Pokeweed: an herb for all things pokey.

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Now that I’m living on my home ground again, I’ve been feeling like writing about some real traditional Appalachian herbs. So for July’s berry-themed blog party, I chose a classic of Appalachian herbalism: pokeberry (Phytolacca americana).

A while back on the Herbwifery Forum, a few of us were reminiscing about growing up in West Virginia and North Carolina. From our informal survey, it seems like covering oneself in pokeberry juice and running around like a little demon is an essential part of an Appalachian childhood. And it’s no wonder. Pokeweed is everywhere in Southern Appalachia, and the ripe berries hang in shiny, inky purple-black clusters. Squish them in your hands, and they turn bright pink. What could be more fun?

Of course, we all knew that pokeberries were “poison,” so we didn’t eat them. (Unless someone said “I dare you,” that is. And even then we’d spit them right out again. I never knew anyone to get sick on them.)

The truth is, poke is strong stuff. It can be toxic even in moderate doses. Some herbalists stick to diluted homeopathic preparations of the plant, just to be on the safe side. But I prefer the old-fashioned way: drops of the tincture, spoonfuls of the decoction, sips of the wine, or a berry at a time. (Fresh plant only. Poke doesn’t take well to drying.)

So you might be asking, like my ten-year-old niece always does, “What’s it for?” Well, poke is for all things, um, pokey. Poke gets things moving in the body, especially the lymphatic system, the joints, and the metabolism. In other words, it’s an “alterative.” Used externally, it kills things (scabies, ringworm, etc.).

The most common indications for pokeberries in old-time Appalachian herbalism were “rheumatism” and “bad blood.” These days I’d call those “chronic joint pain” and “lymphatic sluggishness.” The usual prescription was to eat one berry a day for a week (without chewing the seeds), stop for a week, and repeat. Three berries, three times a week was another classic dose.

This tradition of on-and-off dosing is interesting. Perhaps poke inspires a reaction in the body—maybe in the immune system—that is triggered only by withdrawal of the dosage? Poke is often called an “immune stimulant,” but I imagine it’s more complicated than that. I often wonder about poke’s effects on autoimmune conditions, since many of the conditions associated with the symptoms of “rheumatism” turn out to have links to autoimmunity.

Modern herbalists sometimes use pokeberries to help stimulate an underactive thyroid, and old texts often mention goiter and obesity as important indications for the plant. It’s possible that poke acts directly on the thyroid, or indirectly on the metabolism through its general stimulation of “movement” in the body.

Poke’s movement-stimulating properties, combined with its affinities for the lymphatic system and “glands,” have led to its traditional use for many conditions involving hard, swollen masses in the body, including simple swollen lymph nodes, mumps, tonsillitis, adenitis, orchitis, mastitis, goiter, and cancer.

In my experience, poke root is one of the best things out there for inflammations of the breast, including mastitis. Fresh root poultices are traditional (though they can cause skin irritation), but tincture of the fresh root or a plaster of fresh berries will work, too, along with drop doses of the tincture internally. (Poke is contraindicated during pregnancy, but okay for nursing moms—in small doses, of course.)

One of poke’s many folk names is “cancer root,” and (like many other lymphatic herbs) it has a reputation as an old-time cancer remedy—especially for breast and skin cancers. It’s interesting that the old authors are split on its effectiveness. I’ve noticed that those who recommend poke for cancer support tend to emphasize using the fresh plant, rather than dried. This fits with what I’ve been taught. Always use fresh poke.

Whiskey tincture of the fresh root and fresh berry wine are the traditional Appalachian ways to preserve the plant for internal use. Traditional preparations of poke for external use often involved extraction in kerosene. This is one tradition I don’t follow. Poke-infused olive oil works just fine, thanks.

My favorite saying about poke comes from Tommie Bass. Talking about the old-time use of poke whiskey as a tonic, he said “It just straightened you out.”

An herbalist’s cheat-sheet for poke:

Parts used: fresh root, fresh berries (young shoots and leaves are also a “spring tonic” food, boiled in two changes of water).

Actions: alterative, lymphatic, antifungal, possible thyroid stimulant.

Affinities: lymph, breasts, testes, skin, joints.

Taste: acrid, slightly sweet, root slightly bitter.

Vitalist energetics: root slightly cooling and drying; berries slightly warming.

Michael Moore energetics (highlights): lymphatic, immune, skin/mucosa, hepatic, parasympathetic stimulant; cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, CNS sedative; berries for thyroid depression, root for adrenalin stress.

Tongue indications: swollen, with a white coating; sometimes foamy saliva (Michael Moore).

Specific indications: Hard, swollen lymph nodes. “Hurts to stick out tongue” (Matthew Wood).

Homeopathic mental indications: “Loss of personal delicacy, disregard of surrounding objects. Indifferent to life” (Boericke).

Have fun “poking” around!

PS: I’m going to post this month’s blog party on August 2nd—mainly because that’s the day we get real internet access at our new house, but also because it gives busy-in-the-summer folks an extra day to make a blog party post!

