Health benefits of Indian Poke

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Indian Poke Quick Facts
Name: Indian Poke
Scientific Name: Phytolacca acinosa
Origin China, Taiwan, Tibet, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, India, Nepal
Colors Green when young turning to blue-black as they matures
Shapes Small berries about ¼- ½ inch wide, rounded, slightly flattened, indented, and usually has 10 chambers
Health benefits Anti-Cancer Properties, Immune system support, Natural Anti-HIV Treatment, Muscle pain, Endometriosis, Skin Health, Excretory System, Natural Blood Purifier, Natural Arthritis Relief and Topical Treatments
Phytolacca Acinosa, also known as Indian poke, Shang Lu in Chinese is a species of perennial plant in genus Phytolacca and Phytolaccaceae family. The plant is native to China (Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Shaanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang), Taiwan, Tibet, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Germany, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, USA and Wisconsin. Some of the popular common names of the plant are Indian poke, Indian pokeweed, food pokeberry, and Indian pokeberry, Sweet Belladonna, Sarangun, Matazor and Himalayan Pokeberry.

The plant provides food and medicines for local use. It is cultivated for its edible leaves in India, and is occasionally grown as an ornamental. It is said that there are two forms of this plant, one with red flowers that has a poisonous root, whilst another with white flowers that has a white edible root. This white form is said to be cultivated for its edible root in parts of China. The roots of phytolacca acinosa acts as discutient, diuretic and dampness-dispelling drug in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM) used in treating diseases including edema and various skin disease.

Plant Description

Indian Poke is an herbaceous perennial plant that grows about 1.5 meter (5 feet) tall. The plant is found growing in valleys, hillsides, forest under stories, forest margins, roadsides, cultivated land houses, moist fertile lands, clearings, fence rows, open fields, strip mines, thickets, waste areas, and wood’s edges. The plant requires a deep fertile moisture retentive humus-rich soil and dislikes dry soils, preferring to grow in a bog garden. The plant has a large, long, coarse, thick, fleshy taproot. The root’s thin bark is brown and the root’s interior is white. The taproot enlarges every year and may reach a diameter of 6 inches. The rest of the root system is extensive and gnarled.


Stem is smooth, shiny, stout, succulent, and erect. Its color may be green, red, pink, or purple. It is usually branched near the top. The piths are mostly hollow but have gray or white wafer-like partitions. Stem may produce a foul odor if broken or bruised.

These stems remain intact long after the rest of the plant is gone. During the winter, the stems turn brown or black. When spring arrives, the stems became pale and then decay.


Large lance-shaped leaves are simple, alternate and thick. Each leaf is petioled and is elliptical, lanceolate, oblong, or ovate. The margins are smooth or are slightly wavy. The tip is pointed and the base is tapered toward the petiole. Each leaf is about 3½-20 inches long and about 1½-5 inches wide, with smaller leaves near the top of the plant. The petiole is about 2 inches long and there are no stipules. The leaves are susceptible to a plant mosaic virus because this plant is an alternate host to a cucumber mosaic virus.


Flowers are arranged on long, narrow, reddish, erect or drooping racemous clusters. These clusters are about 6-8 inches long and are usually found at the top of the plant or on the stem opposite the leaves.

Each flower is green or white to pink, radially symmetrical, about ¼-½-inch wide, and is not very showy. Flower has 4-5 rounded petal-like sepals, no petals, a 10-celled pistil (may vary from 5 to 15) with 10 styles, and 10 protruding stamens (may vary from 5 to 30). Depending upon the weather, these flowers are either insect- or self-pollinated. Flowering season is usually July to August.


Fertile flowers are followed by small berries. These berries are arranged in drooped clusters, with each berry atop a short stem. Each berry is green when young, but will later turn purple to black. It is about ¼- ½ inch wide, rounded, slightly flattened, indented, and usually has 10 chambers. Each chamber has 1 seed. Fruiting season is usually August to November. These berries may remain on the plant throughout the winter.


Each chamber consists of small, smooth, black, glossy, round and flattened seeds. These seeds may remain viable for over 40 years.

