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What Are the Medical Uses of Devil's Club?

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg

Oplopanax horridus, more commonly known as devil’s club, is a shrub native to North America that can be used in the treatment of a variety of ailments. It has both antitussive and antimicrobial properties that make it valuable in the treatment of respiratory diseases including tuberculosis. Gastrointestinal problems like nausea, indigestion, and constipation may also be treated with devil’s club. Those suffering from inflammatory diseases like rheumatism or arthritis may benefit from its use, as can those with diabetes. Other possible uses include treatment of skin conditions, recovery from childbirth, and stress reduction.

One of the best known medical uses of devil’s club is the treatment of respiratory ailments. It is often taken internally to treat colds, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. The plant has known antibacterial and antiviral properties which are thought to help fight off disease, while its effectiveness as an antitussive can help relieve a cough and sore throat.


Devil’s club is also considered an effective remedy for gastrointestinal issues. Stomach pain, nausea, and constipation can all be treated with devil’s club. It can also help relieve indigestion and ulcers. If necessary, it can be used as a purgative or laxative to induce vomiting or emptying of the bowels.

Diseases that affect the joints such as arthritis or rheumatism can also be treated with devil’s club. This is due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the compounds it contains. Treatment of these conditions can be achieved by either drinking a tea made from the herb or by applying it to the skin over the affected joints.

Another disease thought to respond well to the use of devil’s club is diabetes. It is thought to help control blood sugar levels, and may even reduce cravings for sugar. Those with low blood sugar levels may also benefit from taking it.

A variety of other conditions have also been traditionally treated with devil’s club. Applied to the skin, it can help clear up a wide range of problems, including open wounds or sores, boils or infections, and psoriasis. Women have been known to drink tea made from the plant to recover their strength after childbirth, and have also applied it topically to the breasts to reduce milk production when they are ready to stop breastfeeding. The plant is also known as an adaptogen, meaning it has properties that help the body to resist the effects of stress.

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