Botanical Name : Oplopanax horridum
Species: O. horridus
Synonyms : Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida
Common Names: Devil’s club or devil’s walking stick , Alaskan ginseng (though it is not a true Ginseng), Araliaceae
Habitat : Oplopanax horridum is found from Southcentral Alaska to western Oregon and eastward to western Alberta and Montana. Disjunct native populations also occur over 1,500
kilometres (930 mi) away in Lake Superior on Isle Royale and Passage Island, Michigan and Porphyry Island and Slate Island, Ontario. This species usually grows in moist, dense forest
habitats, and is most abundant in old growth conifer forests.
Oplopanax horridum is a large understory shrub. It generally grows to 1 to 1.5 metres (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 11 in) tall; however, instances exist of it reaching in excess of 5 metres (16 ft) in
rainforest gullies. The spines are found along the upper and lower surfaces of veins of its leaves as well as the stems. The leaves are spirally arranged on the stems, simple, palmately lobed
with 5-13 lobes, 20 to 40 centimetres (7.9 to 15.7 in) across. The flowers are produced in dense umbels 10 to 20 centimetres (3.9 to 7.9 in) diameter, each flower small, with five greenish-
white petals. The fruit is a small red drupe 4 to 7 millimetres (0.16 to 0.28 in) diameter.
The plant is covered with brittle yellow spines that break off easily if the plants are handled or disturbed, and the entire plant has been described as having a “primordial” appearance. Devil’s
club is very sensitive to human impact and does not reproduce quickly. The plants are slow growing and take many years to reach seed bearing maturity, and predominately exist in dense,
moist, old growth conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest.
Oplopanax horridum reproduces by forming clonal colonies through a layering process. What can appear to be several different plants may actually have all been one plant originally, with the clones detaching themselves after becoming established by laying down roots.
Native American peoples such as the Tlingit and Haida have used the plant as traditional medicine for ailments such as adult-onset diabetes, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. It is used to stabilize blood sugar levels. It is used routinely in the treatment of diabetes as a natural alternative to insulin. Although devil’s club shares some pharmacological and therapeutic similarities with ginseng, it is not the same medicine. It is a strong and safe respiratory stimulant and expectorant increasing the mucus secretions to initiate fruitful coughing and soften up hardened bronchial mucus that can occur later on in a chest cold. The cold infusion, and to a lesser degree the fresh or dry tincture, is helpful for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders , taken regularly and with sensible modifications to the diet. It is more helpful when taken during remissions and has little effect during active distress. Its main value is in modifying extremes of metabolic stress and adding a little reserve to offset the person”s internal cost of living. . Its use by Native Americans as a treatment for adult-onset diabetes has been substantiated by scientific studies in this century. It seems to decrease the lust for sugars and binge food in those trying to lose weight or deal with generally elevated blood fats and glucose. Seems to work best on stocky, mesomorphic, anabolic-stress-type, middle-aged people with elevated blood lipids, moderately high blood pressure, and early signs of adult onset, insulin-resistant diabetes. Indians also used it to treat cancer. Root strongly warms lymphatic system function; weakly warms central nervous system activity; weakly warms hepatic activity.
Root weakly warms immunologic activity; weakly warms mucosal activity; weakly warms parasympathetic nervous system activity; weakly warms renal activity; weakly warms reproductive system function; weakly warms respiratory system function; weakly warms skin activity; weakly warms sympathetic nervous system activity; weakly warms thyroid stress; weakly warms upper GI activity; weakly cools adrenal stress; weakly cools anabolic stress.
In vitro studies showed that extracts of Devil’s Club inhibit tuberculosis microbes. Additionally, Devil’s club has been shown to extend life expectancy and reduce leukemia burden in mice engrafted with murine C1498 acute myeloid leukemia cells.
The plant is harvested and used in a variety of ways, including poultices applied externally and ointments, however the consumption of an oral tea is most common in traditional settings. Some Tlingit disapprove of the commercialization of the plant as they see it as a violation of its sacred status.
Other Uses: Traditionally, it was and is still used to make paints
The plant has also been used ceremonially by the Tlingit and Haida people of Southeast Alaska. A piece of Devil’s club hung over a doorway is said to ward off evil.
Because Devil’s club is related to American Ginseng, some think that the plant is an adaptogen. The plant has been harvested for this purpose and marketed widely as “Alaskan ginseng”,which may damage populations of Devil’s Club and its habitat. The genus Panax (‘true’ ginseng) is exceptional among Araliaceae both morphologically and chemically. Other, even closely related plants with proven adaptogen effects, such as Eleutherococcus senticosus the “Siberian ginseng“, are chemically dissimilar to Panax ginseng.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.