tuberculosis, stomach problems etc. A decoction is drunk in the treatment of rheumatism and is also applied externally as a wash on the affected joints. A poultice of the bark has been used to relieve pain in various parts of the body. A poultice of the bark has been applied to a nursing mother's breasts in order to stop an excessive flow of milk. A decoction has been used as an eye wash in the treatment of cataracts and as a herbal steam bath for treating general body pains. The burnt stems, mixed with oil, are applied as a salve on swellings. An extract of the root bark lowers blood sugar levels and an infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of diabetes. The infusion also has a tonic effect on the blood and liver. The inner bark is emetic in large doses and purgative (especially if taken with hot water). It is used in the treatment of coughs and colds, stomach and bowel cramps. A poultice of the inner bark is used in the treatment of wounds, sores etc. The berries have been rubbed on the scalp to combat lice and dandruff, and to make the hair shiny.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Moist woods, especially by streams and usually in rich soils.

Edible parts of Devil's Club:

Young shoots - peeled and then cooked. Only the very young shoots are used. The roots can be chewed after peeling.

Other uses of the herb:

The berries can be mashed into a pulp and then rubbed onto the scalp to get rid of head lice.

Propagation of Devil's Club:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division of suckers in the dormant season. Root cuttings in a greenhouse in the winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist woods, especially by streams and usually in rich soils.

Known hazards of Oplopanax horridus:

The plant is densely armed with spikes and these spikes are irritant.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.