Pokeweed

What other names is Pokeweed known by?

American Nightshade, American Spinach, Baie de Phytolaque d'Amérique, Bear's Grape, Branching Phytolacca, Cancer Jalap, Chongras, Coakum, Coakum-Chorngras, Cokan, Crowberry, Épinard de Cayenne, Épinard des Indes, Faux Vin, Fitolaca, Garget, Herbe à la Laque, Hierba Carmin, Inkberry, Jalap, Kermesbeere, Laque, Phytolacca Berry, Phytolacca americana, Phytolacca decandra, Phytolaque Américaine, Phytolaque à Baies, Phytolaque Commun, Phytolaque d'Amérique, Pigeonberry, Pocan, Poke, Pokeweed berry, Pokeweed root, Raisin d'Amérique, Red-Ink Plant, Red Plant, Red Weed, Scoke, Skoke, Teinturier, Teinturière, Vigne de Judée, Virginian Poke.

What is Pokeweed?

Pokeweed is a plant. The berry and root are used as medicine.

Pokeweed is UNSAFE to use. Nevertheless, 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 (mastitis); mumps; skin infections including scabies, tinea, sycosis, ringworm, and acne; fluid retention (edema), skin cancers, menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), and syphilis.

In foods, pokeweed berry is used as red food coloring and as a wine coloring agent.

In manufacturing, pokeweed berry is used to make ink and dye.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of pokeweed for these uses.

SLIDESHOW

Vitamin D Deficiency: How Much Vitamin D Is Enough? See Slideshow

How does Pokeweed work?

There isn't enough information available to know how pokeweed works.

Are there safety concerns?

Pokeweed is UNSAFE to use. All parts of the pokeweed plant, especially the root, are poisonous. Severe poisoning has been reported from drinking tea brewed from pokeweed root and pokeweed leaves. Poisoning also has resulted from drinking pokeberry wine and eating pokeberry pancakes. Eating just 10 berries can be toxic to an adult. Green berries seem to be more poisonous than mature, red berries.

Pokeweed can cause nausea, vomiting, cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, low blood pressure, difficulty controlling urination (incontinence), thirst, and other serious side effects.

Don't touch pokeweed with your bare hands. Chemicals in the plant can pass though the skin and affect the blood. If you must handle pokeweed, use protective gloves.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Pokeweed is UNSAFE for anyone to use, but pregnant women have extra reasons not to take it by mouth or apply it to the skin. Pokeweed berry might cause the uterus to contract and cause a miscarriage. Breast-feeding women should avoid pokeweed, too.

Children: Pokeweed is UNSAFE for children. Even one berry can be poisonous to a child.

Dosing considerations for Pokeweed.

The appropriate dose of pokeweed depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for pokeweed. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

CONTINUE SCROLLING FOR RELATED SLIDESHOW

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 9/17/2019
References

Abad, M. J., Bermejo, P., Sanchez, Palomino S., Chiriboga, X., and Carrasco, L. Antiviral activity of some South American medicinal plants. Phytother Res 1999;13(2):142-146. View abstract.

Baalawy, S. S. Laboratory evaluation of the molluscicidal potency of a butanol extract of Phytolacca dodecandra (endod) berries. Bull World Health Organ 1972;47(3):422-425. View abstract.

Barker, B. E. and Farnes, P. Histochemistry of blood cells treated with pokeweed mitogen. Nature 5-20-1967;214(90):787-789. View abstract.

Barker, B. E., Farnes, P., and LaMarche, P. H. Peripheral blood plasmacytosis following systemic exposure to Phytolacca americana (pokweed). Pediatrics 1966;38(3):490-493. View abstract.

Barkhordari, A., Stoddart, R. W., McClure, S. F., and McClure, J. Lectin histochemistry of normal human lung. J Mol.Histol. 2004;35(2):147-156. View abstract.

Basham, T. Y., Toyoshima, S., Finkelman, F., and Waxdal, M. J. A series of murine interleukin molecules which stimulate both murine and human lymphocytes. I. Production by Phytolacca americana (pokeweed) lectin 2 (Pa-2)-stimulated thymus and thymus-derived cells. Cell Immunol. 9-1-1981;63(1):118-133. View abstract.

Bjorn, M. J., Larrick, J., Piatak, M., and Wilson, K. J. Characterization of translational inhibitors from Phytolacca americana. Amino-terminal sequence determination and antibody-inhibitor conjugates. Biochim.Biophys.Acta 10-23-1984;790(2):154-163. View abstract.

Bodger, M. P., McGiven, A. R., and Fitzgerald, P. H. Mitogenic proteins of pokeweed. II. The differentiation of human peripheral blood B lymphocytes stimulated with purified pokeweed mitogens (Po-2 and Po-6) from pokeweed, Phytolacca octandra. Immunology 1979;37(4):793-799. View abstract.

