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 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.
Western Name: Poke
Also Known As: Pokeweed, Pokeroot, Pokeberry, Red Ink Plant, Faux Vin
Organs/Systems: Throat, Skin, Joints, Tumors
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Expectorant, Antitussive, Diuretic, Resolvent, Antitumor, Anti-inflammatory, Detoxifiying, Antispetic, Antiparasitic.
Pin Yin: Shang Lu
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Liver, Spleen, Bladder, Small Intestine
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Clears Toxins/Reduces Swelling: goiter, arthritis, neuralgias, breast lumps and tumors, eczema, skin dermatitis, ulcers wounds. Removes statis: abdominal distension, nausea, heavy feeling, moodiness, constipation. Liver Qi Stagation: breast lumps, tumors, acute mastitis, chronic benign and magliant lumps. Typically used both internally and externally to treat the above mentioned conditions. Considered drastically purgative.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves, 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 so 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.
Saponins, Choline, d-Abscisin II, Vitamin C, Mannan, Phytic acid, Allantoin, Diosgenin, Mucilage, Starch, Sugar, Protein, Free Amino acids, Amylase. Estrogen.
Used as 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 is considered part of traditional Southern US cuisine, where it is cooked three times in three changes of boiling water to remove toxic components.
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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