96 Comments »

  1. The Herbwife’s Kitchen » Blog Party: Berries! said,

    August 30, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

    [...] wrote about Pokeberry, one of the classic Appalachian [...]

  2. David Pleshe said,

    October 17, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

    I was introduced to the Poke Berry just last week while visiting a relative in Kentucky. He’s been eating the fresh ripee berries daily—about three a day. He just swallows them and claims that it has help his arthritis.
    He offered me some and I actually did what most blogs say you shouldn’t do—crunch the seeds. I haven’t had any ill effects from doing it that one time; however I now realize that that was not a good idea according to most reports I have read on the subject. I take three whole berries a day swalling them whole and have had no ill effects. Seems to help sore joints.

  3. THERESA said,

    March 11, 2008 @ 6:07 pm

    A little while back I saw a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a magazine that included a berry called “rosy-stemmed caribbean varga” berry. when looking this up online, I couldn’t find such a thing… hence the search for a “pink stemmed berry” and this is what I found, the POKEBERRY seems to be what I was looking for
    I am getting married and would like to just use it in a bouquet like the magazine, but I don’t know who or where to buy it from fresh in it’s natural state.

    can you help?

  4. crabappleherbs said,

    March 11, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

    Hmmmm.

    I don’t know if any florists carry pokeberries — you could ask around. If you’re getting married in the right season (August – September), you could probably find some wild ones, depending on where you live.

    Good luck!

  5. darci said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 7:43 am

    At one time in history tomatoes were considered extremely poisonous. I’m always amused (and irritated) when I see where people treat Poke as if it were something lethal. I’ve lived in the South all my life, and every spring I hunt Poke, boil the leaves (once) and eat them. It’s like my spring tonic. I don’t want it more than once or twice a year, but my mother freezes it and eats it all year long.
    There’s a famous herbalist, has a magazine, a forum and everything, to whom I told this, and she responded as if my family and I belonged to some illiterate, mutant enclave, probably living in the backwoods, eating poke and selling moonshine, and that over the decades we had built up a resistance to the poisons within the plant……….not quite. I have 3 college degrees, have taught and counseled in public school and college, and am a digital artist and freelance writer. I won’t say more because Darci isn’t my name, and some would know me if I told what all I’ve done. Anyway, I’m not an illiterate mutant, and I did just want to say that I’ll be glad when “herbalists” stop treating the plant and those who eat it with condescension and fear. My grandmother was a true herbalist and could walk through the woods and pick a whole salad from the wild plants growing there. I’m not as good as she, but I take after her herbal ways.

  6. crabappleherbs said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

    Hi “Darci.”

    Yes, I get irritated about that too. This post was about the berries, though, not the leaves. I eat the young leaves whenever I can get my hands on them. (Soon it will be the season!)

    (It sounds like the herbalist you talked to had a serious case of anti-Appalachian prejudice. It’s way too common, as I’m sure you know.)

  7. Susan Marynowski said,

    April 25, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

    I’ve been trying to find out if it is OK to make a poke berry tincture. Didn’t get much response on the herb discussion list. What do you think? I was mainly wondering if it was necessary or advisable to remove the seeds before tincturing, as the alcohol would surely extract those alkaloids. I am NOT poke-phobic…just want to make the best preparation to get the benefit of the berries year round! Do folks traditionally remove the seeds when making wine or jelly?

    TIA, Susan in Florida (April 2008…my poke is 6 feet tall already!)

  8. crabappleherbs said,

    May 4, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

    Hi Susan.

    I’ve never tinctured the berries — just the root. I generally use the berries fresh or make wine. Pokeberry wine is usually fermented with the seeds for a while and then strained off. I know some traditional herbalists who soak the berries in wine instead of making wine with them — and they don’t remove the seeds. Wine, of course, is a much weaker solvent than straight ethanol.

    I’m not sure about the actual sources for the warnings about the seeds — I’ve always been told not to chew them, but other than that I don’t really have any good information.

    Have you found any useful information since you posted here?

  9. Susan said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 11:56 am

    I haven’t gotten any more information, except that most people don’t bother removing the seeds when they are making jam or wine, as you say. I also read that some folks just dry the berries and then swallow one or two berries whole for arthritic complaints (in the winter, for example, when fresh berries are not available). Maybe drying the berries is the most natural solution to having them year round. Thanks for your reply! -Florida Susan

  10. crabappleherbs said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

    Thanks for posting, Susan.

    Drying the berries is indeed an option, though I imagine you’d need to do it in a dehydrator or the oven — the dang things are really juicy.

  11. MARY said,

    May 11, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

    Being an Alaskan, I can’t really say I know much of anything about Poke Weed, though I do remember my mother talking a bit about it (she is from Missouri). Trying to live with arthritis pain makes me ever on the look out for relief. Where would I find acceptable Poke Weed? I am now living in Washington State for the summer.

  12. crabappleherbs said,

    May 16, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

    Hi Mary.

