Pokeberry anti-tumor Research

 

The following is some of the research papers I found throughout the ten years of research I complied on Poke. 

 

Phytollaca antitumor agent

Investigation of anticarcinogenic activity of Poke root (Phytolacca Americana)

Immunotoxins are a new class of antitumor agents consisting of tumor- selective ligands (generally monoclonal antibodies [MoAbs]) linked to highly toxic protein molecules that have been modified to remove their normal tissue-binding domains. These immuno-conjugates combine the potency of the parent toxin with the specificity of the attached ligand. Toxins used in the construction of immunotoxins belong to a group of peptides that catalytically inhibit the elongation step of protein synthesis, and include ricin, abrin, pokeweed antiviral protein, gelonin, Pseudomonas exotoxin A, diptheria toxin, and alpha- sarcin.

 

AA Hertler and AE Frankel
Section of Hematology, Louisiana State University Medical Center, Shreveport.

Ready, M.P., Brown, D.T. and Robertus, J.D. 1986. Extracellular localization of pokeweed antiviral protein. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83: 5053−5056.

 

Investigation of anticarcinogenic activity of Poke root (Phytolacca Americana)

I. GOKTEPE, B. Milford, and M. Ahmedna. Food Science & Nutrition Program, North Carolina A&T State Univ., Dept. of Human Environment & Family Sciences, 161 Carver Hall, Greensboro, NC 27411

Poke root (Phytolacca americana) is an American perennial shrub which grows in damp woodlands, hedges, and waste places, especially in the South. The primary chemical constituents of poke root include triterpenoid saponins, alkaloids, phytolaccic acid, formic acid, lectins, tannin, antiviral protein (PAP), fatty oil, resin, and sugars. Although poke root has been broadly used as an alterative to restore the proper function of the body, and increase health and vitality by American Indians, there is very limited information on its properties against cancer. Therefore, this study was carried out to ascertain anticarcinogenic effects of poke root on breast cancer cells. Poke roots were freeze-dried and powdered. The powdered materials were extracted three times with methanol/water mixture and/or water. The extracts were administered at concentrations of 0 to 1 mg/mL into human breast (ATCC ZR-75-30) cell cultures maintained in RPMI medium supplemented with 10% FBS and cultured in the presence of a serial dilution of crude extracts for 24, 48, and 72 h. The antiproliferative activity of crude extracts from poke root on cancer cells was measured using MTT assay. Methanol/water extracts of poke root significantly reduced breast cancer cells’ proliferation and growth at concentration of 0.6 mg/mL and above. The water extract of poke root showed less inhibitory effect on breast cancer cell growth. There is a need for detailed investigation of the mechanism of modulation of poke root extracts and based on that, a possible therapeutic agent can be visualized.

 

Antifungal properties of Phytolacca

 

A new antifungal peptide from the seeds of Phytolacca americana: characterization, amino acid sequence and cDA new antifungal peptide from the seeds of Phytolacca americana: characterization, amino acid sequence and cDNA cloning.

Shao F,

Hu Z,

Xiong YM,

Huang QZ,

WangCG,

Zhu RH,

Wang DC.

Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China.

An antifungal peptide from seeds of Phytolacca americana, designated PAFP-s, has been isolated. The peptide is highly basic and consists of 38 residues with three disulfide bridges. Its molecular mass of 3929.0 was determined by mass spectrometry. The complete amino acid sequence was obtained from automated Edman degradation, and cDNA cloning was successfully performed by 3′-RACE. The deduced amino acid sequence of a partial cDNA corresponded to the amino acid sequence from chemical sequencing. PAFP-s exhibited a broad spectrum of antifungal activity, and its activities differed among various fungi. PAFP-s displayed no inhibitory activity towards Escherichia coli. PAFP-s shows significant sequence similarities and the same cysteine motif with Mj-AMPs, antimicrobial peptides from seeds of Mirabilis jalapa belonging to the knottin-type antimicrobial peptide.

PMID: 10082954 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

 

PHYTOLACCA. Phytolacca americana.

Synonym—Phytolacca decandra, Poke.

CONSTITUENTS—

Phytolaccic acid, phytolaccine, calcium malate, resin, starch, wax, gum, tannin, mucilage. The ashes contain over fifty per cent of caustic potassa.

PREPARATIONS—

Extractum Phytolaccae Radicis Fluidum. Fluid Extract of Phytolacca Root. Dose, from five to thirty minims.

Unguentum Phytolaccae, Ointment of Phytolacca.

Specific Phytolacca. Dose, from one to ten minims.

Physiological Action—Though the young shoots of Phytolacca are used as greens the mature plant is poisonous when taken in large doses. Death has followed an overdose (one-half ounce) of the berries or root, preceded by excessive vomiting and purging drowsiness, prickling and tingling over the whole body; vertigo, dimness of vision, cold skin, feeble pulse, great prostration, convulsions and coma.

While it is specific in its influence upon all glandular structures, of whatever character, it also is a blood-making remedy of great power, and it acts directly also upon the skin. It influences the mammary glands and the testicles directly. The remedy acts also upon the spinal cord. It inhibits the influence of the medulla, to final paralysis. It slows the action of the heart, reduces the force of the pulse, and lessens respiratory movements. In poisonous doses it will induce convulsions of a tetanic character. It is a drastic cathartic and an emetic producing nausea of an extreme character. Its influence upon the. bowels is greatly prolonged, and very irritating. It causes great pain in the bowels, which is slow of relief. It reduces muscular power and coordination. It produces dimness of vision, vertigo and drowsiness, prolonged in some cases to coma.

