Devil’s Club for Diabetes

Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridum) is a rather obscure but increasingly popular member of the ginseng plant family. Oplopanax contains a balsamic (essential oil component) which differentiates it from Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) and Panax (American ginseng). Not to be confused with Devil's Claw, a desert plant native to southern Africa, Devil's Club primarily dwells in the Pacific Northwest, from Central Oregon through Canada to Alaska.

Devil's Club has various uses. As an adaptogen, Devil's Club mitigates the effect of stress on the body. It also stimulates respiratory activity, enhancing mucous secretions and expectoration.

Native Americans have long used its root for insulin-resistant type II diabetes. Its hypoglycemic effect was confirmed over fifty years ago, and some people report a significant reduction in need for injected insulin while using Devil's Club.

When using Devil's Club to address diabetes, it should be combined with other herbs, proper diet, and exercise. Since elevated lipids (triglycerides, etc.) are often part of the diabetic condition, other herbs are helpful for restoring health to the circulatory system and vasculature. There are other herbs that have an effect on insulin resistance and blood glucose. A typical herbal tonic for adult-onset diabetes, which is frighteningly common today in children, might also include fenugreek, goat's rue, and Gymnema sylvestre, which has shown a pronounced nourishing and strengthening effect on the Islet cells of the pancreas.

Well known herbs, basil and cinnamon are also effective for insulin resistant diabetes. Cinnamon not only enhances micro-circulation but also the ability of the pancreas to utilize endogenous insulin. Root foods in general are particularly nourishing, notably dandelion, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, burdock, and Chinese wild yam (shan yao). Other supplements such as carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, and the mineral chromium would also likely be helpful for insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, and diabetic support. Oplopanax is an effective herb for assisting during weight loss by maintaining energy levels and muscle mass, allowing fat and carbohydrates to be more efficiently metabolized, and maintaining endocrine balance.

Native Americans used a boiled decoction or cold infusion of the root and root bark. Nowadays, the liquid (ethanol) extract is more commonly used by herbalists. Alaskan Indians drank a decoction to prevent and cure cancer. A panacea to North American Indians, according to Terry Willard, a Canadian herbalist, the Tlingit used a bark infusion for arthritis, gall stones, ulcers, constipation, and chest pain after colds. Some used the herb for childbirth and to restore menstrual flow after birth.

Lastly, for those of you in the East, South, and Midwest, don't feel left out from the enjoyment of Devil's Club. Aralia spinosa, Devil's Walking Stick is skippin'-distance from the George Washington Bridge. Also, many other related Aralias, spikenards, and ginsengs live throughout the country. If you are fortunate enough to harvest Devil's Club, use extreme caution. Oplopanax HORRIDUM is spiny and dangerous to handle.

Written by Michael Altman


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