The world is full of herbs that on one hand can be extremely dangerous but on the other can benefit our health immensely so long as proper care is taken. Poke root is one such herb.
While all parts of the plant are considered toxic, it has been used traditionally for centuries to boost the immune system and improve lymphatic system health.
Please be aware however that poke root is extremely powerful and should not be used unless under expert supervision.
What is Poke Root?
If you live in the USA, pretty much anywhere from Maine down to Texas, you might well be familiar with poke root.
It is regarded by most as a highly poisonous plant with berries that should never be consumed. The leaves are sometimes used in a dish called poke salad which was popularized in an Elvis song called ‘Polk Salad Annie’.
However before the leaves are eaten, or used internally by herbalists, they must be prepared properly.
Herbalists and locals boil the leaves three times in fresh water making sure they discard the old water between each boil. This is certainly a very potent plant so experimenting with it at home is definitely not a good idea.
Poke root belongs to the Phytolacca genus native to South America. North America and East Asia. Many members of this perennial plant genus have similar common names including pokeweed, pokebush and pokeberry. Other common names for members of the Phytolacca species include ombú and inkberry.
Many of these species including Phytolacca americana (native to the USA) contain toxic alkaloids called phytolaccigen and phytolaccatoxin which are toxic to mammals if they are not properly prepared. Humans should never eat these berries and children must be warned of their dangers.
Despite the potential dangers of using poke root internally, the plant has a long history of medicinal use both for topical and internal use. It is still used by herbalists and as a folk medicine today to deal with rheumatism, aches, and pains as well as immune and lymphatic system support.
Given that the plant is considered highly toxic, it is not surprising that we lack any scientific evidence into its benefits. There are no clinical trials to support its uses – instead, we have to rely on traditional use and anecdotal evidence as well as the experience of professional herbalists.
If you are interested in the potential health benefits of this plant, please read on but I must reiterate that it should never be used unless you are under expert supervision.
The Medicinal Uses of Poke Root
1) Lymphatic System Health
One of the most popular uses of pokeweed is to keep the lymphatic system working effectively. The importance of the lymphatic system is often overlooked when it comes to the value of certain herbs but it plays a crucial role in our health.
Your lymphatic system is primarily involved in protecting the body against external threats like bacteria, infections, and cancerous cells and also help keep the body’s fluid levels balanced.
According to herbalists and traditional use of pokeweed, the herb can do a great deal to benefit the lymph system. This can ensure your body is protected from various external threats and keeps the immune system strong and healthy.
2) Immune System Support
When used under expert supervision, pokeweed is known for boosting your immune system health. A healthy immune system is absolutely essential to overall good health and wellbeing. It can protect you from seasonal miseries like cold and flu and help you to recover faster from sickness.
The best way to improve the immune system is by eating a nutritious diet especially fresh fruit and veg full of vitamin C but certain herbs including poke root may give you the extra boost your body needs.
Poke root is sometimes used to treat endometriosis. This is a painful condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It most commonly affects the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, and the pelvic tissue. As many as 11% of women from the age of 15 to 44 suffer from the condition.
Experts believe that boosting the lymphatic system can help treat endometriosis because a strong lymphatic system can boost immune health. Endometriosis has been linked to a weakened immune system. Herbalists believe that by boosting immune health, poke root could help to fight endometriosis.
4) Rheumatism and Muscle Pain
Poke root can be used under expert supervision to relieve muscle soreness and pain. Once again, it is the herb’s effect on the lymphatic system that is significant as well as the herb’s anti-inflammatory actions.
When the lymphatic system is in the best working order, it can help eliminate toxins that reside in the body’s muscles. It can also help to treat painful and swollen joints caused by conditions like rheumatism, osteoarthritis, and gout.
5) Skin Health
One of the problems associated with poor lymphatic health is unhealthy looking skin and common skin conditions like acne. There are currently no research studies into the effects of poke root on the skin but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest it can improve your skin’s appearance and health.
6) Other Uses of Poke Root
Poke root has also been used to treat the following conditions:
How to Use Poke Root
Poke root is usually taken medicinally in the form of a tincture but can be applied topically in the form of a compress.
Because of its potential to cause harm, you should never simply experiment with poke root. Make sure that you only use this powerful herb under expert supervision. There are no fixed dosage guidelines and the amount prescribed can vary depending on the condition you are trying to treat as well as your personal details like weight and age.
Make sure that you purchase your poke root supplements from a reputable company. Do some real research online to make certain you are getting the best quality and safest product. Once you have your poke root tincture or supplement be careful to read the dosage instructions on the package and never take more than the recommended dose.
These are some recommended dosage guidelines for treating sore throats or breast infections. However, please speak to a doctor or expert before taking the herb internally.
On the first day, use between two and four drops stirred into a little water and drink it down. You can repeat the dose before bed. If your soreness or infection has not cleared up the following day, repeat the same doses in the morning and night. You should feel better within two days.
Do not use poke root for more than 5 days consecutively.
Side Effect and Precautions
- Poke root is considered unsafe for internal use. If you are considering using the herb, it is very important to consult an expert before going ahead with it. All parts of this plant are poisonous to humans especially its root.
- Severe bouts of poisoning have been reported from drinking a tea made from poke root leaves and root. The berries are also highly toxic and children must learn not to eat them.
- Some of the side effects of taking poke root include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramp and abdominal pain, reduced blood pressure, incontinence and great thirst.
- Because of its potential harm, pregnant women and nursing mothers must never use poke root.
- Never give children and supplement or product containing poke root.