United States Dispensatory 1926
Martindale�s 24th 1958
Potters Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations 1988
Mrs M. Grieve F.R.H.S. A Modern Herbal 1931
Boericke�s Homoeopathic Materia Medica 9th Edition 1927

Compiled and edited by Ivor Hughes

PHYTOLACCA. N. F. PHYTOLACCA Phytolac. [Poke Root]
Phytolacca is the dried root of Phytolacca americana Linne (Fam. Phytolaccaceae). Phytolacca contains not more than 5 per cent, of its stem bases or more than 2 per cent, of other foreign organic matter." N. F.

Poke Root; Phytolacae Radix; Phytolacca Root; Racine de Phytolaque, Fr.; Kermesbeerenwurzel, G.

Phytolacca decandra L. is an indigenous plant, with a large, branching, perennial root, often 20 to 25 cm. in diameter, which is fleshy, fibrous, whitish within, and covered with a thin brownish cork. The stems, which are annual, frequently grow to the height of 6 to 15 dm., and divide into numerous spreading branches, which are green when young, but becoming purple especially in the upper portions after the berries have ripened. The leaves are alternate, short petiolate, ovate-oblong, entire, acute and glabrous. The flowers are small, greenish-white and in long racemes. The raceme of flowers becomes a cluster of dark purple, almost black, shining compound berries flattened above and below, and divided into ten loculi, each containing one seed.

Poke is abundant in all parts of the United States, flourishing in soil containing lime salts, along fences, by the borders of woods, in newly cleared fields, and especially in the muck thrown up from the ditches or swamps. It also grows spontaneously in northern Africa and southern Europe, where, however, it is supposed to have been introduced from America. Its flowers begin to appear in July, and the fruit ripens in autumn. The magnitude of the poke weed, its large rich leaves, and its beautiful clusters of purple berries, often mingled upon the same branch with the green unripe fruit and the flowers still in bloom, render it one of the most striking of our native plants. The young shoots are much used as food early in the spring, boiled in the manner of asparagus. The leaves, berries, and root are used in medicine, but the latter is the most active. It should be dug up late in November, cut into thin transverse slices, and dried with a moderate heat. As its virtues are diminished by keeping, a new supply should be procured every year. The berries should be collected when perfectly ripe, and the leaves about the middle of the summer, when the foot-stalks begin to redden. Commercial quantities of poke root have been gathered for the market chiefly in Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia.

The berries (Phytolaccae Fructus, U. S., 1890, Phytolaccce Baccae, U. S., 1880, Poke Berry) contain a succulent pulp, and yield upon pressure a large quantity of fine purplish, red juice. They have a sweet, nauseous, slightly acrid taste, with little odor.

Description and Physical Properties.
Unground Phytolacca
. � Cylindrical, or somewhat tapering, sparingly branched, from 3 to 7 cm. in thickness, mostly in transverse or longitudinal slices; externally yellowish brown, finely longitudinally or spirally wrinkled and thickly annulate with lighter colored low ridges; fracture fibrous, characterized by alternating layers of fibrovaseular tissue and parenchyma, the layers of the latter being much retracted. Odor slight; taste sweetish, afterwards highly acrid.

Powdered Phytolacca. � Brownish yellow, sternutatory; starch grains simple or compound the individual grains mostly up to 0.025 mm., occasionally up to 0.035 mm. in diameter; calcium oxalate in raphides from 0.015 to 0.050 mm. in length; numerous fragments composed of parenchyma or of trachea with scalariform markings or bordered pores and long fibres; fragments of cork tissue." N. F.

Constituents. � We have no knowledge of the nature of the active principle of poke root. W. A. Partee (A. J. P., 1888, p. 123) made a proximate examination of poke root and found crystals deposited from a solution of an alcoholic extract in absolute alcohol; he also discovered traces of tannin, glucose, and indications which pointed to the presence of a glucosidal principle. Frankforter and Ranaley (A. J. P., 1897, 281) have again analyzed the root with care. They find nearly 10 per cent, of a non-reducing sugar, free acid, identified as formic acid, but no certain proof of either alkaloid or glucoside. The very bitter resin amounted to 1 per cent.; phytolaccine, an alkaloid, has been said to exist in minute quantities in the root. It contains a large amount (5.56 per cent.) of potassium (Frankforter, A. J. P., 1897, p. 134). Claussen (Pharmacist, 1879) prepared from the seeds a neutral principle in silky lustrous crystals, insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol, ether, and chloroform, which he named phytolaccin. A. Tereil (C. B. A. S., 1880, xci, 856) obtained from the berries an acid (phytolaccic acid) as an uncrystallizable yellowish-brown mass of gummy consistency. It was soluble in water and alcohol, slightly soluble in ether, of acid reaction, and gelatinizing with hydrochloric and sulphuric acids. W. F. Wagner (A. J. P., 1887, p. 69) found tannin in the berries, but not in the root.

