Root is an American perennial shrub which grows in damp woodlands,
hedges and waste places, especially in the South. The parts of this
plant used medicinally are the roots and the berries. The genus name,
derived from the Greek word,
phyton, meaning "plant." The English name, Poke, is said to
be derived from an Indian word,
pocan, a name for any plant that yields a red dye, and from
pak, meaning "blood."
Indians of Connecticut used the berries to stain splint baskets a dark
blue. Indeed, poke provided one of the first natural inks used by
settlers of the New World; it proved so enduring that it can still be
seen on documents in museums. Pokeroot is used today as a base for
Indians of the eastern states used a poultice of powdered pokeroot to
treat tumors and skin eruptions, and the colonists followed their
example. It was believed that the plant's highly potent qualities were
responsible for its medicinal effect. The Delaware Indians ingested the
root as a rheumatism cure. A salve for sores was made by combining
roasted poke root, bittersweet, yellow parilla, and elderberry bark to a
base of boiled lard and beeswax.
herb comes from the root of the poke plant. It has cleansing and
healing qualities that will affect the whole body. Poke root is a
powerful emetic and purgative. Poke root is very potent and should not
be taken more than one teaspoon three times daily. An overdose will
cause vomiting and diarrhea.
is considered by herbalists as one of the best blood cleansing and
lymphatic purifying herbs. It is excellent for the treatment of cancer,
tumors, arthritis and degenerative diseases, but should be used with
respect and preferably in combination with other herbs in a formula to
offset its powerful detoxifying effects. Externally it is applied as a
poultice for sores and boils and to relieve difficult urination when
used over the bladder. Poke root is helpful in treating rheumatism,
tonsillitis, mumps, lymphatic swelling, laryngitis, thyroid glands,
spleen, and liver enlargement.
primary chemical constituents of Poke Root include triterpenoid saponins,
alkaloids (phytolaccine), phytolaccic acid, formic acid, lectins, tannin,
antiviral protein (PAP), fatty oil, resin and sugars. The alkaloid
constituents are fundamentally nitrogen-containing molecules that are
thought to have a marked effect on both animal and human physiology in
varying roles - from pain suppression to poisoning. Moreover, the
tannins have the effect of precipitating protein molecules, producing a
sort of "leather coat" on the surface of tissues. Little documented
evidence exists as to the specific beneficial role of the phytolaccic
acid. Poke Root is broadly described as an alterative, purgative and
root makes a good poultice for breast tumors and caked breasts. The
poultice should be made by grinding the root into a powder and mixing it
with slippery elm and water. Apply to the swellings and remoisten it
when it dries. Keep poultice on all day and change it every three days.
poultice of the berries has been used on boils, ringworm, scabies and
wounds, as well as a salve for bedsores, carbuncles, chickenpox, eczema,
fungal infection, hemorrhoids, herpes, measles, psoriasis and shingles.
Pregnant and nursing women should avoid Pokeweed. Great care should be
taken with the use of this herb, since it is very potent in its actions.
It should be used only in small amounts and under the care of a
knowledgeable health care provider.
Little Herb Encyclopedia, by Jack Ritchason; N.D., Woodland Publishing Incorporated, 1995
Nutritional Herbology, by Mark Pedersen, Wendell W. Whitman Company, 1998
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania 1987
The Ultimate Healing System, Course Manual, Copyright 1985, Don Lepore
Planetary Herbology, Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., Lotus Press, 1988