The healing powers of western pokeweed

Western pokeweed is a perennial plant with a beautiful, special inflorescence. It can grow to a height of three meters, but this medicinal plant usually does not grow taller than one and a half meters. In the Netherlands, this plant sometimes grows spontaneously in an uncultivated part of the garden, because the seeds have been taken by birds. It is a beautiful ornamental plant. The plant originally comes from North America. The plant has medicinal properties for a number of diseases. The root of western pokeweed is used for, among other things, inflammation of the lymphatic system and the upper respiratory tract, back pain, inflammation of the genitals and skin diseases. Western pokeweed is a medicinal plant in both phytotherapy and homeopathy. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Phytolacca americana / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)


  • Edibility and toxicity of the berry
  • Edibility of the leaf
  • Traditional use of pokeweed
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Crimsonberry repels inflammation
  • Other medicinal effects of western pokeweed
  • Dose and safety

Edibility and toxicity of the berry

Western pokeweed is basically poisonous, but it is still eaten. Eating 1 to 10 raw berries does not cause problems for almost anyone, but more than that should not be eaten. Most people think that only the seeds of the berry are poisonous. There have been pokemonberry poisoning cases in the past, but one fatal case has been reported. That was a child who had been given the juice of this plant; this juice contained the pulverized seeds. In addition, much more than 10 berries are used for a glass of juice. Crimsonberries are boiled, deseeded to serve as a filling in a pie. Cooking would neutralize the few toxins in the berries and the seeds should be discarded because they contain the real large amount of toxins.

Edibility of the leaf

The leaves of this plant are also eaten, although they also contain toxins. The leaves are blanched several times as a vegetable or simply boiled so that the toxins disappear. The leaves can be prepared like spinach to serve as vegetables. Shoots of this plant are eaten as a substitute for asparagus. Of course, the shoots must also be blanched, just like asparagus.

Traditional use of pokeweed

The root of pokeweed is never eaten, but it is used as medicine. The original inhabitants of the US, the Indians, used pokeweed root as a paste on the skin to treat rashes in the chest area. The Indians also use pokeweed root to cure cancer, itching, rheumatic diseases and syphilis.


In Latin, western pokeweed is called Phytolacca americana . In addition to western crimsonberry, we also say crimsonberry in Dutch to this plant. In German this plant is called Amerikanische Kermesbeere and in English it is called American pokeweed.

Active substances

Only the root of western pokeweed is used for phytotherapeutic purposes. This root contains the following important active substances: triterpenoid saponins such as phyolaccosides AE, the aglycones phytolaccagenins and phytolacca acid, sterols, lectins and glycoproteins.

Crimsonberry repels inflammation

Western pokeweed has an anti-inflammatory effect that is particularly beneficial for the lymphatic system and upper respiratory tract. This root has not yet been thoroughly scientifically investigated, but it appears that it also has an immune system-stimulating effect. The medicinal effect on the throat and larynx has already been extensively researched. In phytotherapy, western pokeweed is prescribed for the following indications:

  • Laryngeal inflammation,
  • Tonsillitis or tonsillitis,
  • Lymphadenitis or lymph node inflammation,
  • Swollen lymph nodes,
  • Enlarged thyroid gland,
  • Testicle inflammation,
  • Ovarian inflammation.

Other medicinal effects of western pokeweed

Western pokeweed has a depurative or blood purifying effect. In addition, it has an anti-inflammatory effect. This makes it a plant for phytotherapists that can be used for:

Phytolacca americana / Source: AnRo0002, Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

  • Chronic rheumatic complaints,
  • Lumbago,
  • Arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout,
  • Skin diseases.

Externally, pokeweed root can be used for skin irritations, skin infections and mastitis or inflammation of the mammary gland.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • Dried root: Boil 0.2 to 1 gram three times a day and drink the liquid as tea.
  • Boil a quarter dessert spoon of carrot powder for 10 to 15 minutes and drink the liquid as a tea three times a day.
  • Take a 0.25ml tincture (1:10, 45%) three times a day.

The root turns into a toxin if too much is ingested. Only use pokeweed root with a doctor’s prescription. In case of pregnancy, during lactation, leukemia and gastroenteritis, pokeweed root should not be used. When a paste of the root is used externally, make sure that eye contact is avoided.