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Poke Roots: Benefits, Side Effects and Uses

What is Poke Root?

Poke root is a poisonous herb with red-pink stems and black-purple berries. It is a native of the southwest and eastern region of the United States.

Poke root is also known as American nightshade, Cancer root, Inkberry, Pigeon berry, pocan, red plant, and pokeweed.

What is Poke Root?

Poke Root and Breast Cancer

Pokeroot has been used to treat breast conditions including breast cancer.

Poke root is known to contain a compound called pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP). PAP has cytotoxic properties and causes cell death.

An animal study done in 2003 suggested PAP with its cytotoxic properties kill breast cancer cells(1). It works by targeting cells that have receptors for a gonadotropin-releasing hormone that includes human breast cancer cells.

Another study has a similar result(2). Both studies have been done on animals and none on humans.

A lab study done in 2012 failed to find that poke rootwork against breast cancer(3).

Human studies are needed to prove the benefit of poke root on breast cancer.

Poke Root And Mastitis

Poke root is also used for inflammatory conditions including breast cancer.

Mastitis is a condition in which the breast tissue gets inflamed. It is seen occurring more in breastfeeding females.

The anti-inflammatory property can be due to plant saponins, which are the anti-inflammatory compounds found in the phytolacca plant.

Benefits Of Poke Root

Poke root has been found beneficial in cell cultures or animals. The medicinal benefits have not been found in humans.

Colon Cancer

Poke root extract might work well against colon cancer cells. It alters gene expression (3).

One study found that poke root seeds have antitumor activity against human colon cancer cells.(4)

Oral Diseases

Poke root is known to have antibacterial properties. A lab study done in 2014 found that poke roots destroyed the bacteria responsible for periodontal disease and cavities(5). It works by inhibiting important enzymes in the bacteria.

Other Benefits

There is anecdotal evidence that shows the benefit of poke root in the following conditions:

Side Effects Of Poke Root

The whole poke root plant can be poisonous to humans. The most toxic are the berries. It is also toxic to dogs and other animals. Those with pets should avoid this plant.

Poke root can lead to the following side effects:

Its high doses can lead to:

  • Muscle spasm
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Severe nausea
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Very high doses of poke root can even lead to death.
  • Breastfeeding females should avoid using poke root products on the breast. It can also be harmful to babies.

Uses of Poke Root

There are several ways in which poke root can be used.

Poke Root Capsules

Poke root can be dried and crushed and taken in capsules.

These are not regulated by the food and drug administration (FDA). It is therefore essential to speak with a doctor before taking them.

Poke Root Tincture

The tincture of poke root can be made by infusing alcohol with poke root. It can be taken directly or by mixing it with water.

The tincture contains alcohol and should be avoided by pregnant females.

Poke Root Oil

Herbal oil infused with poke root is called poke root oil. Various carrier oils can be used to prepare it.

Poke root oil can be applied topically.

Pool Root Salve

Poke root is also used as a salve, a medicated ointment that can be applied to the skin.

It is made by infusing beeswax and oil with poke root. It is also called poke root ointment.

Poke Root Tea

Poke root can be used by some as tea.

Poke root tea can be made by steeping dried poke root in hot water.

Poke root is a traditional herb that can be used for various medical benefits. The researches are mostly on animal and need to be done on human.

If you want to use poke root, use it with caution.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 28, 2020

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