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Phytolacca decandra/americana

Phytolacca decandra/americana                       Common name:  Pokeweed, poke root

Parts used:  Root

Constituents:  Alkaloids (phytolaccin, phytolaccanin), Sapogenin (phytolaccagenin), phytolaccosides, lectins (polysaccharides), phytolaccic acid, resin, tannin, mucilage proteins, histamine, GABA.

Medicinal actions:  Relaxant alterative, anti-rheumatic, mild anodyne, emetic, purgative, fungicide, anti-parasitic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, lymphatic, mild analgesic, immuno-stimulant, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, alterative, emetic, bitter, puragative (high dose), diuretic



  • Triterpene saponins (phytolaccosides) are anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal. High doses are thymoleptic.
  • Lectins (polysaccharides) are mitogenic, immunostimulant, stimulant of B & T lymphocytes and anti-inflammatory.
  • Proteins are anti-viral.

Medicinal use: It has a specific action on the lymphatic system decreasing inflammation and increasing lymphatic drainage and inflammatory conditions of the upper respiratory tract. It is most indicated in cases of hard lymph nodes with pale mucous membranes.  Is indicated in mastitis, sore nipples, and cystic breast tissue.  It can be applied topically and/or taken internally for swollen glands and lymph nodes.

Pharmacy: Decoction: 1 tsp/cup water; 1 cup TID. Powdered root:  0.3 g TID. Tincture: (1:10, 45%), 0.2-0.6 ml TID, 10ml/week = MAX. Poultice of root or herba (Caution: application of fresh root or herba can cause erythema and blistering). Pause dosing: 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off internally.

Toxicity:  The alkaloid phytolaccin, can be toxic. It affects the medulla in the brain causing paralysis, bradycardia, decreased respiration, and decreased skeletal muscle coordination.  The alkaloids can build up in the body and be at potentially toxic levels for 1-2 weeks.  Therefore, if any toxic effects are noticed, stop the use of this herb immediately. This plant has mitogenic action and may cause blood cell abnormalities.  The roots and seed are the most toxic but it has been recorded that the young shoots and leaves have toxic effects. Toxic effects include:  vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, dizziness, hypotension, decreased respiration, and headaches.

Contraindications: Kidney disease (alkaloid is eliminated through the kidneys), GIT inflammation, lymphocytic leukemia.


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