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Green Medicine > Medicinal Plants > Devil's Club

Devil's Club

Photo of Devil's Club
Photo by Nan Vance, US Forest Service
(Oplopanax horridus)

This member of the ginseng family gets its name from its thorny appearance. It is sometimes confused in the literature with its eastern cousin, Aralia spinosa, also known as devil's club or devil's walking stick. Oplopanax has a tradition of use among the Tlingit, Kwaikiutl, Skagit, and many other nations within its range. It has been used as a blood purifier, pain reliever, tonic, and digestive aid.

It is marketed for these same properties, as well as being used for controlling blood sugar levels. At present, it is not an extremely popular herb, but its popularity and knowledge of its use is growing. The plant is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental, but is mostly harvested commercially from the wild. It is found primarily in mature or old growth forests, and so is sensitive to habitat loss as these forests are disturbed or clearcut for timber.

Cultivation: Devil's club is a fairly slow-sprouting plant, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. It can be propagated vegetatively, by layering, and also self-propagates through root-crown sprouting. Oplopanax prefers clay or loam soil, with poor drainage, ample shade, and copious water. The soil in which it grows best is rich and has a low pH. Devil's club grows naturally at high elevations or in northern latitudes, but can be cultivated elsewhere.

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Last Updated: 4/4/02