Poke Root (Phytolacca decandra)
Also known as pigeon berry and inkberry, poke root has a long history of usage. This perennial grows from 3 to 9 feet high. It grows black berries in clusters. The root is very large and easily cut or broken. It is indigenous to the United States, and often grows where the soil has been disturbed. The herb is known to be poisonous to horses, causing repsiratory failure, and if a large enough dose in taken, in humans too - excercise caution!
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Poke root affects the lymph system very strongly, although all glands of the body are benefited by this herb. It is especially effective for glands in the throat, the reproductive area and the mammary glands. This herb has been used for goiter. The herb cleanses the lymphatic system, especially in the throat. It is very effective for chronic tonsillitis, for example. It has been used to treat cancers, and more specifically, for breast cancer.
Externally Poke root poultices made from the leaves have been used to treat boils, ringworm, wounds and scabies. Salve has been used for chickenpox, eczema, bedsores, carbuncles, hemorrhoids, fungal infections, measles, shingles and psoriasis. The root is so irritating to the skin that it has been used to burn off skin cancer.
Other Uses The berries make a red dye that is used for ink, baskets and paint.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
The herb can be combined with iris to treat abnormal conditions of the breast, to treat goiters and even as an herbal remedy to treat outbreaks of acne.
Roots The root is the most important part of the plant medicinally, although other parts can be used.
Pregnant and nursing women should not take poke root. This herb is quite potent, so it should be taken only under the guidance of a skilled herbalist. If you suffer from lymphatic cancer, do not take this herb. Large doses may have narcotic effects and slow the heart rate and decrease blood pressure, so always use caution. Side effects may include prolonged vomiting, convulsions, muscle spasms and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. If any of these effects manifest, stop using immediately.
Preparation and Dosage
To apply externally, put 3 ounces of poke root and 1 ounce of tincture in 3 pints of lukewarm water to bathe the affected part. It is best to follow the instructions of a skilled care provider carefully for the best results.