    I think poke grows in Washington state. If you want to find it, watch for the dark purple berries late in the summer — see if you can find a local herbalist to help you identify it.

  13. Herbwifemama said,

    August 26, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

    Hmmm, poke season is nearly here, and I’m interested in poke’s effect on the thyroid. Do you have any other sources on this?

  14. geneva said,

    September 8, 2008 @ 9:16 am

    I AM NEW AT MAKING OILS OR TINCTURES FROM POKEROOT.
    CAN SOMEONE GIVE ME STEP BY STEP PLEASE

  15. crabappleherbs said,

    September 9, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

    Herbwifemama: I don’t use poke specifically for thyroid problems, but many of the old herbalists used it specifically for goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland. I would go to Henriette’s site and search for poke in the old herbals she has there.

    Geneva: I would suggest checking out the directions for oils and tinctures on Henriette’s site.

  16. willowsprite said,

    September 11, 2008 @ 3:28 am

    Hi Herb Lady
    I was pulled up short while out on a run about 6 years ago when I came upon some brilliantl fuscia bushes with deep purple berries. I just! found out what they were two days ago. I was delighted to discover a bush growing i my back yard.
    Now,
    What is the best way to juice the berries or make wine from them? I’ve had a swollen lymph node since about the same time I discovered the bush.
    Serendipitious! in a funny way…
    Thanks!

  17. crabappleherbs said,

    September 15, 2008 @ 8:57 am

    Hi Willowsprite.

    You can make wine from them using any wine recipe. To juice them, you can just crush the berries and strain out the seeds. Careful not to take too much at once!

  18. Lynn said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

    My Grandfather always told me to make wine or to eat Poke Berries. It must be after the first frost. Is this true or not.

  19. herbanchica said,

    May 9, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

    I love your blog spot! Thank you for sharing your wonderful information.

  20. debbie said,

    August 25, 2009 @ 11:28 am

    Hi,
    Not sure how or where to ask, but is it possible to get permission to cite a few lines of this information on phytolacca Americana in a narrative non fiction book that will be out early 2010? Your info is right on the money, It would be wonderful in the chapter regarding pharmaceutical companies and seed company (Monsanto of course must remain nameless) where I relate that I have been using a pokeweed tincture myself, 1 tblsp. fresh berry juice per 2 ounces 100% proof alcohol, 2 drops a day 3 days on 3 days off. I did not learn about the alternating off on dosing I just felt it was right and went with it. This was after 10 years of doctors, and a lot of blah blah blah. This is a valuable plant and will be destroyed commercially in no time, like so many others. I feel sorry for grocery store shoppers trying to find a good tomato or cucumber. Many do not even remember or know what a Good one taste like anymore. Anyway, yes I would love to correspond with you further regarding :) My email has been provided.
    T.Y.
    Debra

  21. debbie said,

    August 25, 2009 @ 11:33 am

    P.S. I have also prepared Fresh sliced root by soaking for 2 weeks in 100 proof, shake well each day, until liquid looks like milk, then strain. Root Used more specifically for rheumatism and arthritis, can dry, and grate and make paste later for poultices as well. The berry tincture seems to have a wider variety of ills improved upon, such as sore throats for example, to body aches, and joint pain, and seems to increase energy levels. IMHO:)

  22. Vickie Purvey said,

    August 25, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

    Hello I am looking for fresh poke weed root. I despartely need to find some.
    If you can help me I would be greatly appreciate any information you could pass on to me. I live in Seminole Fl. 727-399-9127 or you can email me.
    Thank you so much.
    Sincerely,
    Vickie Purvey

  23. Kristy Zuur said,

    August 26, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

    I have tons of Poke growing in the woods and fields near wear I live in Southern New Jersey. This past spring. I made a quart of tincture, and my Mother inadvertently threw it out because she is older and did not know what it was–it was in an old bell jar. I was planning on doing it again, but I am not sure if summer is a good time to harvest the root.

    Anyone know?

    Vickie, if you would like, I can dig some up for you too when I do it. My e-mail is itzkristy@gmail.com

    Kindest,
    Kristy

  24. Darryl said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

    Vickie,

    You should have plenty of Poke in your area. It is common in Florida. Kristy, Poke can be dug any time of the year you find it. Some people get their nose bent out of shape over the controversy of fresh vs dried root but it in actuality doesn’t matter. Either way is going to work fine.

    Darryl
    thesouthernherbalist.com

  25. Kristy Zuur said,

    September 24, 2009 @ 9:35 am

    If anyone would like some Poke root, contact me, pay shipping and I will send you some. I went wild the other day while in the woods (after a rain) and pulled up about 20lbs of it! Contact me at .

    Kris

  26. S. C. DIXON said,

    October 7, 2009 @ 4:21 pm

    I’m from Kansas, my dad was from Arkansas. I’ve eaten poke greens every springtime of my life, a bit later we harvest the stalks, “peel” them with a potato peeler, (they look kinda like rhubarb), slice them then, roll them in salt, pepper, and flour and fry them like okra, which they kind of taste like. Use any cooking oil, but of course bacon greese is best.

