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Pokeweed

What is it?

Pokeweed is an herbal medicine used to prevent pregnancy by killing sperm. It is also used to treat infections.

Other names for Pokeweed include: Phytolacca decandra, Cancer-Jalap, Phytolacca dioca, Belhambra tree, Paccalacc, Phytolacca dodecandra, Endodphytolacca, Esculentachu-Yi, Shang-Lu, Shoriku, Inkberry, Pigeonberry, Poke, Red Weed, Sallet, and Scoke.

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 Pokeweed you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking Pokeweed. 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 Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need.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:

  • Do not take Pokeweed if you are pregnant (6)
  • Before taking Pokeweed, tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding
  • Eating raw Pokeweed may cause bad belly pain, vomiting, and cramping (2,3,4)

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.

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (2)
  • Rapid heartbeat (5)

References:

1. Moore M: Herbal Materia Medica. Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, Bisbee, AZ; 1995:22.

2. Hamilton RJ, Shih RD & Hoffman RS: Mobitz type 1 heart block after Pokeweed ingestion. Vet Human Toxicol 1995; 37(1):66-67.

3. Mack RB: Toxic encounters of the dangerous kind. N C Med J 1982; 43(5):365.

4. Stein ZLG: Pokeweed-induced gastroenteritis. Am J Hosp Pharm 1979; 36(10):1303.

5. Kingsbury JM & Hillman RB: Pokeweed (Phytolacca) poisoning in a dairy herd. Cornell Vet 1965; 55(4):534-538.

6. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al: American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL; 1997.


Last Updated: 11/4/2014

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