Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus, a.k.a. Fatsia horrida and Panax horridum)
Parts commonly used: Bark of the root and bark of the lower 12 inches of the stem.
Properties/energetics: Alterative, tonic, antiarthritic, hypoglycemic, and possibly our native Pacific Northwest adaptogen/Warm; sweet, bitter.
Systems predominantly affected: Glandular, musculoskeletal, skin, digestive, respiratory.
Uses: Devil’s Club is an important plant medicine, ceremonial purifier, and protective charm for many native peoples in western North America and southeastern Alaska. Its traditional uses are extensive; few medicinal plants are more widely and consistently used within their native region. A decoction of the inner bark of the root and lower stem taken as a tea is used to treat an extensive variety of conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis, diabetes, stomach and digestive disorders, tuberculosis, dry coughs from the lungs, colds, and fever, to name a few. Use of Devil’s Club for treating arthritis and rheumatism is nearly universal in the native cultures of the Pacific Northwest coast. A poultice of the root and its bark is used to treat swollen glands, boils, sores, and other external infections. The presence of an insulin-like substance in this plant, which has shown value in the maintenance of diabetes, has tweaked the attention of modern pharmaceutical-medical conglomerates. We have here a native plant that appears to be a cornucopia of healing actions. Respectful inquiry into hundreds of years of local native use and the herbalist’s pursuit of further clinical research in the use of O. horridus awaits our focus.
Affects on specific body types: This warming herb is not for overtly hot individuals. Its warm nature is more appropriate for the Seer, although it might often be too intense for this nature, bothering the stomach with its exceptionally strong (celery-like) taste. As a tonic, Devil’s Club is probably best suited for the Monarch-type person and those who tend to binge on sweets and gain weight.
Combinations: Combines well with bitters and chromium supplements for dealing with chronic sugar cravings, late-onset hypoglycemia, and type 2 diabetes (overweight, with high triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressure). It is not so appropriately used for the more jittery, nervous, and shaky early-onset hypoglycemia.
Precautions: We have neither seen nor heard any reports of toxic side effects, but its energy is forceful.
Preparations/dosage: Decoction: 1/2 to 1 cup three times a day. Tincture: 15 to 30 drops three times a day. 3 grams powdered herb in tea three times a day.
By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008
For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition