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Poke Root

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Botanical Name :  Phytolacca americana
Family: Phytolaccaceae
Genus:     Phytolacca
Species: P. decandra
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Phytolacca Root. Phytolaccae Radix. Phytolacca Berry. Phytolaccae Bacca. Phytolacca Vulgaris. Phytolacca Americana. Blitum Americanum. Branching Phytolacca. Phytolaque. Garget. Pigeon Berry. Méchoacan du Canada. Bear’s Grape. Poke Weed. Raisin d’Amérique. Red-ink Plant. American Spinach. Skoke. Crowberry. Jalap. Cancer-root. American Nightshade. Pocan or Cokan. Coakum. Chongras. Morelle à Grappes. Herbe de la Laque. Amerikanische scharlachbeere. Kermesbeere. Virginian Poke. Poke Berry.

Common Name : Poke root,Pokeweed, American pokeweed, Garnet, Pigeon Berry, Poke

Habitat:
Phytolacca americana is indigenous to North America. Common in Mediterranean countries. (Northern and Central N. America. Occasionally naturalized in Britain ) It grows on the damp rich soils in clearings, woodland margins and roadsides. Disturbed areas, pastures, clearings, thickets, woodland borders and roadsides from sea level to 1400 metres.

Description:
Phytolacca is a handsome  plant growing from 3 to 9 feet high. It is indigenous, with a perennial root of large size, frequently exceeding a man’s leg in diameter, usually branched, fleshy, fibrous, whitish within, easily cut or broken, and covered with a very thin brownish bark or cuticle. When young the stem is green, but as the plant matures it becomes more or less purple. The stem is annual, about 1 inch in diameter, much branched, smooth, stout, and hollow. The leaves are opposite, scattered, ovate, entire, 5 inches long by 2 or 3 wide, smooth on both sides, with ribs underneath. The flowers are numerous, arranged in long racemes opposite the leaves. There are no petals, but 5 rounded, incurved, petaloid sepals, whitish, or greenish-white in color. Stamens 10, shorter than the sepals. Styles 10, recurved. Ovary of 10 carpels, green, and united in a ring. The fruit is a handsome, flattened, black, or blackish-purple berry, 10-seeded, and contains a beautiful crimson juice.
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Cultivation:
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils, though preferring a moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn. Succeeds in an open woodland garden, growing well under trees. Whilst the dormant plant is hardy in much of Britain, the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A very ornamental plant, it often self sows when in a suitable position. Cultivated as a dye plant and on a small scale for its edible young shoots, there is at least one named form. ‘White Stem’ has white stems and the berries yield a golden-peach dye instead of purple. It is not yet known (1992) if it will breed true from seed. This plant is an alternative host to a number of viral diseases that affect members of the Amaryllidaceae, Liliaceae (broad view, including plants recently moved into separate families) and Solanaceae. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits.

Propagation:
Seed – sow autumn or spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it might be worthwhile trying an outdoor sowing in a seed bed in early spring. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for their first year and plant them out the following spring. Division in March or October. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, making sure that each section has at least one growth bud. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Fruit; Leaves.
Edible Uses: Colouring.

Leaves – they must be cooked and even then it is best to change the water once. They are used like spinach[183]. Only the young leaves should be used since they become toxic with age. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Young shoots – cooked. An asparagus substitute, they are delicious. The shoots are sometimes blanched before using, or forced in cellars to provide an early crop. The tender clear inner portion of the stem can be rolled in cornmeal and fried. Although cultivated on a small scale in N. America for its shoots, caution is advised, see notes above. A nutritional analysis is available. Fruit – cooked and used in pies. Poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Even the cooked fruits should be viewed with caution. The fruit is a berry about 12mm in diameter. A red dye is obtained from the fruit and used as a food colouring

Medicinal Uses:
Parts Used: Dried root, berries.

Constituents : Phytolaccic acid has been obtained from the berries, and tannin. In theroot a non-reducing sugar, formic acid, and a small percentage of bitter resin have been found. The alkaloid Phytolaccin may be present in small quantities, but it has not been proved. A resinoid substance is called phytolaccin. The virtues are extracted by alcohol, diluted alcohol, and water. The powder is said to be sternutatory.

