Pokeberry – Phytolacca Americana

Phytolacca Americana, American nightshade, cancerroot, cancer jalap, coakum, chongras, crowberry, pokeberry, inkberry, garget, poke, pigeonberry, scoke, red ink plant, is an herbaceous plant with berry like fruit, native to Eastern United States where it prefers damp soils.

Bunches of small, glossy, dark purple fruit develop on the stems which mature during August – November. Pokeberry should not be consumed raw as it is highly toxic. The cooked berries are safe to make pies. The juice extracted from the Pokeberries is used to enhance the color of wines.


It is an herbaceous perennial plant that can grow to 2-12 feet in height. The fleshy taproot is large, thick and coarse with 4-6 inches as a diameter. The stems are stout and erect which varies in color from green, red, pink or purple up to 3-7 feet high. The leaves are alternate, lanceolate to nearly ovate; 3½-20 inches long and 1½-5 inches wide. The flowers are symmetrical, green or white-pink which is about ¼-½-inch wide. The fruit is rounded, slightly flattened, purple-black; ¼- ½ inch wide and 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) in diameter. The seeds are black, round, flattened and 1/8 inches wide.

Nutritional Value

Pokeberry has the highest content of Vitamin C. One cup (160 grams) of Pokeberry shoots raw offers about 217 mg of Vitamin C, 696 µg of Vitamin A, 0.528 mg of Vitamin B2, 2.72 mg of Iron, 0.669 mg of Manganese, 0.251 mg of Copper, 0.234 mg of Vitamin B6, 1.92 mg of Vitamin B3, 0.128 mg of Vitamin B1 and 70 mg of Phosphorus.

Health Benefits of Pokeberry

Pokeberry is used as a medicine for arthritis, mumps and other various skin conditions. The roots are used as an anti- inflammatory, expectorant, narcotic, hypnotic, cathartic and purgative. The root helps to treat chronic catarrh, swollen glands, immune diseases and bronchitis.

1. Healthy skin

The study has shown that the high intake of Vitamin C reduces the appearance of wrinkles, skin dryness and slows down the aging process. Vitamin C is essential for the tendons, skin, blood vessels and ligaments. It also assists the healing of wound and forms a scar tissue.

The evidence has shown that the cream with vitamin c reduces the skin redness. The healthy skin could be maintained by adding foods high in antioxidants which also prevent the skin cancer.

2. Reduce inflammation

Vitamin A helps to neutralize the free radicals which damage the cells and tissue. It also prevents the cells from being overactive.

Vitamin A has antioxidant properties that neutralize free radicals in the body that cause tissue and cellular damage. Vitamin A can prevent the cells from becoming overactive. The intake of Vitamin A also reduces the risk of food allergies as it prevents the dangerous overreaction. It also reduces inflammation, chances of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Prevent anemia

Anemia is caused due to the low production of red cells, insufficient delivery of oxygen to the blood and blood loss. Vitamin B2 is essential for the production of red blood cells and steroid hormone synthesis. The deficiency of riboflavin increases the chances of sickle cell anemia and anemia. The deficiency of Vitamin B2 results in shortness of breath, fatigue and inability to exercise. The research shows that Vitamin B2 helps to reduce and maintain homocysteine in the blood.

4.Healthy pregnancy

The deficiency of iron during pregnancy increases the chances of premature birth and underweight newborn. The prematurely born are more prone to the health problems, delay growth as well as cognitive development. So it is advised to eat more iron rich foods to the pregnant women. The study shows that those who intake high amount of iron, the chances of low birth weight newborn was reduced by 8.4%.

5. Bone health

Manganese is required for the proper growth of bone structure. It is the mineral that aids in raising the mineral density of the spinal bones. It is useful for the post-menopausal women. The intake of manganese rich foods helps to prevent the bone fractures in the menopausal women. It is also proved that manganese could prevent the chances of osteoporosis.

6. Balances thyroid function

Copper is essential for the thyroid function because it works with the minerals such as calcium, zinc and potassium which are required for maintaining the balance in thyroid activity and also prevents hyperthyroidism. The thyroid sufferers’ results in weight gain or loss, fatigue, chance in appetite and body temperature due to the excessive presence of these minerals or deficiency exists.

7. Brain health

Vitamin B6 assists in the functioning and development of brain. The studies have shown that deficiency of Vitamin B6 enhances the memory function, impairs cognitive power, dementia and Alzheimer’s. The studies have shown that the deficiency of Vitamin B6 may cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin B6 controls the level of homocysteine which is the cause for heart disease and damage of neurons. It also assists in controlling energy, mood as well as concentration. Vitamin B6 may be helpful in improving the learning and behavior disorders in children.

8. Vision health

The deficiency in nutrients and poor diet are the causes for many eye ailments. The studies have shown that the intake of Vitamin B6 with folate and other vitamins can assist in preventing vision loss and eye ailments. It also prevents the age related eye diseases such as macular degeneration.

9. Cardiovascular health

The presence of adequate thiamine is required for the production of acetylcholine which helps to transfer the messages between nerves and muscles. Heart is one of the muscles that rely on these signals.

The nerves and muscles should be able to use the energy properly in order to maintain the proper cardiac function and healthy heart beats. The recent studies have shown that Vitamin B1 helps to counteract various heart diseases as it maintains the healthy functions of ventricles and also treats heart failure.

10. Utilization of nutrients

Phosphorus helps in the absorption, synthesize and use of minerals from the food such as niacin and riboflavin. It helps in the production of energy, cellular function, growth and reproduction. In addition to that phosphorus assists healthy metabolism as well as fat and carbohydrate digestion with the production of digestive enzymes that converts the nutrients into the usable energy. It also keeps the mind alert and activates muscles by stimulating glands to secrete hormones which are required for the energy expenditure and concentration.

Traditional uses


Use of berries:

  • Red Indians in North America drank tea which is made from the berries to treat rheumatism.
  • Early colonists used the sap for skin lesions which is accompanied with cancer.
  • In Appalachian Mountains, dried fruits are applied on wounds.
  • The poultice of berry juice is used to treat acne, hemorrhoids, cancer, skin ulcers, skin eruptions, swellings and sores.


Use of Leaf:

  • The leaf is used as a cathartic, emetic and expectorant.
  • The leaves poultice is used to cure acne, scabs and stop bleeding.

About Pokeroot

The plant known to us as the pokeroot is known to the Native Americans as the pocon plant. Traditionally, the herbal remedies made from the pokeroot have been essentially utilized in two ways; it is used as an herbal emetic, and also as a topical herbal remedy for the treatment of skin diseases affecting various patients.

The pokeroot is a derivative of the herb called by the botanical name: Phytolacca americana L. belonging to the plant family Phytolaccaceae. Many holistic forms of treatment make use of the herbal pokeroot remedies as the herb is useful in a wide range of conditions and is an effective addition to many herbal treatment strategies.

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