Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus)- scary name, fierce protector. Clambering in the old growth forests of NW Washington, one must keep attention to the plants around. Sometimes young devil’s club is blending in below the thimbleberries, other times towering high with thick stems reaching up up with lantern-like buds on each tip or with a discus sprawl of sliver-covered leaves topped with a bright red hat of berries. Covered in slivers, not thorns, handling devil’s club can be a delicate job best done with thick gloves. The slivers splinter under the skin instead of pulling out easy as a blackberry thorn, one must wait for the body to dissolve and digest them or wait for them to fester out.
Magical grandfather devil’s club, many people have known you and have learned from you, just as we do now.
Let’s see what good ole Pojar has to say:
“Numerous ailments, including arthritis, ulcers and digestive tract ailments and diabetes, were treated with devil’s club.”
“Cowlitz … applied topically for rheumatism.”
“A medicine for arthritis or rheumatism used by the Ditidaht, Coast Salish and the Cowlitz was made from several pieces of stem (after scraping off the spines) infused in water and drunk exclusively for several days.”
“Sechelt and Squamish used devil’s club in hot baths and as a poultice for rheumatism and pain.” “The inner bark was used to cure rheumatism and tuberculosis of the bone.”
“The Halq’emeylem used devil’s club as a medicine for arthritis, and as a protection from spirits in the form of a face paint made out of the ashes”
“The Lummi applied the dethorned bark to a woman’s breast to stop the flow of milk.”
“Tea made from the inner bark is taken by many people today for diabetes.”
All quotes are from the Revised Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Pojar and MacKinnon. Lone Pine Publishing 2004. pg 82.
Another gift of the devil’s club is that of an adrenal tonic. Drinking it in tea helps the adrenals to function optimally, reversing over time the draining effects of caffeine use. Helps you stay awake when you need to, no crash.
We collect sustainably in dense stands of devil’s club, shave the splinters off, peel the inner bark and save the bright light-colored woody cores out of respect for the gift. This fresh inner bark is what we use in our salves; we also have it dried in bulk for those interested.
*We do NOT recommend this herb for nursing women based on the cited Lummi usage of this plant. If Mamas need something for pain, arthritis, rheumatism, and aches, we would suggest the use of our Balm of Gilead salve.