    Delicious with ham and beans, some fried taters and sliced ‘maters…Mmmm.

    I have, for the first time, made an external tincture from berries using isopropyl alcohol in a decorative bottle (beautiful color in the liquid) to apply topically and tonight I’m steeping some seeds in vodka for internal use. I’ve been told a teaspoon a day to help with the arthritis in my hands.

    Whether or not the seeds work, I’m here to tell you that young leaves and stalks are a culinary treasure…let the others fear it while we enjoy it to the max. Bon apatite!

  27. Victoria I. said,

    November 3, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

    I am from Alabama and have seen these everywhere all my life! There is actually one growing around my mailbox right now. Its interesting to now know they are not poisinous like i have been told my whole life.
    One question I have is can it be used topically for swollen lymph nodes. I have had these semi hard knots under my arms for 4 yrs now and the doctors tell me they are harmless and not to worry about them. But they are tender and get much more tender during pregnancy. I am pregnant right now and saw in the post not to take it right now but was wondering if there is any benefit to topically applying the berries(smashed and applied to the areas).

  28. Captain's Wife - Jennifer said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

    Very interesting! I have pokeweed growing wild all over the place on our farm! I had heard it was poisonous too, which made me think I should chop it down, now I am glad I didn’t! Might have to try a berry. :) It is a gorgeous plant. Thanks for the info!

  29. Ulrike said,

    November 8, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

    My father has told us stories of pokeweed and how they use to eat it when the plant was small. My grandmother (who is 92 this year) would make a poke salad or cook it just like spinach. Thank you so much for the other info too. I wonder if it could be used for gallbladder stones. The doctor has said that is what I have, and I would like to get rid of them other than their yanking the gallbladder out of me! If anyone has any good suggestions please let me know!
    Thanks!!!
    Ulrike

  30. Raven said,

    March 5, 2010 @ 11:10 am

    I’ve always eaten poke shoots/leaves in the spring as a tonic…it’s an old recipe that’s come down through the generations. Blanch 1-6 times (depends on how late in the season it is), fry in bacon grease with onions/garlic/leeks and eggs. Interesting about how it works with the thyroid, since I realized I had a big problem with mine when the annual poke therapy didn’t work, nor did red meat, vitamins, or any other spring pick-me-ups.

    But I wonder, if poke berries are good for rheumatism and arthritis, would it have an effect on carpal-tunnel? I’ve got a half gallon of berries in the freezer I was keeping to use for a fabric dyeing experiment, and tons of berries more every year that go to the birds in the yard. Stuff’s trying to take over!

    ‘Chopping it down’ does nothing to clear it out, since it comes up from a huge taproot. This root must be completely removed from the ground in order to get rid of it. Even a chunk of root will grow a new plant. And the seeds can live in the ground for 50 years before sprouting–they’re just waiting for the ground to be disturbed. But I love my poke patches, and only rid the garden and yard of unwanted new ones. Even brought some indoors in a pot of dirt to get some sprouts going early. With the long winter this year, I probably won’t be picking from the yard until mid-April.

    –Raven

  31. Janice b said,

    April 3, 2010 @ 8:22 am

    We have always eaten the leaves and stems of the poke plant. My grandmother was somewhat of an hermalist. Too bad we didn’t get all of that written down. Anyway, we boiled like greens, fried it with eggs, used it with bacon grease (for those who thought you had to use animal fat to cure it) had it with onions, and an added side dish of corn bread. But my very favorite way is taking the young shoots, sucker or the very top tender leave on a very small stem. Keep the shoot on the stem Par boil them, drain and rinse carefully. For a batter use eggs beaten and cornmeal. Dip the shoots one at a time in the eggs then in the cornmeal and fry in hot oil. You can deep fry or put good amount of oil in a skillet and fry like french fries. These shoots are so crispy and tasty. My son was told about the berries for arthritis so I was doing some research when I found this site. GREAT

  32. Nanny said,

    April 20, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

    I have arthritis and I wanted to know where I can buy pokeweed tincture. My mother is from Kentucky and mentioned it to me as a natural way to ease my discomfort. She herself does not know how to tincture herbs. I thank you for your time and any help you can give me.

  33. virginia childress said,

    August 21, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

    I have a very sweet grey mare. Over the past year she has had a sore on her nose and also a sore on her right eye. Last year when the vet looked at it he said that it was not cancer. I treated it with a tea tree medication, now something called vetricyn. I did try last fall crushing poke berries and putting the juice on her. Looking back I think that may have been the best treatment but I did not follow through. Can you tell me what the best pokeweed treatment might be?
    Grey horses have a known reputation for having skin problems. The poke juice did clear up some suspicious looking spots on her vulva.

