Devil's club, a member of the ginseng family (Araliaceae), has long been used for many medical conditions by indigenous peoples of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Among the traditional medical uses of devil's club, the most widespread is for the treatment of external and internal infections.
Traditionally, the inner bark of aerial stems was used. The most modern commercial preparations, however, use the root. Western herbalists use devil's club as a respiratory stimulant and expectorant, and for autoimmune conditions, eczema, external infections, internal infections, rheumatoid arthritis, sores and type II diabetes. They also use it to lower blood sugar and increase general well-being, and as a pancreatic tonic. At this time, there are no high-quality human trials supporting the use of devil's club for any indication.
As with many medicinal plants, there is concern about the commercialization of devil's club. This concern stems from the need to respect the intellectual property rights of the people from which the knowledge originated, compensate the original users of the plant, and align current uses ethically and culturally within the ethnobotanical context, all in the midst of the failures of the current legal mechanisms to accomplish these goals.
Alaska ginseng, American ginseng, Araliaceae, cukilanarpak, devil's club, devil's root, Echinopanax horridum (Sm.) Decne. & Planch, Fatsia, Fatsia horrida (Sm.) Benth. & Hook., Oplopanax horrideum, Oplopanax horridum, Oplopanax horridus ssp. horridus, Oplopanax horridus (Sm.) Miq., Pacific ginseng, Panax horridum Sm., prickly porcupine ginseng, Riconophyllum horridum Pall., suxt, wild armored Alaskan ginseng.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
The hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) effect is one of many reported uses for devil's club, which had a traditional use in diabetes, and continues to be used for this condition. Although early evidence looks promising, additional high-quality trials are needed to make a firm recommendation.