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The pokeweed comes from North America and was used there by indigenous people as a medicinal plant against inflammation and even as a remedy for tumors. It is also an effective emetic - but only recommended to a very limited extent due to its toxic effects.
- Scientific name: Phytolacca americana
- Common names: Make-up berries, scarlet berries, ink berries, Spanish blackberries, Virginian purgaz, Kerma tents, Kermas, American nightshades, Golden virginia, weeds, petrus stick, foxtail, Pagan miracle herb, weeping herb, gold flower, golden sore herb, womb herb, brown stalks, St. Peters Waxweed
- Parts of plants used: Berries, seeds, leaves, roots
- Applications: In traditional medicine laxatives and emetics, rheumatic complaints, gout, inflammation in the mouth and throat or on the skin caused by fungi and other microbes, digestive problems and wound healing.
The pokeweed contains phytolaccanin, a scarlet dye that forms the aglycon phytolaccagenin, phytolaccosides, saponine glycosides, resins, tannins, fatty oil, enzymes, lignans, lectins (pokeweed mitogens); the root offers a-spinasterol, histamine and y-aminobutyric acid.
Pokeweed works against inflammation, viruses and fungi, promotes the immune system and has analgesic effects. The root is a powerful emetic - valuable in an emergency, if someone has swallowed poison or dangerous substances, but not dangerous because of the toxic effects in higher doses. The leaves are edible, but due to their saponin content they also act as emetic in larger quantities.
The effects as emetic and as a digestive aid for constipation are also toxic effects. The seeds are more toxic than the root, the root is more toxic than the leaves, the leaves are more toxic than the stem, the unripe fruit is more toxic than the ripe fruit.
The entire plant is toxic - due to the triterpene saponins. Their concentration is highest in roots and seeds. The related species Phytolacca acinosa var. Esculenta contains less saponins than Phytolacca americana and is therefore easier to use as food.
The amount of saponins varies from plant to plant. As a rule of thumb, you can take up to ten berries without problems as an adult; Small children should refrain from consuming them, since even a small amount can be toxic to them. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea and vomiting (emetic), gastrointestinal complaints, diarrhea and convulsions.
Pokeweed - Indian medicine
American natives oppose the roots of the pokeweed
- Inflammation of the mouth and throat,
- and as an emetic
a. An extract served as a remedy for tumors. The Delaware Indians used the plant to stimulate the heart, indigenous cultures in Virginia used it to treat cancer and rheumatism. Rocky Mountain tribes treated epilepsy, anxiety, and neurological disorders with Pokeweed. The paiutes fermented the berries in water and made an anesthetic tea from them.
Pokeweed - folk medicine, myth and homeopathy
The American pokeweed and even more closely related relatives such as the Asian pokeweed have been (and are) widely used internally and externally in folk medicine. So extracts from the leaves should work against pain in the mammary glands of women, help with tonsillitis and other sore throats as well as with flu infections, applied externally against skin inflammation, ulcers, eczema, rheumatic pain and against gout pain.
Homeopathy uses pokeweed extracts for angina, respiratory, lymphatic system, mouth and throat inflammation and rheumatism. Since these extracts are extremely diluted, there is no risk of poisoning because they do not contain any detectable bioactive substances - however, their medicinal effects have not yet been proven.
Pokeweed in gynecology
In gynecology in folk medicine, pokeweed was considered a remedy for breastfeeding problems, for example against a milk jam, an inflamed breast or too little milk. It should help with weaning and also against chest pain in premenstrual syndrome.
As a garden plant, the pokeweed is one of the poisonous plants that children should not come into contact with. You should refrain from using it internally because of the risk of poisoning.
There are more suitable, effective drugs that are safe against tonsillitis or inflammation of the throat - antibiotics for bacteria, antibiotics for viral infections. Externally, you can use teas, extracts etc. from the roots and / or leaves for rheumatic pain and also for skin inflammation.
Where does the name come from?
Phyton means Greek plant and lacca Italian lacquer. Kermes is taken from Arabic and means red. In the past, pokeweed served as a medicinal plant or poison to color candy and red wine. The scarlet red shines intensely. In the United States it is also called "Inkweed" or "Inkberry". During the American Civil War, soldiers wrote letters with the red juice of the berries.
The pokeweed blooms white in dense clusters from July to August. The leaves are green and elliptical, the plant up to two meters high. It grows all over Germany as an ornamental plant, in southern Germany it is overgrown in many places and is considered an invasive neophyte. The typical scarlet to purplish-black berries develop from the flowers.
It is currently spreading even less in northern Germany because Pokeweed prefers a sunny location. As a successful newcomer, it populates fallow land such as rubble yards, embankments or vacant lots. It began its “triumphal march” in Central Europe when pokeweeds overgrown from botanical gardens.
An invasive neophyte
Forest scientists strongly advise that the spread of Phytolacca be stopped early if no dense stands are desired. Pokeweed is competitive and it displaces other types of plants with similar requirements. Once the plants sprinkle their seeds, it becomes very tedious and expensive to remove. In order to combat the spread, the entire root should be removed before sowing.
The pitted pokeweed must not be stored in a pile of greenery, but should be burned. Throwing them in a heap leads to the opposite of what is desired: the berries ripen and thus provide seeds in abundance, and the warmth and moisture generated in a heap of greenery enable secondary roots to sprout from shoots as well as the expulsion of old roots.
To prevent pokeweed and other invasive neophytes from damaging the forests, please be careful not to dispose of green waste from the garden in the forest. If you already have a dense stock and want to remove it, you should wear long-sleeved clothing, wear protective glasses and a breathing mask. When the plant sap is atomized, it can penetrate the mucous membranes and thus irritate the eyes, nose and throat.
Winner of global warming
The American pokeweed has not yet developed its potential as a neophyte. It will probably develop new territory along the rivers in the next few years. As a sun lover, she is one of the “winners” of global warming and could spread further north.
Pokeweed as a medicinal plant - outlook
American pokeweed is more of a poisonous than a medicinal plant. Self-attempts to use the roots, leaves, bark or berries internally as tea should be avoided. External use against skin inflammation is possible, but you should wash off the extract immediately if you experience undesirable effects such as redness or pain. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
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