  34. laura said,

    September 8, 2010 @ 11:41 am

    I have arthritis in my spine and want to try pokeberries as a remedy. I have lots and lots around my area. I just need to know the best way to preserve them. I want to freeze them, juice them, or dry them (I have a dehydrator). Can anyone give me advice on the best way to do any or all the methods I mentioned. thank, laura

  35. John Wynhausen said,

    September 19, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

    I am a major fan of poke berries. I have eaten as many as forty in a day.
    But what I learned from consuming poke berries is a little hard to explain.
    I believe fever is the best way to cleanse and detoxify the body and I have found that poke berries taken several hours before a really hot bath can cause a fever some hours later. The fever cleanses like nothing else and the fact that the berries
    can be used to bring up a fever makes them an incomparable gift in my mind.
    The berries alone I have found will not do this, but the combination of a really hot bath along with the berries will do this. There is nothing more healing than a fever but I will never claim that it is easy or fun, only necessary if you need the cleansing.

  36. Weezy said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 4:24 am

    I have tried drying, freezing, and tincturing poke berries. My favorite, by far, is the tincture. To make a tincture: I carefully juice the berries through a strainer, measure, then add an equal amount of 100 proof vodka and bottle immediately. I would start with 3 drops a day and gradually increase to 10 drops a day.

  37. Pegerty said,

    October 10, 2010 @ 9:52 am

    What a helpful site!

    I tried poke berries for my arthritis last year, much to my sister’s horror. Since the arthritis comes and goes, I can never be sure what’s influencing it, but the berries most certainly did not hurt me in any way.

    I pick enough for several months (about one stem per month, planning to alternate, taking them in October but not November, etc) and let them air-dry here on the kitchen windowsill. I read somewhere that a person should take an increasing number of the berries until she recognizes an effect–a ‘loopiness–‘ and then cut back by one berry, because that is the most effective dose. Has anyone else heard of this?

    I may just try a tincture, since there’s so much good info here.

    Petg

  38. Gail said,

    October 11, 2010 @ 10:44 am

    I’ve been looking up pokeberry. I’m currently in AL at my parent’s house and my 3 kids (ages 4,3, and 1 1/2) came around the corner stained in magenta and eating the berries. To my horror, I looked online to find out what it was, hoping it was Elderberry (I’m new to herbs….) to find that it is pokeweed and that I need to call poison control immediately. Then I find this site and see that it might not be all that bad…. so any suggestions as to what I should do? I’m not sure how much any of them ate. Thanks for the help!
    Gail

  39. Bill said,

    May 25, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

    I am interested in trying Poke Berries for hiv. Does anyone have experiance with this or suggestions about using the berries for hiv.
    Thank you,

  40. Nina said,

    July 1, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

    Does anyone know how to make pokeweed tea from the root?? Somebody gave a some in a jar several years ago to use on poison ivy and it works MIRACLES. But my stock is almost gone. I tried boiling the root, but it didn’t turn into “tea’. Am I supposed to chop it up???

  41. Jaide said,

    August 22, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

    I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and a compromised immune system. I have chronic pain all over and extreme fatigue. I was told about taking 3 whole pokeberries per day, and I have been doing it for about 3-4 days. The pain is considerably better, and I seem to have more energy. My question is how to perserve the berries so that you have enough for all year? I have frozen the ones that I have picked so far, but is it better to dry them, and if so, how do you dry them? Do you have to have a dehydrater? Can you dry them in the oven or does that affect the effectiveness of the berry? Since I am getting such good results and they grow everywhere around my farm, I just want to know the best way to preserve them. Any suggestions?

  42. Jenessa said,

    September 8, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

    Thank you in advance for your help. I live in Utah where pokeweed doesn’t seem to grow. I am looking for someone who would have dried pokeberries for sale in several pound quantities. My intention is to use them for dye. Any ideas? :-)

  43. Harold said,

    October 19, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

    I found this recipe in a notebok that belonged to my great-uncle in East TN. The notes in it date to the 1940’s. “Half-gallon ripe pokeberries, put in gal. jar, completely filling jar with cold water and 1 cup sugar. Set away, let work good. Strain out 1 qt of juice, add 1 qt whiskey. Take 1 tablespoon full before meals.”
    Any idea what this remedy may be intended for? Thanks.

  44. DogMa said,

    November 28, 2011 @ 7:33 am

    I am in Hawaii and when I look up Pokeweed here, it is called “Phytolacca octandra ” not Phytolacca americana. Is it the same plant? I’d hate to be using a sister plant that didn’t have the same properties. I’ve seen them growing in the mountains here and as the stories go, we were always told not to eat the poisonous berries.

  45. DogMa said,

    November 28, 2011 @ 7:35 am

    For Jaide- there is NO magic pill.

  46. DogMa said,

    November 28, 2011 @ 7:39 am

    Diet and exercise are critical. Look up the Gerson Institute – or Gerson Diet. It is very extreme but it gives you an idea of what you need to be doing to heal your body. Our food is so fake, polluted, over processed and a lot is genetically modified. In your condition, diet is the best thing you can do. Go organic at the very least. Your body in in a constant state of inflammation due to the “disease” but you can stop that. You need a full nutritional assault on your system for a constant period of time.

    Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food. ~Hippocrates

    When diet is wrong medicine is of no use.
    When diet is correct medicine is of no need.
    ~Ayurvedic Proverb

  47. DogMa said,

    November 28, 2011 @ 7:40 am

    The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them. ~Ecclesiasticus 38:4 Pokeweed is a lovely option but not a cure in and of itself. You still have to honor your body in all regards.

  48. DogMa said,

    November 28, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease. ~Thomas Edison

    He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician. ~Chinese Proverb

    Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food. ~Hippocrates

    OK, I’m done. Now back to POKEWEED in general! I’m hoping I can make my own tincture soon. Thank you for all the great information everyone and for the lovely website as well. Aloha!

  49. poppers said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    poppers…

    [...]The Herbwife’s Kitchen » Pokeweed: an herb for all things pokey.[...]…

  50. Steve said,

    January 24, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

    I don’t have any pokeweed growing where I live, but it seems like something worth growing.

  51. Doug M said,

    January 27, 2012 @ 4:03 am

    As a child i spent more time in the hospital in a croup tent then i did at home, until one day when i was about 2 andhaving an “episode”, and Mom was getting me ready to go to the ER. but My grandmother and one of her old friends happened to be at the house. She told Mom she didnt need any doctor asked my Dad to go get her some poke berries from the barn yard. Mom was furious thinking Grandma, her old friend and Dad were poisioning me. She left the house, the old woman made some sort Of jam looking stuff i am told and gave me one level teaspoon. i am told i licked the spoon clean, and about 2 hours or so later I began coughing harder than i had ever coughed before, began coughing up dark brownish black “chunks” as my mom described, and was never back in the hospital again. Poke berries saved me from a life of Lung problems. We have no idea how she prepared it but it worked.

  52. therealbomf said,

    March 25, 2012 @ 7:17 am

    This is my first year tincturing plants and I’m really amazed by how much I am learning about the values of the plants just beyond my back door. As for pokeweed or what I always called a mole bush (keeps the moles away) I usually just destroy them every year as I didn’t want my children poisoned by them (nightshade). For those of you who would like seed later this year I would be happy to help out. Now could someone please point me in the right direction as to harvesting the root, etc… and dosages related to making tincture with this plant. I’m currently on my 5th tincture, my children think I’m crazy and :-) I’m ready for the next one

  53. Amber Deepcreek said,

    May 16, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

    I am so happy to have found this information. I have been researching pokeweed and can’t believe how many years I, as an herbalist, tried to get it out of my yard and gardens. Now, I can’t wait to start working with it. All of my “modern” herb books call it a poison, but I found some information in a Native American Herb book that triggered my interest. Thank you for all the wonderful input!

  54. Marie Morris said,

    June 24, 2012 @ 2:33 am

    I keep dried pokeberries and dried or fresh poke root stocked. I’m also looking for some folks who want to earn a little money picking them and drying them for me this year. I need at least 200 lbs and it’s more than one person can do. Anyone interested, please email.
    Thanks,
    Marie

    PS, if the plant is as poisonous as I’ve read, I wouldn’t be here to type this message, because I’ve eaten it in many ways and not cooked to death like the recipes call for! However, there is a limit on how many berries a person should try at one time. One daily has always served me well but I know a fellow who eats over 30 daily and lived to tell about it. Medicinally, poke plant is a miracle.

  55. carol said,

    July 21, 2012 @ 8:54 am

    Hi just found this site was trying to identify this plant that I have all over my yard and it is Pokeberry thanks for this site . Marie if you provide your email I would be more then happy to pick for you

  56. Marsha said,

    July 28, 2012 @ 6:55 am

    Have been making a juice part poke berry and part blueberry for several years. I have been freezing the juice. I drink a small amount daily for one week then off a week throughout the winter months. I firmly believe that it helps my immune system. I have several plants that take up a lot of my back yard. I am not sure if I should cut them down in the winter or spring. Can someone help me with how to cultivate, feed, and maintain these plants. I live in Central Illinois.

  57. APearson said,

    July 30, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

    Thank you everyone for your postings. I’ve enjoyed reading them. I jut swallowed my first berry and freezing the rest. My doctor’s wife told me last year about swallowing a berry a day for my arthritis but I couldn’t beat the birds to the berries last year. She told me that she rinses off the berries then freezes them in a ziploc bag for use all year long. She also makes pokeberry wine from them. I’d love to do that too, but I don’t think I can get enough berries to make much. I’ve eaten poke salad, which is the leaves and stems of the young poke plant, boiled, rinsed, then coked in some bacon grease till the water is mostly out, then scramble some eggs with it with salt pepper and onion if desired. I love it. Thanks again to everyone who posted some info that I didn’t know. :)

  58. Brutus Jones said,

    August 21, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    Will pokeweed berries effect you in anyway if you rub them all over your skin?