Uses. � Phytolacca is emetic, purgative and somewhat narcotic. Its properties were known to the American Indians before the arrival of the white man. As an emetic it is very slow in its operation, frequently not beginning to cause vomiting in less than one or two hours after it has been taken, and then continuing to act for a long time upon both the stomach and the bowels. The vomiting produced by it is said not to be attended with much pain or spasm, but narcotic effects have been observed by some physicians, such as drowsiness, vertigo, and dimness of vision. In overdoses it produces excessive vomiting and purging, attended with great prostration of strength, and sometimes with convulsions, and has, in several instances, proven fatal. According to Robert Bartholow, phytolacca causes in the lower animals convulsions and death from paralysis of respiration.

It is not fit for use as an emetic, but has been employed as an alterative in chronic rheumatism, granular conjunctivitis, and even in cancer. Locally it has been used in the form of ointment (a drachm to the ounce) in the treatment of psora, tinea capitis, sycosis, and favus. It occasions at first a sense of smarting and heat in the parts to which it is applied. It has been recommended, both internally and as a gargle, in various forms of sore-throat.

Dose, emetic, ten to twenty grains (0.6-1.2 Gm.), alterative, one to five grains (0.06-0.3 dm.).

Off. Prep.� Fluidextractum Phytolaccaa, N. F.

Martindales 24th ( List of supplementary drugs)

Phytolacca (B.P.C. 1934). Poke Root. The dried root of the poke plant, Phytolacca decandra ( = P. americana) (Phytolaccaceae). It has emetic, purgative, and mildly narcotic properties but is rarely used in medicine. It is sometimes found as an adulterant of belladonna root. The powdered drug is powerfully sternutatory. It has been used in chronic rheumatism, usually as a tincture (1 in 10; dose: 0.2 to 0.6 ml.). 
Dose: 60 to 300 mg. (1 to 5 grains); emetic dose: about 1 g. (15 grains).

Potters Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations

POKE ROOT Phytolacca americana L.
Fam. Phytolaccaceae
Synonyms: Pokeweed, P. decandra L.
Habitat: North America.

Description: The root is usually sold in transverse slices or split lengthways. The outer surface is yellowish to brownish grey, wrinkled longitudinally and marked with transverse bars of cork. The inner surface is whitish or buff, very hard, and shows characteristic concentric rings of vascular tissue separated by parenchyma. The berries are sub globular, purplish black, fleshy, about 8 mm in diameter and composed of 10 carpel�s, each containing one lens-shaped seed. The powder is strongly sternutatory; taste, slight.

Part Used: Root, berries.

Constituents: Research is continuing, so far the following have been found: (i) Triterpenoid saponins; the phytolaccosides A, B, C, D and E, based on the aglycones phytolaccagenin and phytolaccic acid [1087, 1088, 1089] (ii) Lectins; the mixture known as pokeweed mitogen, consisting of a series of glycoproteins termed Pa-1 to Pa-5 [1090] (iii) Proteins of undetermined structure [1091, 1092, 1093). Seeds: (iv) polyphenols [1094].

Medicinal Use: Antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory, alterative, emetic, cathartic. The phytolaccosides are potent anti-inflammatory agents in the rat paw oedema test [1089], and a saponin extract has a comparable anti-exudative and anti-granulomatous activity to that of hydrocortisone in mice. It had no effect on the adrenal gland but high doses caused thymolysis [1087]. Phytolaccosides B and E inhibited exudate formation after sponge pellet and carrageenan-induced oedema in rats, with anti-inflammatory and toxic effects less than those of aescin (see Horsechestnut) [1088]. The proteins are antiviral; they inhibit the replication of the influenza and HSV-1 viruses and poliovirus [1091,1093,1094]. The lectins are mitogenic [1090]. Poke root has caused toxic, particularly gastrointestinal, symptoms when accidentally eaten by mistake for parsnip or horseradish, and as a freshly made herbal tea [1095]. No toxic effects have been observed from other types of products. The berries are milder in action.

Powdered root,
dose: 0.06-0.3 g; 
Liquid Extract,
dose: 0.1 - 0.5ml; 
Tincture of Poke Root BPC 1923,
dose: 0.2-0.6 ml. 
Potter's Products
: Tabritis Remedy for Arthritis, Alterative Tablets No. 34, Compound Elixir of Trifolium.
Regulatory Status: GSL. (General Sales List)

Mrs M. Grieve F.R.H.S. A Modern Herbal.