Composition :
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Shoots (Dry weight)

*274 Calories per 100g
*Water : 0%
*Protein: 31g; Fat: 4.8g; Carbohydrate: 44g; Fibre: 0g; Ash: 20.2g;
*Minerals – Calcium: 631mg; Phosphorus: 524mg; Iron: 20.2mg; Magnesium: 0mg; *Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
*Vitamins – A: 62mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.95mg; Riboflavin (B2): 3.93mg; Niacin: 14.3mg; B6: 0mg; C: 1619mg;

A slow emetic and purgative with narcotic properties. As an alterative it is used in chronic rheumatism and granular conjunctivitis. As an ointment, in the proportion of a drachm to the ounce, it is used in psora, tinea capitis, favus and sycosis, and other skin diseases, causing at first smarting and heat.

The slowness of action and the narcotic effects that accompany it render its use as an emetic inadvisable. It is used as a cathartic in paralysis of the bowels. Headaches of many sources are benefited by it, and both lotion and tincture are used in leucorrhoea.

The Lenape chopped the root, poured boiling water over it, and prepared a liniment to reduce swellings.  To reduce fever, they bound the fresh roots to the hands and feet.  Other tribes made a purge from the juice of the root.  The Delaware considered the roasted mashed root of Pokeweed an excellent blood purifier and stimulant.  They were aware of the toxic properties of poke root, and only very small doses were administered.  It was combined with bittersweet by other tribes and used as an ointment for chronic sores and the Pamunkey of Virginia treated rheumatism with preparations of the boiled berries.  The Mohegans of Connecticut ate the young shoots in the spring and used poultices of the mashed ripe berries to relieve sore breasts of nursing mothers.  The large root is a violent emetic and is sometimes used as a substitute for ipecac.  Pokeweed was listed officially in the United States Pharmacopeia for nearly one hundred years, from 1820 to 1916, and in the National Formulary from 1916 to 1947, where it was classed as a slow emetic, purgative and alterative. A fluid extract of the dried root was prescribed for a variety of ailments.  During the early 1900s, it was a major ingredient in a popular over-the-counter obesity remedy, Phytoline, taken six times a day, before and after each meal.  A  cancer cure  was prepared by mixing the juice of the leaves or root with gunpowder, and in the Ozark Mountains, Poke was a famous remedy for a variety of parasitic skin afflictions collectively known as  the itch.   The root was boiled into a thick paste and reputed to work very well, but was quite painful when applied.  Investigators have reported finding a mitogenic substance in Pokeweed that may prove useful in cancer research and treatment.
Poke root treats constipation and glandular and lymphatic congestion.  In the latter conditions it may be taken in regular small internal doses of the tincture of the fresh root.  Take only 2-5 drops two or three times daily.  If it cases nausea, stop and begin again with even smaller doses.  Poke is one of the best blood 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.  Do not take more than 1 gm. per day.
As an external medicine, Poke root is used in a decoction as a wash or made into an ointment for various skin diseases such as eczema, ulcers, scabies, ringworm and other fungus infections. It has been used, in small doses, as an alterative to stimulate the metabolism and to help break up congestion in the alimentary canal, as well as in various organs including the lymph glands.  It has also been used to treat breast cancer, and the excessive swelling of breasts after childbirth which sometimes make nursing impossible.  It has often been a part of the formulas used in treating arthritis and rheumatism.

As a poultice it causes rapid suppuration in felons. The extract is said to have been used in chronic rheumatism and haemorrhoids.

Authorities differ as to its value in cancer. Great relief towards the close of a difficult case of cancer of the uterus was obtained by an external application of 3 OZ. of Poke Root and 1 OZ. of Tincture used in the strength of 1 tablespoonful to 3 pints of tepid water for bathing the part. It is also stated to be of undoubted value as an internal remedy in cancer of the breast.