  59. SThompson said,

    September 3, 2012 @ 7:50 am

    I am so glad to have found this site! I’ve been studying herbalism since 2003, but when we moved from the west coast to the east coast last year, it was a whole new plant world! We’ve got pokeberry & elderberries growing all over our farm. I came across this site while researching pokeberry. We’ve got a lab whose hips are starting to bother her, she limps after a run and has a hard time getting up in the mornings or after a long nap. I’ve started giving her 1 ripe pokeberry daily to help with the arthritis. After 3 days of 1 ripe berry in the morning, she isn’t limping. I’m going to continue with this treatment since I believe its 1000x better than convention meds. (She had hot spots last summer & the vet gave her steroids, she’s since put on weight that won’t come off no matter how we adjust her food intake or exercise)

  60. Norma said,

    September 3, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    Do you have recipes for pokeberry wine? Years ago I had an elderly neighbor who made his own pokeberry wine for winter. Seems I recall he said it was for arthritis.
    Thank you.

  61. rose russ said,

    September 9, 2012 @ 11:33 am

    this summer i have seen pokeberry plants 3 different places and havent seen them for quite a while..I’ve been given the priveledge to get them HOWEVER not sure what to take- dig it up? take leaves or just berries? how if any cautions?.and or prepare it>>> i know its an important plant for snake bits,spider bits..but how to prepare store or otherwise gather..its sept 10 and i have to remove one from a house thats to be sold any ideas??? rose..any body local to buffalo? email me at rosedog2bb@yahoo.com..or i can give my number if someone truly can assist!

  62. Shelby Pearson said,

    September 12, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

    My father in law used to make a pokeberry wine for arthritis and I was wondering if anyone knew a recipe. I found one that was very complicated and said it had to sit for 3 to 6 mos but he didn’t let his set for that long. I think mabe 2 wks in a churn with a cloth top on it. (Not air tight). But I’ve enjoyed reading the comments on your site. Thank you.

  63. Rambler said,

    September 20, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    A truly amazing plant, its hard to believe that pharmaceuticals have almost completely taken over and pretty much demonized everything that comes straight from nature. Myself and others i know have used the berries, one a day for a week, for their immune boosting properties and i must say i’m quite amazed. I also used them on my cat (after reading multiple medical studies done with animals) to treat an infection she had on her cheek, inside of i believe her lower eyelid. She also has had a chronic upper respiratory infection since she was tiny, goobery eyeballs, sniffles, and such, and its seems to have cleared it right up. Hats off to you poke…

  64. Doyle Car said,

    September 22, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

    Mary had asked if Polk grew in WA. Yes it does. My brother lives at Kingston and he got the seed in Arkansas. I live in the mountains of AZ. My brother sent me seed and I got a start her. It grows well. I planted several seeds but only one come up. Now I have a good start. I grew up in AR and we ate polk all time. My mother made jelly from the berries and it never killed any of us. As I am 82 years old, I don’t remember her receipe. I guess it kill me and my brother is 88 and he still eats it.

  65. Maria Buffa said,

    October 11, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    Woops! I ate a few of the berries (no more than 3 at a time) WITH the seeds unwittingly. I notice when I eat these berries, I feel a bit of a tingle in the body, then I feel better. Strange, but I think it beats out some of the inflammation in my body, and that’s a good thing.

    http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide/singlerecord.asp?id=270
    Supporters of President James Polk wore pokeweed twigs instead of campaign buttons during the 1845 campaign.

    Medical researchers have isolated a protein (pokeweed antiviral protein or PAP) from pokeweed that is being used to try to inhibit the replication of the HIV virus in human cells.

  66. bodhitsava said,

    November 20, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    Can I pick berries that are already dry on the plant and take them as I would fresh berries for arthritis and pain.

  67. dr don said,

    February 10, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

    Hello All!

    I was worried at first going down the list here but pleased now to find that the blog is alive! Much like those of us that consume poke!

    I have cancer in my family history and had been dealing with joint pain for most of my life. We will likely never know if the cancer thing is not from living our lives in the Hudson river valley area. Last I heard the PCBs were being cleaned out but… Much like concerns about the new syphilis that was introduced to New England and the rest of the world, (that would be Lymes Disease), I don’t think we may ever have full knowledge of the true cause of either. I do know that my own condition was bad enough to prompt me into alternative options. The Poke berries seemed harmless enough by most reports to give it a try myself. I started by spreading the berry mashed onto a saltine cracker and using a pointed knife to separate and remove the seeds from the flesh. One berry the first time and next day two. In two weeks I was consuming seven berries a day and no side effects. I did start dreaming more, or remembering dreams more, but I also noticed the Poke did act slightly as a stimulant so that made sense to me. Poke has not become a cure for anything that I know of after a year but I have much less joint pain and have been taking the equivalent of ten berries a day through the winter in the form of a tincture. I made this last august from fresh berries and everclear. The berries were mashed by hand to prevent damage to the seeds and the seeds strained after the mix with the everclear. Now as warmer weather is coming to Carolina I am adding a portion of dried root tincture to the berry mix and taking less of the more potent mix. I have found that I can tell when I am at the right dose as going a bit over will cause some gastro response to let me know. Folks that do not know I am taking poke have remarked often how much better I seem to be getting around and I can say that too.