Cho, S. Y., Sim, J. S., Kang, S. S., Jeong, C. S., Linhardt, R. J., and Kim, Y. S. Enhancement of heparin and heparin disaccharide absorption by the Phytolacca americana saponins. Arch Pharm Res 2003;26(12):1102-1108. View abstract.

Chu, J. Y., Yang, A. D., Wang, B. M., Hu, Z., Zhu, X. M., Zhang, H. J., Qu, J. H., Luo, L. Y., Guo, R., and Shi, L. R. Monoclonal anti-human T cell antibody and PAP-s conjugate--preparation and selective cytotoxic properties on leukemic cell. J Tongji Med Univ 1990;10(1):15-18. View abstract.

D'Cruz, O. J. and Uckun, F. M. Pokeweed antiviral protein: a potential nonspermicidal prophylactic antiviral agent. Fertil.Steril. 2001;75(1):106-114. View abstract.

D'Cruz, O. J., Waurzyniak, B., and Uckun, F. M. Mucosal toxicity studies of a gel formulation of native pokeweed antiviral protein. Toxicol.Pathol. 2004;32(2):212-221. View abstract.

Erko, B., Abebe, F., Berhe, N., Medhin, G., Gebre-Michael, T., Gemetchu, T., and Gundersen, S. G. Control of Schistosoma mansoni by the soapberry Endod (Phytolacca dodecandra) in Wollo, northeastern Ethiopia: post-intervention prevalence. East Afr.Med J 2002;79(4):198-201. View abstract.

Evans, G. S., Chwalinski, S., Owen, G., Booth, C., Singh, A., and Potten, C. S. Expression of pokeweed lectin binding in murine intestinal Paneth cells. Epithelial Cell Biol 1994;3(1):7-15. View abstract.

Fedder, J. and Ellerman-Eriksen, S. Effect of cytokines on sperm motility and ionophore-stimulated acrosome reaction. Arch Androl 1995;35(3):173-185. View abstract.

Goll, P. H., Lemma, A., Duncan, J., and Mazengia, B. Control of schistosomiasis in Adwa, Ethiopia, using the plant molluscicide endod (Phytolacca dodecandra). Tropenmed.Parasitol. 1983;34(3):177-183. View abstract.

Hamilton, R. J., Shih, R. D., and Hoffman, R. S. Mobitz type I heart block after pokeweed ingestion. Vet.Hum Toxicol. 1995;37(1):66-67. View abstract.

Holstege, C. P., Miller, M. B., Wermuth, M., Furbee, B., and Curry, S. C. Crotalid snake envenomation. Crit Care Clin 1997;13(4):889-921. View abstract.

Hostettmann, K. On the use of plants and plant-derived compounds for the control of schistosomiasis. Naturwissenschaften 1984;71(5):247-251. View abstract.

Kell, SO, Rosenberg, SA, Conlon, TJ, and Spyker, DA. A peek at poke: Mitogenicity and epidemiology. Vet.Hum Toxicol. 1982;24(4):36.

Kino, M., Yamaguchi, K., Umekawa, H., and Funatsu, G. Purification and characterization of three mitogenic lectins from the roots of pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem. 1995;59(4):683-688. View abstract.

Lemma, A. Laboratory and field evaluation of the molluscicidal properties of Phytolacca dodecandra. Bull World Health Organ 1970;42(4):597-612. View abstract.

Lenghel, V., Radu, D. L., Chirila, P., and Olinescu, A. The influence of some vegetable extracts on the in vitro adherence of mouse and human lymphocytes to nylon fibers. Roum.Arch Microbiol.Immunol 1995;54(1-2):15-30. View abstract.

Lewis, W. H. and Smith, P. R. Poke root herbal tea poisoning. JAMA 12-21-1979;242(25):2759-2760. View abstract.

Lozovoi, V. P., Kiselev, S. V., and Kotenev, V. M. [A system of assessing interleukin-2-dependent activation of B-lymphocytes]. Lab Delo 1989;(7):60-62. View abstract.

Mir, L. M., Banoun, H., and Paoletti, C. Introduction of definite amounts of nonpermeant molecules into living cells after electropermeabilization: direct access to the cytosol. Exp Cell Res 1988;175(1):15-25. View abstract.

Morgan, A. C., Jr., Bordonaro, J., Pearson, J. W., and Sivam, G. Immunotoxins to a human melanoma-associated antigen: resistance to pokeweed antiviral protein conjugates in vitro. J Natl.Cancer Inst. 1987;78(6):1101-1106. View abstract.

