Pokeweed

Pokeweed

Phytolacca americana

Pokeweed does have some medicinal properties that are a tad bit responsible for ameliorating its portfolio. Its root washes have proven to be miraculous for sprains, swelling, and inflammation. Its leaves are crushed and ingested to induce emesis by triggering the chemoreceptor zone. If the pokeweed leaves are used as poultices then they can be helpful in managing the acne issues.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Pokeroot, Ink Berry, Dragon Berries & Poke Sallet
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Leaves & Berries
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About Pokeweed

Pokeweed is an herbaceous perennial that has a densely dangerous profile. It comes from the botanical family Phytolaccaceae and is recognized by various other names, including American pokeweed, dragon berries, and poke sallet.

The pokeweed plant can climb up a good height of 6 to 10 feet, but if it is provided with a heavily nutritious environment then the height can soar up to 20 feet too. The pokeweed is characterized by not-so-strong, rigid to flexible stems that arise either alone or in paired form from the taproot. Further, pokeweed is marked by the presence of simple leaves that are tapered at both ends and pink, purple, green, or sometimes white flowers that are born in the form of clusters.

The pokeweed has earned a wicked profile due to its viciousness. It has been witnessed to outnumber the landscapes’ crops, leaving no forage for livestock and the agricultural yield. Its berries are also considered poisonous for human use. As much as it is hailed as the black sheep of the family, pokeweed does have some medicinal properties that are a tad bit responsible for ameliorating its portfolio. Its root washes have proven to be miraculous for sprains, swelling, and inflammation. Its leaves are crushed and ingested to induce emesis by triggering the chemoreceptor zone. If the pokeweed leaves are used as poultices then they can be helpful in managing the acne issues.

Growing

Pokeweed is quite easy to grow via seeds or root transplants. To start pokeweed with seeds, it is recommended to perform the broadcast during early spring. On the other hand, the transplants can be worked during the late winters. Pokeweed can only be grown outdoors and not indoors because it needs ample space to establish its fine network of the taproot.

The seeds are washed, dried, and stratified at 40F for 3 months. These stratified seeds require compost-rich soil and direct sun exposure for 6 to 8 hours. To allow the light reach the seeds, they are slightly covered with soil. They have average to low water requirement and after becoming a fully established plant, pokeweed does not ask for any maintenance or water. 

Pokeweed is a perennial plant that reproduces by viable seeds. The pokeweed seeds sprout and the taproot gives a single or paired stem that soon produces long yet simple leaves.

In summers, the pokeweed permits the plant to produce flowers that soon get pollinated by hummingbirds and other pollinating insects to turn them into berries. These berries bear seeds that get dispersed by birds and animals to propagate pokeweed’s lifecycle.

 

Harvesting

The root and leaves of pokeweed are harvested just before the plant starts flowering. By contrast, the pokeberries are harvested when they are fully ripped i.e. when they turn reddish-black.

The whole pokeweed plant is dangerous for humans so it is advised to wear gloves before the job. The leaves are removed by hands whereas the roots are harvested by pulling up the plant after loosening up the soil surrounding it with shovels. Sharp gardening shears are employed to cut the roots for use.

Pokeweed leaves and berries are dehydrated for 24 hours at 240F to be stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Usage

Pokeweed is a persistent treat in the wild. Modern science has tools to process pokeweed and reduce its toxicity. This makes it easier for incorporating pokeweed in various preparations such as lotions, creams, tinctures.

  • Tincture - Pokeweed root is macerated in alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks and strained carefully to form pokeroot tincture.
  • Tea - Pokeweed leaves are washed thoroughly and steeped in water for 3 to 4 minutes to form pokeweed tea. 
  • Decoction - Pokeweed leaves or roots can be decocted with water for a couple of hours and strained to form pokeweed decoction.
  • Salve - Pokeweed root oil is used with beeswax pellets for the synthesis of pokeweed salve.
  • Infused oil- Pokeweed root can be infused in olive oil for 3 to 5 weeks on a sunny windowsill to form pokeweed infused oil.

*All parts of the pokeweed plant are toxic and should be used with caution.