Pokeroot

Phytolacca americana

Herbs gallery - Pokeroot

Common names

  • Pokeroot
  • Pokeweed

The plant known to us as the pokeroot is known to the Native Americans as the pocon plant. Traditionally, the herbal remedies made from the pokeroot have been essentially utilized in two ways; it is used as an herbal emetic, and also as a topical herbal remedy for the treatment of skin diseases affecting various patients. The remedies made from the pokeroot were also used as a stimulant for the heart by the Native Americans in the region of present day - Delaware. Pokeroot was also considered to be a strong purgative herb by the Native Americans who traditionally occupied the present state of Virginia in the United States. The various uses of the herbal pokeroot as a folk remedy persists to this day, for example, the backwoods men in the Appalachian region often chew the seeds and berries of the pokeroot as a remedy for treating arthritis in the bones. This traditionally use of the herb in a remedial role is remarkable due to the fact that the fresh plant parts can be very toxic for the human body. Traditionally, people in Europe use pokeroot as an important herbal cleanser of the lymphatic system, though the herb found its way into the European continent only in the 19th century.

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The pokeroot is a derivative of the herb called by the botanical name: Phytolacca americana L. belonging to the plant family Phytolaccaceae. The plant is a profusely branched and large, perennial herb characterized by the presence of very many spectacular clusters of dark purple, almost entirely black berries during the fruiting season. Growing profusely on the roadsides and along paths, the plant is common from New England all the way to Texas in the United States and is considered to be a weed in most areas. The uses of the pokeroot are many, and it is said that the reason pokeroot has not been identified as a remedy for the majority of symptoms is due to the fact that the herbalist have not tried using the plant as thoroughly as they should be doing.

At the present time, the therapeutic use of pokeroot for any disease is not practiced as the herb is considered to be a purely preventative remedy - a prophylactic. In some cases, the emetic and cathartic can be considered to be almost therapeutic in its application; this is only because of the extremely toxic nature of the herb as a result of the presence of a saponin mixture called phytolaccatoxin in the plant. The presence of a proteinaceous mitogen, called PWM in the plant tissues, may also lead to the formation of different abnormalities in the blood cells of the person following the absorption of the remedy in the body.

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The consumption of the pokeroot or the leaves of the herb has resulted in tragedy, in the death of children and adults needing to be hospitalized, such deaths have resulted due to the gastroenteritis, and the hypotension, as well as the diminished respiration induced by the consumed herb. Extreme care must be taken with the plant, all the parts of the mature plant excepting for the ripe berries are considered to be poisonous and highly toxic in their effects within the human body. The berries are widely used as a folk remedy for rheumatism and arthritis even though there is some controversy about their relative toxicity - they may be the only directly edible part of the herb. There is a general consensus on the safety of very young shoots, which are used as pot herbs in some home gardens. Some people eat these as salad greens, which some herbalists advise against citing the availability of so many other green plants.

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Parts used

Root

Uses

Many holistic forms of treatment make use of the herbal pokeroot remedies as the herb is useful in a wide range of conditions and is an effective addition to many herbal treatment strategies. The primary role of the remedies based on the pokeroot is as a remedy for the treatment of various infections affecting the upper respiratory tract; it is also used in the removal of catarrh and as an aid in the cleansing of problematic and blocked lymphatic glands in different areas of the body. The various other disorders of the body where the remedies based on the pokeroot are used include catarrh, problems such as tonsillitis, disorders such as laryngitis, and swelling of the glands - adenitis, diseases such as mumps, beside other illnesses. The pokeroot remedy has also found to be very effective in the treatment of lymphatic problems arising anywhere in the body of patients and its effectiveness is greatest against cases of mastitis - in the treatment of which, it can be used both as internal medication and as a poultice for topical symptoms. Rheumatism, especially persistent cases can be effectively treated using the remedies made from the pokeroot. The emetic and purgative action of the pokeroot is very potent, and some care must be taken using the herb when large doses are concerned.

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The properties attributed to the pokeroot remedy include an alterative and cathartic action, it is also considered to be a potent emetic as well as a narcotic, and used as a gargle, aside from these, the herb is also used in the treatment of conjunctivitis affecting the eyes, in cases of cancer, in the treatment of dyspepsia and any glandular swelling, it is used in the treatment of chronic rheumatism, in the treatment of external problems such as ringworm and scabies, as well as persistent ulcers on the body.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

The pokeroot is found in a variety of habitats across much of the North American continent, the pokeroot can be found growing in damp fields and open woods, as well as waste places from the eastern states all the way to California, and even Hawaii - it is a familiar weed in most of these areas.

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Constituents

Pokeroot contains saponins, tannins, alkaloids, bitter principle, sugars.

Usual dosage

The dosage for different forms of the pokeroot differs according to the form of the remedy. The herbal pokeroot decoction can be made using small amounts of the herb. Prepare this herbal decoction by using one fourths to half a teaspoonful of the root in a cup of water, this decoction can then be boiled and gently simmered for a period of ten to fifteen minutes and sieved before cooling. The herbal decoction can be taken by affected patients thrice daily throughout the treatment period.
The herbal pokeroot tincture can be taken at doses of half or one ml, thrice every day during the treatment regimen.

Applications

Dried root:
TINCTURE - Pokeroot is made into a tincture and used in a variety of treatments. This tincture must be given at a maximum dose of one ml - about 20 drops - for the treatment of acute lymphatic congestion and infection affecting patients, the tincture is also given for the treatment of mastitis, it is also used in the treatment of tonsillitis, and other disorders such as scrofula, as well as glandular fever affecting patients. The tincture made from the pokeroot can be used in an herbal combination remedy with herbs such as the wild indigo, the purple coneflower, or the cleavers - the addition of these herbs will increase the effectiveness of the tincture. The herbal pokeroot tincture can also be combined with other types of herbal remedies meant for the treatment of rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis affecting patients. The herbal remedies meant for stimulating the liver can also be combined with pokeroot tincture to increase their effectiveness; the pokeroot tincture can also be added to herbal prescriptions meant for the treatment of gastric ulcers in different patients.
POULTICE - The pokeroot may also be made into an herbal poultice which is used topically for treating inflammations in the joints, this can also be applied externally for the treatment of varicose ulcers, as well as in treating disorders such as hemorrhoids affecting different patients.
LOTION - The pokeroot is also made into an herbal lotion by diluting the tincture or the dried powder mixed in some water, this lotion can be applied to lymphatic swellings as a topical remedy.
POWDER - The pokeroot is also powdered dry, and the herb can be taken as an internal herbal medication in small doses of about 50 - 250 mg for treating lymphatic problems, it can also be used in the treatment of mastitis and tonsillitis, as well as in the treatment of rheumatism. Some of this dried pokeroot powder can be used to dust the skin of patients affected by fungal infections, it can also be used to topically treat dry eczema of the skin, and disorders such as psoriasis, and scabies can also be treated using the powder.

Collection and harvesting

Pokeroot is usually harvested during spring or late autumn. The unearthed roots are first cleaned carefully and then each root is split lengthwise before being subjected to the drying process for storage.

Combinations

The pokeroot can be combined with the cleavers or blue flag herbs for use in the treatment of lymphatic disorders affecting patients.

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