Ndekha, A., Hansen, E. H., Molgaard, P., Woelk, G., and Furu, P. Community participation as an interactive learning process: experiences from a schistosomiasis control project in Zimbabwe. Acta Trop. 2003;85(3):325-338. View abstract.

Rajamohan, F., Venkatachalam, T. K., Irvin, J. D., and Uckun, F. M. Pokeweed antiviral protein isoforms PAP-I, PAP-II, and PAP-III depurinate RNA of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1. Biochem.Biophys.Res Commun. 7-5-1999;260(2):453-458. View abstract.

Rau, E. Treatment of acute tonsillitis with a fixed-combination herbal preparation. Adv.Ther. 2000;17(4):197-203. View abstract.

Schlick, J., Dulieu, P., Desvoyes, B., Adami, P., Radom, J., and Jouvenot, M. Cytotoxic activity of a recombinant GnRH-PAP fusion toxin on human tumor cell lines. FEBS Lett. 4-28-2000;472(2-3):241-246. View abstract.

Stolzenberg, S. J. and Parkhurst, R. M. Spermicidal actions of extracts and compounds from Phytolacca dodecandra. Contraception 1974;10(2):135-143. View abstract.

Sussner, U., Abel, G., Schulte, R., and Kreis, W. Isolation and characterisation of a cysteine protease (phytolacain G), from Phytolacca americana roots. Planta Med 2004;70(10):942-947. View abstract.

Tachibana, Y., Kato, A., Nishiyama, Y., Kawanishi, K., Tobe, H., Juma, F. D., Ogeto, J. O., and Mathenge, S. G. Mitogenic activities in African traditional herbal medicines. Planta Med 1993;59(4):354-358. View abstract.

Treyvaud, V., Marston, A., Dyatmiko, W., and Hostettmann, K. Molluscicidal saponins from Phytolacca icosandra. Phytochemistry 2000;55(6):603-609. View abstract.

Uckun, F. M., Bellomy, K., O'Neill, K., Messinger, Y., Johnson, T., and Chen, C. L. Toxicity, biological activity, and pharmacokinetics of TXU (anti-CD7)-pokeweed antiviral protein in chimpanzees and adult patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus. J Pharmacol.Exp Ther 1999;291(3):1301-1307. View abstract.

Uckun, F. M., Chelstrom, L. M., Tuel-Ahlgren, L., Dibirdik, I., Irvin, J. D., Langlie, M. C., and Myers, D. E. TXU (anti-CD7)-pokeweed antiviral protein as a potent inhibitor of human immunodeficiency virus. Antimicrob.Agents Chemother. 1998;42(2):383-388. View abstract.

Waurzyniak, B., Schneider, E. A., Tumer, N., Yanishevski, Y., Gunther, R., Chelstrom, L. M., Wendorf, H., Myers, D. E., Irvin, J. D., Messinger, Y., Ek, O., Zeren, T., Langlie, M. C., Evans, W. E., and Uckun, F. M. In vivo toxicity, pharmacokinetics, and antileukemic activity of TXU (anti-CD7)-pokeweed antiviral protein immunotoxin. Clin Cancer Res 1997;3(6):881-890. View abstract.

Woldeamanuel, Y., Abate, G., and Chryssanthou, E. In vitro activity of Phytolacca dodecandra (Endod) against dermatophytes. Ethiop.Med J 2005;43(1):31-34. View abstract.

Yang, W. H., Wieczorck, M., Allen, M. C., and Nett, T. M. Cytotoxic activity of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)-pokeweed antiviral protein conjugates in cell lines expressing GnRH receptors. Endocrinology 2003;144(4):1456-1463. View abstract.

Barker BE, Farnes P, LaMarche PH. Haematological effects of pokeweed. Lancet 1967;1:437.

Furbee B, Wermuth M. Life-threatening plant poisoning. Crit Care Clin 1997;13:849-88. View abstract.

Jaeckle KA, Freemon FR. Pokeweed poisoning. South Med J 1981;74:639-40. View abstract.

Kell SO, Rosenberg SA, Conlon TJ, Spyker DA. A peek at poke: mitogenicity and epidemiology. Vet Hum Toxicol 1982;24:36.

Lewis WH, Smith PR. Poke root herbal tea poisoning. JAMA 1979;242:2759-60.

Murch SJ, Simmons CB, Saxena PK. Melatonin in feverfew and other medicinal plants. Lancet 1997;350:1598-9. View abstract.

Roberge R, Brader E, Martin ML, et al. The root of evil-pokeweed intoxication. Ann Emerg Med 1986;15:470-3.

Wiesenauer, M. Comparison of solid and liquid forms of homeopathic remedies for tonsillitis. Adv Ther 1998;15(6):362-371. View abstract.