Health benefits of Indian poke

Listed below are some of the popular health benefits of Indian Poke

1. Anti-Cancer Properties

The plant consists of a protein called “pokeweed antiviral protein,” or PAP for short that may have anti-tumor effects. It is presently being researched for its anti-cancer properties, and some studies have shown that certain formulations of PAP may be beneficial against some types of cancer cells that depend on hormones to grow such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. Also, according to one animal study, PAP demonstrated anti-cancer effects in rodents. Another study found that PAP, when combined with an immuno-therapy drug called TP-3, holds promise as a potential treatment for advanced osteosarcomas and some soft tissue sarcomas. And some research has found that Indian poke may actually prevent the expression of some cancer genes.

2. Immune system support

When used under expert supervision, Indian Poke is known for boosting your immune system health. Healthy immune system is completely essential for overall good health and wellbeing. It also helps to protect you from seasonal miseries like cold and flu and help you to recover faster from sickness.

The best way to improve the immune system is by consuming a nutritious diet mainly fresh fruit and veg full of vitamin C but certain herbs including Indian Poke may give you the extra boost your body needs.

3. Natural Anti-HIV Treatment

Maybe even more notable are the studies of the herb for use as a possible HIV treatment. The plant may have certain properties that both help strengthen the immune system by interacting with the proliferating T-cells and by preventing production of HIV viral proteins

4. Endometriosis

Indian Poke is occasionally used to treat endometriosis. This is actually a painful condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It most commonly affects the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, and the pelvic tissue. About 11% of women from the age of 15 to 44 suffer from the condition.

Experts believe that boosting the lymphatic system can help treat endometriosis because a strong lymphatic system can boost immune health. Endometriosis has been linked to a weakened immune system. Herbalists believe that by boosting immune health, Indian Poke could help to fight endometriosis.

5. Excretory System

Decoction of phytolacca acinosa root, rhizomes of Alisma orientale, vigna umbellata seeds (fried), notopterygium root, the shell of areca nut, akebia stem, the bark of ash, bark of poria cocos and betel nut is taken orally to cure difficulty passing urine.

6. Natural Blood Purifier

Much like yellow dock root, Indian Poke root is also a powerful blood purifier and lymph cleanser, inciting and increasing the action of lymph glands throughout the entire body. In fact, you’ll find it as an ingredient in Jon Barron’s Blood Support formula.

7. Natural Arthritis Relief and Topical Treatments

The herb is mainly known as an effective treatment for pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis. As a topical treatment, it has also been used to treat skin ulcers, sore and infected breasts, skin rashes, fungal infections like ringworm, acne, and scabies.

8. Muscle pain

Indian Poke root can be used under expert supervision to relieve muscle soreness and pain. When the lymphatic system is in the best working order, it can help eliminate toxins that reside in the body’s muscles. It can also help to treat painful and swollen joints caused by conditions like rheumatism, osteoarthritis, and gout.

9. Skin Health

One of the problems related with poor lymphatic health is unhealthy looking skin and common skin conditions like acne. There are presently no research studies into the effects of poke root on the skin but there is a lot of subjective evidence to suggest it can improve your skin’s appearance and health.

