Phytolacca americana(Synonym P. decandra)
Pokeweed (formerly P. decandra) is a perennial herb indigenous to North America but now common in Mediterranean countries. Its pale flowers are followed by stalks of deep purple berries.
The roots and berries are used in herbal preparations.
Pokeweed contains alkaloids and saponins (compounds that have expectorant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and stimulate the immune system by encouraging body-defending B cells and T cells to divide). Another constituent is vitamin K, which helps healthy bone growth. The roots contain lectins, antiviral proteins and lignans.
In traditional medicine, pokeweed is used as an anti-inflammatory. It is prescribed to:
- Treat rheumatoid arthritis.
- Induce vomiting.
- Act as an analgesic.
- Treat infections such as tonsillitis, flu and sinus infections.
- Provide relief from flu and sinusitis symptoms such as excess mucus build-up.
- Help detox the body.
- Stimulate the immune and lymphatic systems
- Treat fungal infections.
- May help treat cancer.
Flora Force Products containing Pokeweed
Domestic & culinary uses
Although it is said that the young shoots, when cooked, make a good substitute for asparagus, we do not recommend using pokeweed in cooking.
Easy to grow, pokeweed can be planted in sandy, loamy and clay soils in sun or semi-shade. It prefers moist soil. Note that the leaves are poisonous and that the plant sap can cause dermatitis – wear gloves when handling the plant. We do not recommend growing pokeweed unless you understand completely the plant and its uses.
Acknowledgements & credits
Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Pokeweed. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/pokeweed
- Plants for a Future. Phytolacca americana. www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Phytolacca+americana
- Van Wyk, B-E. and Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 2004. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Pokeweed berries photo by Ted (Pokeweed) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons