Pigeon Berry

A genus of about 25 species of perennials, shrubs, and trees, distributed in both warm and temperate regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Phytolacca americana is one of several species cultivated for its imposing habit and ornamental but poisonous berries. Phytolaccas have an unusual chemistry, containing potent anti-inflammatory agents, anti-viral protiens, and substances (referred to collectively as "pokeweed mitogens") that affect cell division. These compounds are toxic to many disease-causing organisms, including water snails that cause schistosomiasis, and may have potential in the treatment of AIDS. Phytolacca acinosa was first recorded in the Han dynasty (206BCE-CE23). Occasionally the roots are mistakenly sold as ginseng in Oriental markets, causing outbreaks of poisoning. Phytolacca americana was used by native N Americans as an emetic and anti-rheumatic, and was listed as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory in the U. S. Pharmacopoeia (1820-1916). Although most parts of these plants are poisonous, the shoots and young leaves are eaten in various countries after boiling in several changes of water. The deep red juice from the berries has been used to color wine. Phytolacca comes from the Greek phyton, "plant", and the Hindi lakh, a dye extracted from the lac insects, the color of which resembles that found in the berries.

Poke, also known as pokeweed, is a large, shrubby plant native to eastern North America that farmers consider a major pest because it is highly toxic to livestock. Although the leaves are poisonous, some people eat poke salad made out of the young poke plants, as the toxins develop as the plant ages. Poke contains potent anti-inflammatory agents, antiviral proteins, and substances that affect cell division.

Upright, fetid perennial with red-flushed, succulent stems and ovate to lanceolate, pointed leaves, to 30cm (12in) long. Small pink-white flowers appear in erect racemes, to 20cm (8in) long, in summer, followed by thick spikes of fleshy, purple-black berries.

Common Name:
Pigeon Berry
Other Names:
American Nightshade, American Pokeweed, Cokan, Crowberry, Jalap, Poke, Pokeberry, Pokeweed, Pokeroot, Red-Ink Plant, Skoke
Botanical Name:
Phytolacca americana syn. P. decandra
Native Location:
Easter N America to Mexico
Rich, moist, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.
By seed sown at 13-18°C (55-64°F) in early spring.
Roots and fruits are collected in autumn and dried for decoctions, liquid extracts, powder, poultices, and tinctures.
Warnings and Precautions:
All parts, notably leaves and berries, are toxic if eaten. Sap is irritant to skin and eyes.
Ecess causes diarrhea and vomiting.
Contraindicated during pregnancy.
For use by qualified practitioners only.

Don't take if you:
  • Are pregnant, think you may be pregnant or plan pregnancy in the near future
  • Have any chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract, such as stomach or duodenal ulcers, reflux esophagitis, ulcerative colitis, spastic colitis, diverticulosis, or diverticulitis

  • Consult your doctor if you:
  • Take this herbs for any medical problem that doesn't improve in 2 weeks (There may be safer, more effective treatments.)
  • Take any medicinal drugs or herbs including aspirin, laxatives, cold and cough remedies, antacids, vitamins, minerals, supplements, other prescription or non-prescription drugs

  • Pregnancy:
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Infants and Children:
    Treating infants and children under 2 with any herbal preparation is hazardous.
    Handling roots may cause skin abrasions.
  • Store in cool, dry area away from direct light, but don't freeze.
  • Store safely out of reach of children.
  • Don't store in bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture may change the action of the herb.

  • Safe Dosage:
    Consult your doctor for the appropriate dose for your condition.
    2-4m (6-12ft)
    1.2-2.5m (4-8ft)
    Parts Used:
    Roots, fruits (berries), Leaves, seeds
    A bitter, pungent, alterative herb that reduces inflammation, stimulates the immune and lymphatic systems, and clears toxins. It is effective against many bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic organisms.
    Chemical Constituents:
  • Asparagine
  • Mitogen
  • Phytolaccagenin
  • Resin
  • Saponins
  • Known Effects:
    Stimulates and irritates the gastrointestinal tract.

    Miscellaneous Information:
  • All parts of native plants are poisonous. Don't take it. Children are especially vulnerable to toxic effects.
  • Leaves are boiled and eaten as flavoring in some areas, particularly the southern United States. Used this way, pokeweed may be toxic. Don't use!
  • Possible Additional Effects:
  • May treat chronic arthritis.
  • May treat constipation.
  • Medicinal Uses:
    Internally for autoimmune diseases (especially rheumatoid arthritis), tosillitis, mumps, swollen glands (including infectious mononucleosis), chronic mucus, bronchitis, mastitis, skin diseases, and inflammations. Externally for skin complaints (including fungal infections), joint inflammation, hemorrhoids, mastitis, brest abscesses, and varicose ulcers. Berries are milder than roots. Combines well with Guaiacum officinale (See, Lignum Vitae) and Zanthozylum spp. (See, Toothache Tree) for rheumatic conditions; with Gallium aparine (See, Goosegrass) and Iris versicolor (See, Blue Flag) for swollen glands. Used in Homeopathic preparations for breast complaints, swollen tonsils, mumps, teething, halitosis, and shooting pains.
    To treat stomach ailments, rheumatism, tonsilitis, mumps, constipation, and ringworm.
    Typical Dose:
    A typical daily dose of poke is approximately 60 to 100 mg as a powder.
    Possible Side Effects:
    Poke's side effects include lowered blood pressure, confusion, blurred vision, and nausea. All parts of the poke plant, except for the above-ground leaves grown in early spring, are considered toxic. Even one poke berry can be toxic to a child; ten berries can be toxic to an adult.
    Drug Interactions:
    Taking poke with these drugs may increase the risk of excessive sedation and mental depression and impairment:
    Acetaminophen and Codeine, (Capital and Codeine, Tylenol with Codeine)
    Alfentanil, (Alfenta)
    Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
    Amobarbital, (Amytal)
    Amobarbital and Secobarbital, (Tuinal)
    Aspirin and Codeine, (Coryphen Codeine)
    Belladonna and Opium, (B&O Supprettes)
    Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
    Brotizolam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
    Buprenorphine, (Buprenex, Subutex)
    Buprenophine and Naloxone, (Suboxone)
    Butabarbital, (Butisol Sodium)
    Butalbital, Acetaminophen, and Caffeine, (Esgic, Fioricet)
    Butalbital, Aspirin and Caffeine, (Fiornal)
    Butorphanol, (Apo-Butorphanol, Stadol)
    Chloral Hydrate, (Aquachloral Supprettes, Somnote)
    Chlordiazepoxide, (Librium, Apo-Chlordiazepoxide)
    Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
    Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
    Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
    Codeine, (Codeine Contin)
    Dexmedetomidine, (Precedex)
    Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
    Dihydrocodeine, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Synalgos-DC)
    Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol)
    Estazolam, (ProSom)
    Fentanyl, (Actiq, Duragesic)
    Glutethimide, (Glutethimide)
    Haloperidol, (Haldol, Novo-Peridol)
    Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen, (Vicodin, Zydone)
    Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
    Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
    Hydromorphone, (Dilaudid, PMS-Hydromorphone)
    Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
    Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, (Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride)
    Levorphanol, (LevoDromoran)
    Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
    Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
    Meperidine, (Demerol, Meperitab)
    Meperidine and Promethazine, (Meperidine and Promethazine)
    Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
    Methadone, (Dolophine, Methadose)
    Methohexital, (Brevital, Brevital Sodium)
    Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
    Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
    Nalbuphine, (Nubain)
    Opium Tincture, (Opium Tincture)
    Oxycodone, (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
    Oxycodone and Acetaminophen, (Endocet, Percocet)
    Oxycodone and Aspirin, (Endodan, Percodan)
    Oxymorphone, (Numorphan)
    Paregoric, (Paregoric)
    Pentazocine, (Talwin)
    Pentobarbital, (Nembutal)
    Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
    Phenoperidine, (Phenoperidine)
    Prazepam, (Prazepam)
    Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
    Promethazine, (Phenergan)
    Propofol, (Diprivan)
    Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
    Propoxyphene and Acetaminophen, (Darvocet-N 50, Darvocet-N 100)
    Propoxyphene Aspirin and Caffeine, (Darvon Compound)
    Quazepam, (Doral)
    Remifentanil, (Ultiva)
    Secobarbital, (Seconal)
    Sodium Oxybate, (Xyrem)
    Sufentanil, (Sufenta)
    S-Zopiclone, (Lunesta)
    Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
    Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
    Thiopental, (Pentothal)
    Triazolam, (Apo Triazo, Halcion)
    Zaleplon, (Sonata, Stamoc)
    Zolpidem, (Ambien)
    Zopiclone, (Alti-Zopiclone, Gen-Zopiclone)
    Adverse Reactions, Side Effects, or Overdose Symptoms:
    Signs and Symptoms What to Do

    Decreased heart rate Seek emergency treatment
    Diarrhea Discontinue. Call doctor immediately.
    Nausea or Vomiting Discontinue. Call doctor immediately.
    Skin Eruptions Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient.
    Culinary Uses:
    Young leaves are cooked as a vegetable. Young shoots are steamed like asparagus or pickled, and may be blanched for winter use.
    Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. Pg. 314-315
    The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox, PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp. 370-372
    Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals & Supplements The Complete Guide by H. Winter Griffith, MD Copyright©1998 Fisher Books Pp. 416-417