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Pokeroot

What is it?

Pokeroot is an herbal medicine used to treat inflammation (swelling) of the mouth, throat, nose, and breast. It is also used to treat skin infections and stop pain.

Other names for Pokeroot include: Pokeweed, Pacan, Red Plant, Phytolacca decandra, and Phytolacca americana.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you need more information about this medicine or if any information in this leaflet concerns you.

Before Using:

Tell your doctor if you

  • are taking medicine or are allergic to any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) or dietary supplement)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine
  • are breastfeeding
  • have any other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease

Dosage:

Talk with your caregiver about how much Pokeroot you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking Pokeroot. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.

To store this medicine:

Keep all medicine locked up and away from children. Store medicine away from heat and direct light. Do not store your medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat or moisture may cause the medicine to break down and not work the way it should work. Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need. Never share your medicine with others.

Warnings:

  • Before taking Pokeroot, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • The Pokeroot plant is a poison. The fresh root is the most poisonous and green berries are more poisonous than the red berries (1-2)
  • If the berries or leaves are eaten, your doctor should check your blood cells and blood clotting (3-6)
  • Do not touch the Pokeroot plant. The poison part of Pokeroot can be absorbed (taken up into the body) through open skin or the surface of the eye and cause problems.

Side Effects:

Stop taking your medicine right away and talk to your doctor if you have any of the following side effects. Your medicine may be causing these symptoms which may mean you are allergic to it.

  • Breathing problems or tightness in your throat or chest
  • Chest pain
  • Skin hives, rash, or itchy or swollen skin

Other Side Effects:

You may have the following side effects, but this medicine may also cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have side effects that you think are caused by this medicine.

  • Call your doctor if you have long term vomiting (throwing up), fast heart rate, or seizures (uncontrollable shaking) (2,8)
  • Stomach cramps or pain, vomiting (throwing up), or diarrhea (2,8)

References:

1. Mabey R (ed): The Complete New Herbal, Elm Tree Books, London, UK; 1988.

2. Roberge R et al: The root of evil - poke weed intoxication. Ann Emerg Med 1986; 15:470-473.

3. Barker BE et al: Haematological effects of pokeweed. Lancet 1967; 1:437.

4. Barker BE et al: Peripheral blood plasmacytosis following systemic exposure to Phytolacca americana (pokeweed). Pediatrics 1966; 38:490-493.

5. Barker BE et al: Mitogenic activity in Phytolacca americana (pokeweed). Lancet 1965; 1:170.

6. McPherson A: Pokeweed and other lymphocyte mitogens. In: Kinghorn AD (ed): Toxic Plants. Columbia University Press, New York, NY; 1979.

7. Farnsworth NR: Potential value of plants as sources of new antifertility agents 1. J Pharm Sci 1975; 64:535-598.

8. Hardin JW & Arena JM: Human poisonings from native and cultivated plants, 2nd ed. Duke University Press, Durham, NC; 1974.

9. Newall C, Anderson L & Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. The Pharmaceutical Press, London, UK; 1996.

10. Anon: British Herbal Pharmacopeia. British Herbal Medicine Association, Keighley, UK; 1983.


Last Updated: 11/4/2014

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