The following prescription has been recommended: Fluid extracts of Phytolacca (2 OZ.), Gentian 1 OZ.) and Dandelion 1 OZ.), with Simple Syrup to make a pint. One teaspoonful may be taken after each meal.

Infused in spirits, the fruit is used in chronic rheumatism, being regarded as equal to Guaicum.

It is doubtful if the root will cure syphilis without the help of mercury.

Phytolacca decandra – Homeopathic Remedies

Other Uses:
Ink; Insecticide; Soap.

A red ink and a dye are obtained from the fruit. A beautiful colour, though it is not very permanent. It makes a good body paint, washing off easily when no longer required, though the slightly toxic nature of the berries should be remembered. The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute. Cut the root into small pieces and simmer it in boiling water to obtain the soap. The plant is currently (1980) being evaluated for its snail-killing properties.

Known Hazards: The leaves are poisonous. They are said to be safe to eat when young, the toxins developing as the plants grow older. Another report says that the seeds and root are poisonous. The plant sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people. The plant contains substances that cause cell division and can damage chromosomes. These substances can be absorbed through any abrasions in the skin, potentially causing serious blood aberratins, and so it is strongly recommended that the people wear gloves when handling the plant. Avoid during pregnancy. Even children consume even 1 berry emergency poison treatment should be instituted. Up to 10 berries are considered harmless for adults

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytolacca_decandra
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/pokroo57.html
http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/phytolacca.html

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_OPQ.htm

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Phytolacca+americana

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Categories
Herbs & Plants

Pokeweed

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Botanical Name: Phytolacca americana
Family: Phytolaccaceae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Genus: Phytolacca

Other Names: Poke Salet, American Pokeweed, Cancer-root, Cancer jalap, Inkberry, Pigeon Berry, Pocan, Poke, Poke Root, Pokeberry, Reujin D Ours, Sekerciboyaci, Skoke, Virginian Poke, Yoshu-Yama-Gobo, Yyamilin

Common Names: poke, pokebush, pokeberry, pokeroot, polk salad, polk sallet, inkberry or ombú.
Kingdom: Plantae

Caution : Toxic when misused. For experienced herbalists only. Can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea.In East Asia and New Zealand Pokeweed contains phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin, which are poisonous to mammals.

Habitat
Pokeweed is a common perennial native plant, found in Northern and Central N. America from the New England States to Minnesota and south to Florida and Texas, naturalized in Britain and other countries. Growing in damp rich soils in clearings, woodland margins and roadsides.

Description:Pokeweed is a common perennial plant. The stout erect stalk is tall, growing to 10 feet or more, smooth and branching, turning deep red or purple as the berries ripen and the plant matures. The root is conical, large and fleshy, covered with a thin brown bark. Leaves are about 5 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide, simple, alternate, ovate-lanceolate, and smooth. The flowers which appear from July to September are long-stalked clusters and each has 5 whitish petals with green centers. The fruit is a rich deep purple round berry, containing a rich crimson juice. Gather young edible shoots in spring, the roots in fall, slice and dry for later use, and berries as they ripen.

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Uses:
Young pokeweed leaves can be boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling. The result is known as poke salit, or poke salad, and is occasionally available commercially.[1] Many authorities advise against eating pokeweed even after thrice boiling, as traces of the toxin may still remain. For many decades, poke salad has been a staple of southern U.S. cuisine, despite campaigns by doctors who believed pokeweed remained toxic even after being boiled. The lingering cultural significance of Poke salad can be found in the 1969 hit song “Polk Salad Annie,” written and performed by Tony Joe White, and famously covered by Elvis Presley and the El Orbits. Pokeberry juice is added to other juices for jelly by those who believe it can relieve the pain of arthritis. There is a poke salad festival held annually in Gainesboro, TN.

Pokeweed berries yield a red ink or dye, which was once used by Native Americans to decorate their horses. The United States Declaration of Independence was written in fermented pokeberry juice (hence the common name ‘inkberry’). Many letters written home during the American Civil War were written in pokeberry ink; the writing in these surviving letters appears brown. The red juice has also been used to symbolize blood, as in the anti-slavery protest of Benjamin Lay. A rich brown dye can be made by soaking fabrics in fermenting berries in a hollowed-out pumpkin.

