Phytolacca americana


Phytolacca americana


Names: Pokeweed.

Habitat: N. America

Collection: The root should be unearthed in the late autumn or spring.Clean it and split lengthwise before drying.

Part Used: Root.


  • Triterpenoid saponins; the phytolaccosides A, B, C, D& E. Based on the aglycones phytolaccagenin and phytolaccicacid
  • Lectins; mixture known as `pokeweed mitogen’, consisting of a series of glyco-proteins

Actions: Anti-rheumatic, stimulant, anti-catarrhal, purgative, emetic.

Indications: Poke Root has a wide range of used and is a valuable addition to many holistic treatments. It may be seen primarily as a remedy for use in infection of the upper respiratory tract, removing catarrh and aiding the cleansing of the lymphatic glands. It may be used for catarrh, tonsillitis, laryngitis, swollen glands, mumps. It will be found of value in lymphatic problems elsewhere in the body and especially for mastitis, where it can be used internally and as a poultice. Poke Root also has a use in rheumatism, especially where it is long standing. Care must be taken with this herb as in large dosage it is powerfully emetic and purgative. Externally as a lotion or ointment it may be used to rid the skin of scabies and other pests.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “stimulating and relaxing alterative: promotes the removal of catabolic wastes and the products of fatty degeneration. Specific for skeletal congestions, and for serous and glandular tissues.” They give the following specific indications: Chronic rheumatism and arthritis, neuralgia and lumbago.Tonsillitis and parotitis, mastitis, ovaritis, orchitis. Enlarged thyroid and lymphatics.

Ellingwood considered its most direct actions in “inflammation of glandular structures, especially of the lymphatic glands. Pains of a rheumatic character from deficient catabolism are relieved by it. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in rheumatic subjects, sanious ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, psoriasis and all skin diseases. It is especially valuable in the squamous variety of skin diseases” In addition he recommends it for the following patholgies: inflammations of the throat, forms of diphtheria, goitre, adenitis, mastitis, glandular and skin disorders, syphilitic disorders, varicose ulcers, psoriasis, dermal abscesses, fissures, boils, carbuncles. Membranousand spasmodic croup.

CAUTION: In large doses Poke Root is a powerful emetic and purgative.

Combinations: For lymphatic problems it may be used with Cleavers orBlue Flag.

Preparations & Dosage: Decoction: only small amounts of this herb should be used. Put l/4 teaspoonful of the root in a cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer gently for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take l/4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021