Photo by Karen Bergeron Copyright 2010
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,
Caution : Toxic when misused. For
experienced herbalists only. Can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea.
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. Cultivation: Pokeweed is an easily grown
plant, succeeding in most soils and full sun or partial shade. 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.
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
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
Caution is advised as the whole plant, but especially the
berries, is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
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.
Some Native American tribes used Pokeweed as a Witchcraft Medicine, believing
that itís 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.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
Links to more information about Pokeweed
Poke uses and Medicinal
Poke: A Weed No
Tennessee "Polk Salad"
Next > Rabbit