Drugs A - Z

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

Generic Name: Phytolacca americana

Category

Herbs & Supplements

Synonyms

American nightshade, American spinach, bear's grape, branching phytolacca, cancer jalap, chongras, coakum, coakum-chorngras, cokan, crowberry, endod, fitolaca, garget, hierba carmine, inkberry, jalap, kermesbeere, mitogenic lectins, monodesmosidic serjanic acid saponin, monodesmosidic spergulagenic acid saponin, PAP, phytolacain (G, R) Phytolacca acinosa, Phytolacca acinosa Esculenta, Phytolacca americana, phytolacca berry, Phytolacca decandra, Phytolacca dioica, Phytolacca dodecandra (Endod), Phytolacca icosandra, Phytolacca octandra, Phytolacca rigida, Phytolaccaceae (family), phytolaccagenin, phytolaccatoxin, phytolaccosides, pigeonberry, pocan, poke, poke root, poke salad, pokeberry, pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP), pokeweed berry, proteinaceous mitogens, raisin d'amérique, red-ink plant, red plant, red weed, resin, saponin glycosides, scoke, skoke, tannin, teinturiére, TXU-PAP, Virginian poke.

Background

In folk medicine, pokeweed leaves have been used for rheumatism, arthritis, emesis (vomiting) and purging. Unsubstantiated reports describe the toxicity of pokeweed root and berries, which may be due to the saponin content of the plant.

One derivative of pokeweed, pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) from the spring leaves of Phytolacca Americana, shows promising therapeutic effects. Interest in PAP is growing due to its use as a potential anti-HIV agent. However, the clinical use of native PAP is limited due to inherent difficulties in obtaining sufficient quantities of homogeneously pure active PAP without batch-to-batch variation from its natural resource.

The United Kingdom allows pokeweed in medicinal products where toxic constituents are absent and the product adheres to mandated limits. Ongoing research is investigating the use of pokeweed for the flu, HSV-1, and polio.

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Tradition

WARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortifacient (induces abortion), abscesses (mammary), acne, anthrax, antimicrobial, antiviral, arthritis, cancer, contraception, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), earache, edema, emetic (induces vomiting), fatigue, fertility, food uses, gonorrhea, headache, HIV, inflammation (upper and lower respiratory tract), intestinal worms, laryngitis, laxative, leeches, leukemia, lymphadenitis (inflammation of lymph nodes), mastitis (inflammation of the breast), pruritus (severe itching), purgative (laxative), rabies, rheumatism, ringworm, scabies, schistosomiasis (tropical parasitic infection), skin disorders, stimulant (cardiac), skin ailments (sycosis), syphilis (STD), tonsillitis.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older):

There is no proven safe or effective dose for pokeweed. Traditionally, 1 gram of dried pokeweed root has been used as an emetic (induces vomiting) or purgative (laxative). For immune stimulation or rheumatism, 60 to 100 milligrams daily of the root and berries has been used.

Children (younger than 18 years):

There is no proven safe or effective dose for pokeweed in children, and use in not recommended.

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