Poke (Shang Lu)

Botanical Name: Phytolacca americana, P. acinosa

American Poke has a long history as a food and herbal remedy considered excellent at relieving toxicities. In China, its use dates back to over 2,000 years where it has been used to treat edemas and especially breast tumors, lumps, and mastitis. It is a potent herb that if used correctly can treat a variety of lumps and tumors but if used improperly can cause nausea, vomiting and death.

Below is an overview of Poke, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Poke.

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Western Name: Poke

Also Known As: Pokeweed, Pokeroot, Pokeberry, Red Ink Plant, Faux Vin

Organs/Systems: Throat, Skin, Joints, Tumors

Key Actions: Expectorant, Antitussive, Diuretic, Resolvent, Antitumor, Anti-inflammatory, Detoxifiying, Antispetic, Antiparasitic

Medicinal Uses: Sprains, breast lumps, dermatitis, tumors, bruises, parasites.


Pin Yin: Shang Lu

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Liver, Spleen, Bladder, Small Intestine

Key Actions: Clears Toxins, Reduces Swelling, Removes Statis, Releases Liver Qi Stagnation

Medicinal Uses: Goiter, arthritis, neuralgias, breast lumps and tumors, eczema, skin dermatitis, ulcers wounds, abdominal distension, nausea, heavy feeling, moodiness, constipation, breast lumps, tumors, acute mastitis, chronic benign and malignant lumps. Typically used both internally and externally to treat the above mentioned conditions. Considered drastically purgative.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Poke is a perrenial herb, shrub, and tree. It grows 1-10ft tall. Single alternate leaves are pointed at the end with crinkled edges and an unpleasant smell. Stems are green, pink or red. Flowers greenish-white in long clusters at ends of stems that will develop into dark purple berries resembling blackberries. It is harvested from Autumn to the following Spring.

North & South America, East Asia & New Zealand. Naturalized all over Europe. Found on edges of fields or cleared lands and roadsides.

Poke Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaf, Berry, Root

Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Pungent, Dry

Caution: All parts of the plant are toxic with roots being the most toxic, stems and leaves are less toxic and the least toxic is the fruit. The raw berry is toxic. If cooked improperly the juice from the leaves can cause severe stomach cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions, death. Forbidden during pregnancy.

History/Folklore: Grated poke root was used by Native American Indians in poultices for inflammation and rashes. It is a strong herb so dosages must be monitored and respected. (Even just one to two drops of tincture is enough and not more than ten drops is recommended.)  It is the strongest herb known to promote cleansing and clear toxemia that also acts on the glands. Because it is so strong it is usually used in combination with other herbs that can help soften its approach without lessening its properties.

Young leaves if boiled for 5 minutes, rinsed and reboiled 3x, are editable.

Single drops of poke tincture from a three year old root in one hundred proof vodka have been known to be excellent for treating certain cancers, fibroids or endometriosis.

A rich brown dye can be made by soaking fabric in fermenting berries in hollowed out pumpkin.

Some species are toxic to animals but the berries are eaten by birds as the small seeds hard outer shell simply passes through the birds digestive system.

The use of poke root dates back 2,000 years in China. It is listed in the Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic. In China, it is considered a strong water purgative and commonly used to treat all kinds of excess edemas.

Poke berry is used as a red food coloring and as a wine coloring agent.

Key Constituents:

Saponins, Choline,  d-Abscisin II, Vitamin C, Mannan, Phytic acid, Allantoin, Diosgenin, Mucilage, Starch, Sugar, Protein, Free Amino acids, Amylase. Estrogen.
Did you know?

Red Ink

Used as a red ink or dye. Many letters written home during the civil war were written in pokeberry ink, which now appears as brown ink.


Poke Salad

Poke salad is considered part of traditional Southern US cuisine, where it is cooked three times, in three changes of boiling water, to remove toxic components.

Fun fact!

The Root is Never Eaten

The root is never eaten and is only used as a properly prepared medicinal herb, as it is the most toxic part of the plant.

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ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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