PACIFIC NORTHWEST GROWN. Poke (Phytolacca americana) Root, Cut and Sifted, Certified Organic
Common names: Poke Weed, Poke Salad, Pigeonberry, Inkberry, Redweed, Bear’s Grape, Crowberry, Jalap, Cancer Root, American Nightshade, Herbe de la Laque, Skoke, Garget, Kermesbeere, Chuixu Shanglu, Shoriku
Poke Weed is a flowering perennial plant that that grows up to 8 feet tall, producing clusters of purple berries that make it a valuable food source for birds. It is native to eastern and midwestern North America, and a few areas in the far west, growing in disturbed areas and edge habitats such as fencerows and forest margins. It is naturalized in other parts of the world including Hawaii, China, north Africa, and the Mediterranean region.
Although some Native tribes avoided the plant, others used Poke Root internally or externally for arthritis, skin conditions, and cancer, and some consumed young shoots and stalks of the plant as a food. The leaves and stems of young Poke Weed are prepared as a regional Appalachian specialty dish known as “Poke Salad,” beginning with a process of repeated boiling.
Poke Root has long been considered one of the most important medicinal herbs originating in North America, clearing congested lymph nodes, stimulating the metabolism, and exerting a powerful cleansing effect in rheumatic conditions, infections, and tumors. It has been applied to the skin for eczema, psoriasis, scabies, ringworm, and other fungal infections. Other traditional uses include postpartum or premenstrual breast swelling, enlarged thyroid glands, tonsillitis, headaches, toothaches, conjunctivitis, orchitis, lymphedema, varicose veins, leg ulcers, corns, ovaritis, throat conditions, intestinal parasites, hemorrhoids, and as a diuretic and laxative.
Poke Root is known to contain many active phytochemicals including alkaloids, saponins, lectins, and proteins. Considerable published research focuses on specific P. Americana compounds, especially those that show antiviral or anticancer activity, such as pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) and oleanic acid. Other studies show antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
This is an herb where experienced professional supervision is recommended, a strong medicine that some dismiss as too toxic to use. Herbalists prescribe Poke Root cautiously—lower doses (one source suggests no more than one gram per day), at less frequent intervals (for instance, 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off, or a single 5-drop dose of tincture per week), than are typical for most botanicals—and back off quickly if adverse reactions are noted.
Herbalists can usually avoid or minimize the kind of safety/effectiveness trade-offs that are normal in pharmaceutical therapy. Poke Root is a special case, where the potential gains made with careful use can be well worth the necessary precautions! Note also that topical preparations like poultices and salves can be applied for many of the conditions the root is used to treat.
Poke Root should not be ingested during pregnancy or while nursing, or when kidney disease or gastrointestinal irritation are present.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.