Pokeweed is a perennial herb that is native to eastern North America and cultivated throughout the world. It can grow to a height of more than ten feet during the summer and dies back to the root each winter. The berries and dried roots are used in herbal remedies. Pokeweed supplements are available as liquid extracts, tinctures, powders, and poultices. There is no standard dose for pokeweed.
Pokeweed should not be used by people who are taking antidepressants, disulfiram (Antabuse), oral contraceptives, or fertility drugs. Other potential interactions between pokeweed and other drugs and herbs should be considered. Always tell your doctor and pharmacist about any herbs you are taking. Although pokeweed is a poisonous plant do not let that hinder you from harvesting its leaves and roots to be eaten and used in herbal medicines. If it is done right there is nothing to fear.
Pokeweed root has been used for achy muscles and joints (rheumatism); swelling of the nose, throat, and chest; tonsillitis; hoarse throat (laryngitis); swelling of lymph glands (adenitis); swollen and tender breasts. Traditionally, however, pokeweed root was very rarely, if at all consumed. The most common use of pokeweed root in Native American medicine was as a laxative or to induce vomiting. The berry was also used as a colouring agent for food and is, in fact, still used today in the food industry. When eaten raw, certain enzymes produced by the plant such as lectins can cause the red blood cells to clump up. In fact, lectins are the active ingredient in many of the most toxic plant enzymes known to man.
Poke acts as an anodyne, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, anti-scorbutic, anti-syphilitic, anti-tumour, cathartic, emetic and parasiticide. The parts of the plant that are used in herbal healing are the berries and roots. Poke Root is a pungent bitter herb that stimulates the immune and lymphatic systems.