POKE ROOT Phytolacca decandra (LINN.) N.O. Phytolaccaces

Synonyms. Phytolacca Root. Phytolacca; Radix. Phytolacca Berry. Phytolaccae Bacca. Phytolacca Vulgaris. Phytolacca Americana. Blitum Americanum. Branching Phytolacca. Phytolaque. Garget. Pigeon Berry. Mechoacan du Canada. Bear's Grape. Poke Weed. Raisin d'Am^rique. Red-ink Plant. American Spinach. Skoke. Crowberry. Jalap. Cancer-root. American Nightshade. Pocan or Cokan. Coakum. Chongras. Morelle a Grappes. Herbe de la Laque. Amerikanische scharlachbeere. Kermesbeere. Virginian Poke. Poke Berry

Parts Used. Dried root, berries
Habitat. Indigenous to North America. Common in Mediterranean countries

Description. This is regarded as one of the most important of indigenous American plants, and one of the most striking in appearance. The perennial root is large and fleshy, the stem hollow, the leaves alternate and ovate-lanceolate, and the flowers have a white calyx with no corolla. The fruit is a deep purple berry, covering the stem in clusters and resembling blackberries.
The young shoots make a good substitute for asparagus, and poultry eat the berries, though large quantities give the flesh an unpleasant flavour, also causing it to become purgative, when eaten.

In Portugal the use of the juice of the berries to colour port wines was discontinued because it spoilt the taste. The stain of the juice is a beautiful purple, and would make a useful dye if a way of fixing it were found.

A decoction of the roots has been used for drenching cattle.

As found in commerce the roots are usually sliced either longitudinally or transversely, are grey in colour, hard and wrinkled. The fracture is fibrous. It is inodorous, and the taste is acrid and slightly sweet.

It is often used to adulterate belladonna, but may be recognized by the concentric rings of wood bundles in the transverse section. The leaves are used for the same purpose, requiring microscopical identification.

Constituents. Phytolaccic acid has been obtained from the berries, and tannin. In the root a non-reducing sugar, formic acid, and a small percentage of bitter resin have been found. The alkaloid Phytolaccin may be present in small quantities, but it has not been proved. A resinoid substance is called phytolaccin. The virtues are extracted by alcohol, diluted alcohol, and water. The powder is said to be sternutatory.

Medicinal Action and Uses. A slow emetic and purgative with narcotic properties. As an alterative it is used in chronic rheumatism and granular conjunctivitis. As an ointment, in the proportion of a drachm to the ounce, it is used in psora, tinea capitis, favus and sycosis, and other skin diseases, causing at first smarting and heat. The slowness of action and the narcotic effects that accompany it render its use as an emetic inadvisable. It is used as a cathartic in paralysis of the bowels. Headaches of many sources are benefited by it, and both lotion and tincture are used in leucorrhoea.

As a poultice it causes rapid suppuration in felons. The extract is said to have been used in chronic rheumatism and hemorrhoids. Authorities differ as to its value in cancer. Great relief towards the close of a difficult case of cancer of the uterus was obtained by an external application of 3 oz. of Poke Root and 1 oz. of Tincture used in the strength of 1 tablespoonful to 3 pints of tepid water for bathing the part. It is also stated to be of undoubted value as an internal remedy in cancer of the breast.

The following prescription has been recommended: Fluid extracts of Phytolacca (2 oz.), Gentian (1 oz.) and Dandelion (1 oz.), with Simple Syrup to make a pint. One tea-spoonful may be taken after each meal. Infused in spirits, the fruit is used in chronic rheumatism, being regarded as equal to Guaicum.

It is doubtful if the root will cure syphilis without the help of mercury. Dosages. As emetic, 10 to 30 grains. As alterative, 1 to 5 grains. Of fluid extract of berries, � to 1 drachm. Of fluid extract of root, � to � drachm; as an emetic, 15 drops; as an alterative, 2 drops. Phytolaccin, 1 to 3 grains.

Poisons and Antidotes. In the lower animals convulsions and death from paralysis of respiration may be caused. Overdoses may produce considerable vomiting and purging, prostration, convulsions and death.

Other Species. Phytolacca drastica of Chile is a violent purgative.

