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Oplopanax horridus


Oplopanax horridus


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Devil’s Club, Stinging Devil’s Club, Devilsclub, Devil’s Root, Devil’s Walking Stick


Reaching heights of no more than 1.5m, Oplopanax horridus is identified by the spines and spikes that densely cover the light green or light brown twigs and bark.  Not only are the spikes of O. horridus very sharp and dense throughout the underside of the plant, but they are also considered to have irritant properties.  The stems grow to be roughly 2.5cm in diameter, the leaves to a width of 30-35cm, and the fruit which is red in color grows to 5-7cm and grows in clusters.

Origin / Habitat

O. horridus is a deciduous shrub native to cool forests and moist, rich soils of the northwestern quadrant of the North America, ranging from Montana and Idaho northwest to Alaska.  The shrub also exists in parts of Michigan and Ontario.  O. horridus creates a safe habitat by starting clonal colonies.  Though many different plants can be found in these colonies, they are often genetically identical, having spawned from one original plant.

Chemical Constituents

Trans-nerolidol, polyynes (Oplopandiol Acetate), Beta-sitosterol, daucosterol, L-rhamnose, syringing(2),(3),(4),(5)

Plant Part Used

Bark, root, berries (1) (7)

Traditional Use

O. horridus has been though by several Native American tribes across the northwest to have hypoglycemic properties, and many viewed the shrub as being an important treatment for diabetes.  Typically, either the bark or the roots were made into infusions or decoctions and taken throughout the day to treat diabetes,(6) specifically adult-onset-diabetes.(7) Teas, very bitter to the taste, were used to treat milder cases of diabetes or hypoglycemia in many tribal areas including the far Northwest.(1),(8)

O. horridus was commonly used as a treatment for tuberculosis. Typically, the green inner bark of the shrub has been used by several tribes to both alleviate symptoms of tuberculosis and to eliminate the infection.(7) Additionally, various Native American tribes have used this same preparation to alleviate symptoms of sore throat and cold.(6)

O. horridus has a role as an analgesic in Native American medical practices. Often, a poultice or a decoction has been used externally to relieve general and specific pain.(6) Symptoms of chronic pain conditions such as rheumatic pain were treated using topically applied poultices made from the root and bark and combined with ceremonial ritual for healing the pain. In addition to the poultices and decoctions prepared from roots and bark and applied topically, O. horridus was used as an analgesic in steam bath preparations.(1)

The poultices of O. horridus have been applied topically to many dermatological conditions.(7) Bruises, topical ulcerations, skin irritations and rashes are among some of the maladies for which Native American tribes have used this herb.(6) Often, the inner bark is shredded and boiled before being applied directly to the skin. Other topical applications include an extracted essential oil or the ash from burning roots and bark.   In cases of scalp disorders, specifically lice, the berries of the shrub were mashed and applied directly to the affected areas.(1)

O. horridus has been used by numerous tribes as a gastrointestinal aide. A decoction or infusion of the inner bark has been used as either a laxative, emetic or a digestive stimulant.(6) Often, the inner bark in its crude form was chewed to achieve same the purpose. Its role as an analgesic also provided usefulness in treating symptoms of indigestion, ulcers and bowel cramps.(1)


The traditional dosages will vary by tribe, plant part used, preparation and indication.


The berries of this plant are for external use only and typically mashed into a poultice for topical application.

Tea – One to three grams of crude herb (root or bark) steeped in 8 ounces of boiling water up to 3 times per day.

Powdered root – 100-200mg daily Tincture – 1- 4mL, up to four times daily.



An ethanolic extract of O. horridus root bark powder was found to significantly reduce nitric oxide production in leukaemic monocyte macrophage cell lines (RAW 264.7 cells) demonstrating anti-proliferative activity as well as strong antioxidant activity.(9)

In an antiviral screening of 100 medicinal plants from the British Columbia area, several were found to have antiviral properties including a methanolic extract of O. horridus which demonstrated moderate activity against respiratory syncytial virus.(10)

A laboratory analysis identified Oplopandiol acetate 1, as the chemical constituent found in O. horridus to be at least partially responsible for its anticandida, antibacterial, and antimycobacterial activity.(5)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Not to be used in combination with prescription drug therapy unless directed by a trained professional.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Due to the limited use of this herb currently, there is inadequate science available for a full review of its actions and properties. Consequently there are no reports of interactions or contraindications that would alert the user. However, standard herbal precautions should apply.


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women, (even though traditional use has included this herb as a lactation aid).

Age limitation

Not to be used by children unless directed by a healthcare professional.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Meuninck J. Medicinal Plants of North America: A Field Guide. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press; 2008.
  2. Zhang HG, Wu GX, Zhang YM. [Chemical constituents from stems of Oplopanax elatus Nakai]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao za zhi = Zhongguo zhongyao zazhi = China journal of Chinese materia medica. Feb. 1993;18(2):104-105, 127.
  3. Gruber JW, Kittipongpatana N, Bloxton JD 2nd, Der Marderosian A, Schaefer FT, Gibbs R. High-performance liquid chromatography and thin-layer chromatography assays for Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus). J Chromatogr Sci. Apr. 2004;42(4):196-199.
  4. Kobaisy M, Abramowski Z, Lermer L, Saxena G, Hancock RE, Towers GH, Doxsee D, Stokes RW. Antimycobacterial polyynes of Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus), a North American native medicinal plant. J Nat Prod. Nov. 1997;60(11):1210-1213.
  5. Xu L, Wu XH, Zheng GR, Cai JC. First Total Synthesis of Optically Active Oplopandiol Acetate, a Potent Antimycobacterial Polyyne Isolated from Oplopanax horridus. Chin Chem Let V. 2000;11(3).213-216.
  6. Moerman DE.  Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.
  7. Small E, Catling P. Canadian Medicinal Crops. Ottawa, ON: NRC Research Press; 1999.
  8. Johnson LM. Gitksan medicinal plants--cultural choice and efficacy. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. Jun. 21, 2006;2:29.
  9. Tai J, Cheung S, Cheah S, Chan E, Hasman D. In vitro anti-proliferative and antioxidant studies on Devil's Club Oplopanax horridus. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov. 24, 2006;108(2):228-235.
  10. McCutcheon AR, Roberts TE, Gibbons E, Ellis SM, Babiuk LA, Hancock RE, Towers GH. Antiviral screening of British Columbian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol. Dec. 1, 1995;49(2):101-110.

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