Poke Herb

By | August 30, 2014

A weed plentiful in large roots, Poke Herb is a powerful healing agent as well as a purgative and emetic. Poke can be dangerous if not used correctly, but under the guidance of an herbalist can be an effective treatment for a myriad of conditions.


Poke Herb Image

Indigenous to North and Central North America and areas of the Mediterranean, phytolacca americana or Poke is also referred to as pokeweed, cancer-root, cancer jalap, inkberry, pokeberry, yoshu-yama-gobo, pigeon berry and poke root. Defined by a pungent smell, it can grow to 12-feet high and blooms pink flowers before dark purple or black berries appear.

Most of the healing properties of the Poke herb come from its roots, which grow quite deep and wide. A small section of root can provide enough medicinal power to last a long time. The ideal harvest time is fall, when the plant possesses the greatest medicinal properties and the plant itself is least toxic.

The healing compounds in Poke include Saponins, Tannins, Phytolaccic Acid and Vitamin K.

The root can be prepared as a tincture, oil or homeopathic tablet. Poke should only be ingested in minute amounts, taking one drop – not dropper full – at a time and increasing at one-drop intervals. Too much poke can cause adverse reactions and therefore should only be taken under the recommendation of a qualified alternative specialist.

Poke herb can be eaten, but must be prepared by cooking in three changes of water before it is safe for consumption. The one berry can be taken per day for medicinal purposes with care not to chew on the poisonous seeds. The seeds can be swallowed and will leave the body whole; toxins are only released if the seeds are broken. One berry is equal to one drop of poke tincture.


Poke is best known for its positive effects on the immune and lymphatic systems and for its dangerous purgative and emetic properties.

The Poke herb can treat infections such as:

  • Laryngitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Influenza
  • Strep Throat
  • Ear Infections
  • Catarrh
  • Herpes

Its positive effect on the immune system, specifically related to T and B cells, leads some to believe future uses to include persons with compromised immune systems, possibly as a component in anti-AIDS treatment.

It also helps a wide-range of skin disorders:

Poke reduces inflammation in lymph and glands, treating conditions such as:

  • Tonsillitis
  • Mumps
  • Glandular Fever
  • Swollen Glands

Massaging Poke oil over effected areas can help with sore breasts, lumps, mastitis and swollen lymph nodes as well as lessen lymphatic congestion. It also has indications for Endometriosis, Fibrocystic breast disease and Uterine fibroids.

Due to its effects on the lymphatic system, Poke has shown promise in treating breast cancer. Researchers also believe Poke can kill specific leukemia cells by inhibiting the cancer from producing proteins needed to replicate and survive.

Additional benefits include the treatment of arthritis and rheumatoid conditions.


Poke herb is safe for most people in small doses over a short period of time, but should only be taken under the supervision of an herbalist.

Poke can cause hypnotic effects as well as nausea and vomiting when taken in large amounts and, in persons sensitive to its effects, smaller amounts, even 15 drops, can incur violent diarrhea and vomiting.

Mild to life-threatening side effects:

  • Mental uncertainty
  • Haziness
  • Feeling “out-of-body”
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Burning sensation in mouth and stomach
  • Slow heart, pulse and respiration rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Death

Persons with immune suppression or autoimmune disease should avoid taking Poke.

Do not take if pregnant or nursing.


Poke herb is used as an anti-inflammatory and anti-infection agent and shows great promise in the treatment of breast cancer, lymphoma, leukemia and AIDS. Poke is a strong herb that is best tolerated in low doses. Due to the potential for hypnotic, purgative and emetic effects, as well as life-threatening risks regarding overdose, Poke should only be taken under the supervision of a knowledgeable herbalist.