    I was not able to find any medical confidence in what is documented about Poke so taking that step to experiment with that first berry was necessary for me. To me it had as much a chance as anything else but with a history much like the origin of many well accepted medications we use today. I’m quite glad I did but urge anyone that would consider using Poke or any other herbal treatment on what troubles them to take the full liability of the choice on themselves. For me the first berry didn’t kill me and I have at least a little better quality of life since using Poke. That’s what I consider real medicine. The only bad side of Poke Berry is the mess the birds leave on the car and mailbox… Its easier to wash the car when my joints don’t hurt so bad and our postal delivery person gets what they have earned. I often have neighbors bringing me my mail that was left in their box.

  68. Ross Weisiger said,

    April 15, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

    Dear Crabappleherbs,

    I live in Lewisburg, WV and we are having an Edible Wild Foods Festival coming up on April 20, 2013. I was invited to redo a table of edible greens.
    I researched about 16 plants over the last year and organized the information into a profile for each plant. All sites that I used in the research are generally cited in a reference section. One section of the profile is related to medicinal applications.

    When it came to Pokeweed, your blog was both exceptional, practical and extensive, including the comments from readers. I took what you had written, made some deletions, added some titles so I coud use it as a basis for the medicinal section on Pokeweed.

    However it really hangs by itself apart from the profile and I would like to get your permission to use it for that purpose at the Festival. If you would consider my request, is there an email where I could send what I put together for your approval? I will also send you the whole profile for Pokeweed so you can see how it would fit together.

    The plant profiles will be on hand at the Festival for attendees to look at and sign up to receive by email if they want a copies. It is a non-profit festival sponsored in part by the State Division of Tourism, so there will be no charge to anyone.

    Sincerely, Ross Weisiger (304) 646-8555 rossoutreach@yahoo.com

  69. Bonnie said,

    May 21, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

    HI I want to know if anyone has the recipe for a tincture from berries and/or from fresh root. and PLEASE READ.. I live in SW michigan I have a abundance of poke weed. Has anyone dried the fruit for later use? thanks

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  71. Trinidad Mongomery said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 1:27 am

    Regardless of the type of arthritis, the common symptoms for all arthritis disorders include varied levels of pain, swelling, joint stiffness, and sometimes a constant ache around the joint(s). Arthritic disorders like lupus and rheumatoid can also affect other organs in the body with a variety of symptoms.`’.^

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  72. ccarolyn said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

    Do you know where I can buy polkberry wine?

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  76. Federico Angelone said,

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  77. judy said,

    July 25, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

    Looking for info on pokeroot tea. Can the root be made into a tea, to deliver same properties as tincture? Is pokeroot tea worthless, dangerous? My practitioner muscle tested this as perfect for me, but has never used it. She isn’t sure. Next question… if tincture is the way to go, must the root be fresh picked? Dried root no good? I have veeeery sluggish lymph w chronic infection & fatigue. I get lymph drainage massage twice/week. Hoping that this herb might be a big help. I have been able to buy the root (dried) but not sure how to use it. Thanks for any insights in advance.

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  79. Pokeberry fan said,

    August 23, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

    This is a great site to come across on Poke root/ Poke berry. It’s end of August here in Hudson Valley of New York, and the poke root bushes are in full harvest with lots of berries. I make a tincture by gathering fresh berries, cooking them equal parts sugar to make a sort of jam, then straining it. I then add equal parts vodka. That’s it. I only use a drop or 3 at a time.
    Great to hear some Appalachian recipes, looking forward to trying the young shoots.

  80. Cheryl said,

    September 21, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

    I also have pokeweed plants in the backyard and they are multiplying. I always heard they were poisonous but am happy to have found this site to give me more information. I ate my first 3 berries today and will pull all the ripe ones tomorrow. I have a dehydrator and so will try that but will search for more info on tinctures, wine and poultices. I have arthritis but I also have an undefined skin rash (for a few years now) that I’m hoping pokeberries may help. Thanks for all your comments, advice and stories.

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  82. Naeemah said,

    May 13, 2014 @ 12:17 am

    According to Daniel E. Moerman pokeweed has been used for many years by native Americans internally and externally for many years. A past post asked if it could be used for dermatological application. According to Moerman the Iroquois uses include: “aid compound with undried roots applied as a salve on bunions. Poultice of crushed roots applied to bruises. Raw berries rubbed on skin lumps. He has two books which I reference Native American Medicinal Plants an ethnobotanical dictionary.

  83. rose russ said,

    July 27, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

    I need to make pokeberry root ttincture for my husband immune system…can you help?

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  91. diana vaccaro said,

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