Oplopanax horridus (Sm.) Miq.

Last updated: 14 October 2016

Scientific Name

Oplopanax horridus (Sm.) Miq.


Aralia erinacea Hook., Aralia occidentalis Schltdl. ex Ledeb., Echinopanax horridus (Sm.) Decne. & Planch. ex Harms, Fatsia horrida (Sm.) Benth. & Hook.f., Horsfieldia horrida (Sm.) Seem., Panax horridus Sm., Ricinophyllum americanum Pall. ex Ledeb., Ricinophyllum horridum (Sm.) A.Nelson & J.F.Macbr. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Devil’s club, stinging devil’s club, devils club, devil’s root, devil’s walking stick [2]
German Igelkraftwurz [2]
Sweden Djävulsklubba [2].

Geographical Distributions

Oplopanax horridus is a deciduous shrub native to cool forests and moist, rich soils of the north western 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. [3]

Botanical Description

O. horridus is a member oftheAraliaceae family. Reaching heights of no more than 1.5 m, O. 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 2.5 cm in diameter, the leaves to a width of 30-35 cm, and the fruit which is red in color grows to 5-7 cm and grows in clusters. [3]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

O. horridus has been reported to contain trans-nerolidol, polyynes (Oplopandiol Acetate), beta-sitosterol, daucosterol, L-rhamnose and syringing. [4][5][6][7]

Plant Part Used

Bark, root and berries. [3][8]

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 specifically adult-onset-diabetes. [8][9] Teas, very bitter to the taste, were used to treat milder cases of diabetes or hypoglycemia in many tribal areas including the far Northwest. [3][10]

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. [8] Additionally, various Native American tribes have used this same preparation to alleviate symptoms of sore throat and cold. [9]

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. [9] 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. [3]

The poultices of O. horridus have been applied topically for dermatological conditions. [8] Bruises, topical ulcerations, skin irritations and rashes are among some of the maladies for which Native American tribes have used this herb. [9] 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. [3]

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. [9] 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. [3]

Preclinical Data


An ethanolic extract of O. horridus root bark has been reported to reduce nitric oxide production in leukaemic monocyte macrophage cell lines (RAW 264.7 cells) demonstrating anti-proliferative activity as well as strong antioxidant activity. [11]

O. horridus has been reported to have antiviral properties including a methanolic extract of O. horridus which demonstrated moderate activity against respiratory syncytial virus in an antiviral screening of 100 medicinal plants from the British Columbia area. [12]

Oplopandiol acetate in O. horridus has been reported to be partially responsible for its anticandida, antibacterial, and antimycobacterial activity. [7]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

O. horridus has been reported to not be used by pregnant or nursing women, (even though traditional use has included this herb as a lactation aid). [3]

Age limitation

O. horridus has been reported to not be used by children unless directed by a healthcare professional. [3]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.


Dosage Range

No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Oplopanax horridus (Sm.) Miq. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Oct 20]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-141937
  2. National Plant Germplasm System US. GrinGlobal version [homepage on the Internet]. c2008 [updated 2008 Apr 25, cited 2016 Oct 20]. Available from: https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?102557
  3. Meuninck J. Medicinal plants of North America: A field guide. Guilford, United State: Globe Pequot Press; 2008.
  4. Zhang HG, Wu GX, Zhang YM. Chemical constituents from stems of Oplopanax elatus Nakai. Zhongguo Zhong Yao za zhi. 1993;18(2):104-105, 127. Chinese.
  5. Gruber JW, Kittipongpatana N, Bloxton JD, Der Marderosian A, Schaefer FT, Gibbs R. High-performance liquid chromatography and thin-layer chromatography assays for Devil's Club (Oplopanaxhorridus). J Chromatogr Sci. 2004;42(4):196-199.
  6. Kobaisy M, Abramowski Z, Lermer L, et al. Antimycobacterial polyynes of Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus), a North American native medicinal plant. J Nat Prod. 1997;60(11):1210-1213.
  7. 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.
  8. Small E, Catling P. Canadian Medicinal Crops. Ottawa, ON: NRC Research Press; 1999.
  9. Moerman DE.  Native American ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press; 2009.
  10. Johnson LM. Gitksan medicinal plants - cultural choice and efficacy. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2006;2:29.
  11. 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. 2006;108(2):228-235.
  12. McCutcheon AR, Roberts TE, Gibbons E, et al. Antiviral screening of British Columbian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 1995;49(2):101-110.