Traditional uses and benefits of Indian Poke

  • Root is anti-asthmatic, antibacterial, antidote, anti-fungal, anti-tussive, diuretic, expectorant, laxative and vermifuge.
  • Plant has an interesting chemistry and it is presently being investigated as a potential anti-AIDS drug.
  • It consists of potent anti-inflammatory agents, antiviral proteins and substances that affect cell division.
  • Root is used internally in the treatment of urinary disorders, nephritis, edema and abdominal distension.
  • Externally, roots can be used to treat boils, carbuncles and sores.
  • Roots are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.
  • Different preparations of the poke root are useful to cure tonsillitis, laryngitis, swollen glands, and other inflammations.
  • In Japan, the entire plant is used as a diuretic.
  • It is used to alleviate body pain in India
  • Decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of chronic coughs and constipation.
  • Portion of the root has been chewed, or a decoction is used in the treatment of stomach pain.
  • Root has been used to make a skin wash and compresses for bruises, sprains and fractures.
  • Powdered root has been applied as a healing agent to wounds and as a delousing agent.
  • Stems have been scraped and the powder snuffed to induce sneezing.
  • An infusion of the leaves has been used as a wash to treat aches and pains.
  • Plant is used in homeopathic preparations to slow the heart rate.
  • Root was used as a poultice for treating bruises, neuralgia, and rheumatism.
  • D root was used for treating hemorrhoids, inflammations, pain, and skin parasites.
  • Powdered root was used as a poultice for treating tumors and skin eruptions.
  • Crushed and roasted root was used as a blood purifier.
  • Root wash or ointment was used for treating eczema, fevers, fungal infections, ringworm, scabies, sprains, and swellings.
  • Native Americans made a tea made from the berries and used it for treating arthritis, rheumatism, and dysentery.
  • Some people living in the Ozarks ate one berry a year to prevent or to treat arthritis.
  • Berry juice or poultice was used for treating acne, cancer, hemorrhoids, skin eruptions, skin ulcers, sores, swellings, and tremors.
  • Leaf was used as a cathartic, and emetic, and as an expectorant.
  • Leaf was also used as a poultice for treating acne and scabs and to stop bleeding.
  • Its antiviral properties may someday be used for treating cancer, herpes, or HIV.
  • Herbalists of yore used it in the preparation of a number of topical ointments as well as medication that could be ingested.
  • It was used to treat tonsillitis and inflammation of the glands.
  • It also helps soothe mastitis.
  • Herbalists also used Indian Poke in the treatment of cancers of the uterus, throat as well as breasts.
  • Very small quantities of the tincture can also ease headaches.
  • Topical ointments can result in rashes or irritability of the skin.

Culinary Uses

  • Leaves must be cooked, and are then used as spinach.
  • Only the young leaves should be used since the leaves become toxic with age.
  • Young shoots are used as an asparagus They have an excellent flavor.
  • Roots must be soaked and rinsed repeatedly before being cooked; only the white root of the white flowered form should be eaten.
  • Leaves, when boiled, make an excellent pot-herb.
  • Leaves and tender stems are used as a leafy vegetable in Uttarakhand.
  • Greens are then made into a traditional spring dish called “poke sallet.”
  • Cooked berries may be used as pie filling.

Other facts

  • Red ink is obtained from the fruit.
  • In Vietnam often cultivated in pots as a medicinal herb.
  • P. acinosa is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental.
  • Dried and powdered root is used as an insecticide and a parasiticide.
  • It is also effective against caterpillars and mammals.
  • Roots have been grated, then added to the laundry water and used to clean clothing.
  • Fiber obtained from the stem is used for weaving wallets etc.
  • Native Americans dyed their war ponies with it and during the Civil War; the juice was used as an ink.
  • Berries make ideal food for many species of birds.
  • During the 1844 Presidential campaign of James Knox Polk, Polk and his supporters wore leaves and twigs of the Pokeweed as campaign buttons.
  • Some tribes used this plant in their witchcraft.
  • Because this plant causes violent purging, the plant was supposed to rid the body of evil spirits.
  • Some Native American also wore the berries around the neck to ward off infectious diseases.
  • Dried mature leaf was used in making a yellow dye.
  • Berry juice was used as red dye, red ink, or food coloring.
  • Berry juice gives wool and linen a pink color and gives paper a purple color.
  • At one time the berry juice was used to color cheap wine. However, the juice gave the wine a bad taste.


  • Leaves are poisonous. They are said to be safe to eat when young, the toxins developing as they grow older.
  • All parts of the plant are toxic; this remedy should be used with caution and preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
  • Because of its potential harm, pregnant women and nursing mothers must never use Indian poke root.
  • Never give children and supplement or product containing poke root.
  • Some of the side effects of taking poke root include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramp and abdominal pain, reduced blood pressure, incontinence and great thirst.
  • Berries are also highly toxic and children must learn not to eat them.






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