Some pokeweeds are also grown as ornamental plants, mainly for their attractive berries; a number of cultivars have been selected for larger fruit panicles.

Pokeweeds are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Giant Leopard Moth.

Toxic Principle toxic constituents have been identified including the alkaloid phytolaccine ( and the alkaloid phytolaccotoxin, as well as a glycoprotein. When pokeweed is used as food, the water in which it is boiled must be discarded. The roots are particularly toxic.

A beautiful red ink and a dye are obtained from the fruit. The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute.

Medicinal Properties and Uses:Various parts of the plant have been used since pre-Colombian times to treat many conditions. It seems the berry juice has been used for pimples and boils, in some cases taken internally in other cases applied to the skin. It has also been taken for joint pain and applied to sore breasts. Leaf concoctions have been used as an expectorant, emetic and cathartic.

Pokeweed is edible (cooked) and medicinal. It has a long history of use by Native Americans and in alternative medicine. The young shoots are boiled in two changes of water and taste similar to asparagus, berries are cooked and the resulting liquid used to color canned fruits and vegetables. The root is alterative, anodyne, antiinflammatory, cathartic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic and purgative. It is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis and diseases related to a compromised immune system it has potential as an anti-AIDS drug. Some of the chemical constituents in the plant are triterpenoid saponins, lectins, antiviral proteins and many phytolaccagenic acids, which are not completely understood.

New research has revealed that a possible CURE for Childhood Leukemia called (B43-PAP) is found in the common Pokeweed.

Anti-B43-pokeweed antiviral protein, B43-PAP, PAP is a pokeweed toxin. The B43 carries the weapon–the PAP–to the leukemia cells. It has been touted as a smart weapon. In one study 15 out of 18 children who had participated had attained remission.

The following is part of a repot from Parker Hughes Institute: The two parts of this drug are the B43 antibody (or anti-CD19) and the pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) immunotoxin, a natural product in the pokeweed plant. B43 is designed to recognize specific B-cell leukemia cells just as natural antibodies attack and recognize germs. When the antibody finds a leukemia cell, it attaches and B43 delivers the other part of the drug, PAP. Inside the cell, PAP is released by the antibody and inactivates the ribosomes that make the proteins the cell needs to survive. With the cell unable to produce proteins, the specific leukemia cell is killed. More than 100 patients have been treated with B43-PAP and shown only minimal side effects.

Pokeweed is used as a folk remedy to treat many ailments. It can be applied topically or taken internally. Topical treatments have been used for acne and other ailments. Internal treatments include tonsilitis, swollen glands and weight loss. Grated pokeroot was used by Native Americans as a poultice to treat inflammations and rashes of the breast. These uses of pokeweed are scientifically unproven, dangerous, and may cause death.

Caution is advised as the whole plant, but especially the berries, is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Clinical signs:-

In humans:
The eating of limited quantities of poke, perhaps of the shoots, may cause retching or vomiting after two hours or more. These signs may be followed by dyspnea, perspiration, spasms, severe purging, prostration, tremors, watery diarrhea and vomitng (sometimes bloody) and, sometimes, convulsions. In severe poisonings, symptoms are weakness, excessive yawning, slowed breathing, fast heartbeat, dizziness, and possibly seizures, coma and death.

In horses:
Colic, diarrhea, respiratory failure.

In swine:
Unsteadiness, inability to rise, retching. Jerking movements of the legs. Below-normal temperature.

In cattle:
Same general signs plus a decrease in milk production.

Folklore
Some Native American tribes used Pokeweed as a Witchcraft Medicine, believing that it’s ability to totally purge the body by causing drastic diarrhea and vomiting would also expel bad spirits. Fruit was made into a red dye used in painting horses and various articles of adornment.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytolacca
http://2bnthewild.com/plants/H171.htm