Other Name(s):

American Nightshade, American Spinach, Baie de Phytolaque d'Amérique, Bear's Grape, Branching Phytolacca, Cancer Jalap, Chongras, Coakum, Coakum-Chorngras, Cokan, Crowberry, Épinard de Cayenne, Épinard des Indes, Faux Vin, Fitolaca, Garget, Herbe à la Laque, Hierba Carmin, Inkberry, Jalap, Kermesbeere, Laque, Phytolacca Berry, Phytolacca americana, Phytolacca decandra, Phytolaque Américaine, Phytolaque à Baies, Phytolaque Commun, Phytolaque d'Amérique, Pigeonberry, Pocan, Poke, Pokeweed berry, Pokeweed root, Raisin d'Amérique, Red-Ink Plant, Red Plant, Red Weed, Scoke, Skoke, Teinturier, Teinturière, Vigne de Judée, Virginian Poke.


Pokeweed is a plant. The berry and root are used as medicine.

Pokeweed is UNSAFE to use. Nevertheless, pokeweed root has been used for achy muscles and joints (rheumatism); swelling of the nose, throat, and chest; tonsillitis; hoarse throat (laryngitis); swelling of lymph glands (adenitis); swollen and tender breasts (mastitis); mumps; skin infections including scabies, tinea, sycosis, ringworm, and acne; fluid retention (edema), skin cancers, menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), and syphilis.

In foods, pokeweed berry is used as red food coloring and as a wine coloring agent.

In manufacturing, pokeweed berry is used to make ink and dye.

How does it work?

There isn't enough information available to know how pokeweed works.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Joint pain (rheumatism).
  • Tonsillitis.
  • Hoarseness (laryngitis).
  • Mumps.
  • Swelling of the lymph glands.
  • Scabies.
  • Acne.
  • Skin cancers.
  • Painful menstruation.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of pokeweed for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Pokeweed is UNSAFE to use. All parts of the pokeweed plant, especially the root, are poisonous. Severe poisoning has been reported from drinking tea brewed from pokeweed root and pokeweed leaves. Poisoning also has resulted from drinking pokeberry wine and eating pokeberry pancakes. Eating just 10 berries can be toxic to an adult. Green berries seem to be more poisonous than mature, red berries.

Pokeweed can cause nausea, vomiting, cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, low blood pressure, difficulty controlling urination (incontinence), thirst, and other serious side effects.

Don't touch pokeweed with your bare hands. Chemicals in the plant can pass though the skin and affect the blood. If you must handle pokeweed, use protective gloves.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Pokeweed is UNSAFE for anyone to use, but pregnant women have extra reasons not to take it by mouth or apply it to the skin. Pokeweed berry might cause the uterus to contract and cause a miscarriage. Breast-feeding women should avoid pokeweed, too.

Children: Pokeweed is UNSAFE for children. Even one berry can be poisonous to a child.


The appropriate dose of pokeweed depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for pokeweed. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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