SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): P. americana L., P. decandra L., P. rigida. Family: Phytolaccaceae

COMMON NAME(S): American nightshade, cancer jalap, cancerroot, chongras, coakum, pokeberry, crowberry, garget, inkberry, pigeonberry, poke, red ink plant, scoke, poke salad.

Pokeweed which is a traditional American native plant used as a pot herb in the southern regions. Although it can potentially be a toxic herb if not processed correctly, research shows promise as an anti-cancer, anti-HIV and immune system agent. It is one of the herbs contained in the Hoxey formula.


Folk uses of pokeweed leaves have included the treatment of chronic rheumatism and arthritis and use as an emetic and purgative.The plant has been used to treat edema, skin cancers, rheumatism, catarrh, dysmenorrhea, mumps, ringworm, scabies, tonsillitis, and syphilis. Poke greens, the young immature leaves, are canned and sold under the name "poke salet." Berry juice has been used as an ink, dye, and coloring in wine.

Botany :- Pokeweed is a ubiquitous plant found in fields, along fences, in damp woods, and in other undisturbed areas. This vigorous shrub-like perennial can grow to 3.6 m. The reddish stem has large pointed leaves, which taper at both ends.The flowers are numerous, small, and greenish white and develop into juicy purple berries that mature from July to September.

Uses of Pokeweed

Young pokeweed leaves may be eaten and the berries used for food, only after being cooked properly.

External Uses:

Skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, absess, boils, scabies, tinea, itching, inflammation and carbuncles. Also used as a poultice for rheumatism and arthritis.

Side Effects of Pokeweed

Ingestion of poisonous parts of the plant causes severe stomach cramping, nausea with persistent diarrhea and vomiting, slow and difficult breathing, weakness, spasms, hypotension, severe convulsions, and death.


Pokeweed is toxic if not prepared correctly. Use with extreme caution. Young shoots must be boiled in water twice, discarding the water each time prior to consuming. Do not use while pregnant or using anti-depressants, antibuse, or oral contraceptives.


Pokeweed poisonings were common in eastern North America during the 19th century, especially from the use of tinctures as antirheumatic preparations, and from eating berries and roots collected in error for parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke, or horseradish.

All parts of pokeweed are toxic except the above-ground leaves that grow in the early spring. The poisonous principles are in highest concentration in the rootstock, less in the mature leaves and stems, and least in the fruits. Young leaves collected before acquiring a red color are edible if boiled for 5 minutes, rinsed, and re-boiled. Berries are toxic when raw but are edible when cooked.

Ingestion of poisonous parts of the plant causes severe stomach cramping, nausea with persistent diarrhea and vomiting, slow and difficult breathing, weakness, spasms, hypotension, severe convulsions, and death. Fewer than 10 uncooked berries are generally harmless to adults. Several investigators have reported deaths in children following the ingestion of uncooked berries or pokeberry juice.

Severe poisonings have been reported in adults who ingested mature pokeweed leaves and following the ingestion of a cup of tea brewed from 1/2 teaspoonful of powdered pokeroot.

In addition, the CDC reported a case of toxicity in campers who ingested properly cooked young shoots. Sixteen of the 51 cases exhibited case-definitive symptoms (vomiting followed by any 3 of the following: nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, dizziness, headache). These symptoms persisted for up to 48 hours (mean, 24 hours).

Poisoning also may occur when the toxic components enter the circulatory system through cuts and abrasions in the skin.

Symptoms of mild poisoning generally last 24 hours. In severe cases, gastric lavage, emesis, and symptomatic and supportive treatment have been suggested. In an attempt to curb potential poisonings from the use of this commercially available plant, the Herb Trade Association (HTA) formulated a policy stressing that the poke root is toxic and "should not be sold as an herbal beverage or food, or in any other form that could threaten the health of the uninformed consumer." Further, the HTA recommended that products containing pokeroot be labeled clearly as to their toxicity.

The FDA classifies pokeweed as an herb of undefined safety that has demonstrated narcotic effects.

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