Boericke�s Homeopathic Materia Medica

PHYTOLACCA (Poke-root)

Aching, soreness, restlessness, prostration, are general symptoms guiding to Phytolacca. Pre-eminently a glandular remedy. Glandular swellings with heat and inflammation. Has a powerful effect on fibrous and osseous tissues; fasciae and muscle sheaths; acts on scar tissue. Syphilitic bone pains; chronic rheumatism. Sore throat, quinsy, and diphtheria. Tetanus and opisthotonos. Decrease of weight. Retarded dentition.

Mind.� Loss of personal delicacy, disregard of surrounding objects. Indifferent to life.

Head.� Vertigo on rising. Brain feels sore. Pain from frontal region backward. Pressure in temples and over eyes. Rheumatism of scalp; pains come on every time it rains. Scaly eruption on scalp.

Eyes.� Smarting. Feeling of sand under lids. Tarsal edges feel hot. Fistula lachrymalis. [Fluor, ac.] Abundant lachrymation, hot.

Nose.� Coryza; flow of mucus from one nostril and from posterior nares.

Mouth.� Teething children with irresistible desire to bite the teeth together. Teeth clenched; lower lip drawn down; lips everted; jaws firmly set; chin drawn down on sternum. Tongue red tip, feels rough and scalded; bleeding from mouth; blisters on side. Mapped, indented, fissured, with yellow patch down center. Much stringy saliva.

Throat.� Dark red or bluish red. Much pain at root of tongue; soft palate and tonsils swollen. Sensation of a lump in throat. [Bell.; Lach.] Throat feels rough, narrow, hot. Tonsils swollen, especially right; dark-red appearance. Shooting pain into ears on swallowing. Pseudo-membranous exudation, grayish white; thick, tenacious yellowish mucus, difficult to dislodge. Cannot swallow anything hot. [Lack.] Tension and pressure in parotid gland. Ulcerated sore throat and diphtheria; throat feels very hot; pain at root of tongue extending to ear. Uvula large, dropsical. Quinsy; tonsils and fauces swollen, with burning pain; cannot swallow even water. Mumps. Follicular pharyngitis.

Abdomen.� Sore spot in right hypochondrium. Rheumatism of abdominal muscles. Colic at navel. Burning griping pains. Bruised feeling through epigastrium and abdomen. Constipation of the aged and those with weak heart. Bleeding from rectum.

Urine.� Scanty, suppressed, with pain in kidney region. Nephritis.

Female.� Mastitis; mammae hard and very sensitive. Tumors of the breasts with enlarged axillary glands. Cancer of breast. Breast is hard, painful and of purple hue. Mammary abscess. When child nurses, pain goes from nipple all over body. Cracks and small ulcers about nipples. Irritable breasts, before and during menses. Galactorrhoea. [Calc.] Menses too copious and frequent. Ovarian neuralgia of right side.

Male.� Painful induration of testicles. Shooting along perineum to penis.

Heart.� Feeling as if heart leaped into throat. [Pod.] Shock of pain in cardiac region alternating with pain in right arm.

Respiratory.�Aphonia. Difficult breathing; dry hacking, tickling cough; worse at night. [Mentha; Bellad.[ Aching pains in chest, through mid-sternum; with cough. Rheumatism of lower intercostals.

Back.� Aching pains in lumbar region; pains streaking up and down spine into sacrum. Weakness and dull pain in region of kidneys. Back stiff, especially in morning on rising and during damp weather.

Extremities.�Shooting pain in right shoulder, with stiffness and inability to raise arm. (see Heart.) Rheumatic pains; worse in morning. Pains fly like electric shocks, shooting, lancinating, shifting rapidly. [Puls.; Kali bich.] Pain in under side of thighs. Syphilitic sciatica. Aching of heels; relieved by elevating feet. Pains like shocks. Pain in legs, patient dreads to get up. Feet puffed; pain, in ankles and feet. Neuralgia in toes.

Fever.� High fever, alternating with chilliness and great prostration.

Skin.� Itches, becomes dry, shrunken, pale. Papular and pustular lesions. Most useful in early stages of cutaneous diseases. Disposition to boils, and when sloughing occurs. Squamous eruptions. Syphilitic eruptions. Swelling and induration of glands. Venereal buboes. Scarlatina-like rash. Warts and moles.

Modalities.� Worse, sensitive to electric changes. Effects of a wetting, when it rains, exposure to damp, cold weather, night, exposure, motion, right side. Better, warmth, dry weather, rest.

Relationship.� Compare: Tincture of Phytolacca Berry (sore throats and in the treatment of obesity); Bry.; Rhus; Kali hyd.; Merc.; Sang.; Arum triph.

Inimical: Mercur.

Antidotes: Milk and salt; Bellad.; Mezer.

Dose,� Tincture, to third potency. Externally for mastitis.

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