Specific Symptomatology—The most direct action of this agent is in inflammation of glandular structures, especially of the lymphatic glands. Pains of a rheumatic character from deficient catabolism are relieved by it. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in rheumatic subjects, sanious ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, sycosis, psoriasis, favus, noli me tangere, and all skin diseases. It is especially valuable in the squamous variety of skin diseases.

Therapy—This agent must now have especial attention in its influence in the treatment of acute inflammations of the throat. It makes but little difference what forms of throat disease we have, from the simplest forms of pharyngitis, through all the variations of tonsillitis, to the extreme forms of diphtheria, this remedy may be given in conjunction with other indicated agents. But few of our physicians neglect its administration in these cases, and they are unitedly profuse in their praises of its influence. If there be an infection of the local glands of the neck, from the throat disease, the agent should be applied externally, as well as administered internally.

In the treatment of goitre there is a consensus of opinion concerning the value of this remedy, but it is almost universally administered in these cases, with other more direct remedies. Dr. J. V. Stevens is enthusiastic in his opinion that adenitis needs no other remedy than phytolacca americana. Whatever the cause of the disease or of however long standing, he saturates the system with this remedy, and persists in it, applies it externally and claims to cure his cases. He has used it for many years with success. Others combine other active alteratives as general conditions demand.

Too much cannot be said of its very positive and invariable influence in the treatment of acute inflammations of the breast during or preceding lactation. It should be given every two hours at least in doses of perhaps ten drops in extreme cases, or five drops in the incipiency of the disease, or mild cases. Conjoined with aconite and applied also externally, we, will find in many cases no lisp for any other remedy. I have, however, found my results to be more quickly obtained when an active eliminant is given in conjunction with the remedy in mastitis. Two or three fifteen-grain doses of the acetate of potassium will be found efficient.

The writer has, through a long experience, gotten into the habit of adding this remedy to alterative compounds. This is especially true of those prescribed for children’s glandular and skin disorders. It is an efficacious remedy in any of the forms of skin disease, common to childhood. Given in the incipiency of eczema and in some forms of chronic eczema, especially that of a dry character, where there are cracks or fissures in the skin, these promptly yield to the internal administration of this remedy.

It should be administered in the treatment of syphilitic disorders resulting in ulceration, and in the ulcerations of the outlets of the body. In varicose and other long-standing ulcers, in psoriasis, dermal abscesses, fissures, boils and carbuncles it will be often found that a combination of phytolacca, echinacea, berberis, and stillingia will prove signally effective.

Ten drops of equal parts of the juice of ripe poke berries and alcohol may be given every thirty minutes in membranous and spasmodic croup with great success, with other remedies as indicated.

In irritation of the urinary tract, even in conditions resembling Bright’s disease, with albumin, and abnormal deposits in the urine, it tends to relieve the irritation, and effect a cure.

Dr. Waska, of Chicago is a strong advocate of the use of phytolacca and echinacea in the treatment of any form of albuminuria. He believes with proper auxiliary treatment, these two remedies will be of great service in overcoming the excretion of albumin and in restoring a normal condition of the kidneys. Skin disease of constitutional origin, and scrofulous skin diseases, are cured by it.

Its action in relieving irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in all parts of the body—throat, larynx, lungs, stomach, bowels and rectum—suggests it as a remedy in inflammation of the lining membrane of the heart; and it is said to have cured cases of this kind.

In conjunctivitis, the local and internal use of the remedy is efficient; and also in the treatment of chancre and bubo.

In the treatment of conjunctivitis, a saturated tincture of the fresh root should be given in sufficient quantity to produce fullness of the temples and head, while the eyes should be bathed frequently with the decoction.

In the treatment of ulcers and ulcerating skin diseases, the local application of a concentrated preparation of the root or berries should be made, so as to exert something of a caustic effect, while full doses are given internally at the same time.

The presence in the blood of an infectious irritant, which causes rheumatic pains, as in sciatic rheumatism, and irritation of mucous membranes, or inflammation of the throat associated with rheumatic pains, and enlargement and ulceration of lymphatic glands from scrofula or syphilis, is an indication for the remedial action of phytolacca.

It has been thought to stimulate the liver, by those who hold the theory that rheumatism, peritonitis, tonsillitis, and the many diseases assigned to the uric acid diathesis depend upon abnormal protoplasmic change in the blood, as it circulates through the liver; but whether this be true or not, there is no doubt that it improves nutrition.

Phytolacca is somewhat narcotic, and also a nerve stimulant in moderate doses, and this will explain its action in curing rheumatism, for those who take the ground that this obscure disease is a neurosis; and also explains its action in neuralgia.


 

Poke Therapeutic Actions:

Alterative

Anti-inflammatory

Antiviral-inhibits the replication of influenza, HSV-1, URI viruses and poliovirus

Cathartic

Mitogentic for T-cells or for both T-cells and B-cells (lectins, glycoproteins, Pa-1 to Pa-5)

Stimulates B and T lymphocytes

Stimulates elimination from tissue

Stimulates production of interleukin 1 and tumor necrosis factor

Clinical Indications:

Cancer prevention

Endometriosis

Fibrocystic breast disease

Herpes simplex

Mastitis

Uterine fibroid

Influenza

Lymphadenopathy

Mumps

Parotitis

Pharyngitis

Tonsillitis

Upper respiratory infections

Contraindications:

Pregnancy

Drug/Nutrient Interaction:

Limited data

Chemical Constituents:

Alkaloid:

Phytolaccine

Formic acid

Lectins, glycoproteins, Pa-1 to Pa-5

Phytolaccic acid

Resin

Saponin

Tannin

Vitamin K

Toxicity:

Limit use to short duration

Symptoms of long term use or overdose happen slowly and may be difficult to recognize

Symptoms include:

Burning in mouth and stomach
Decreased blood pressure
GI disturbances
Nausea , vomiting and diarrhea
Slow heart and pulse
If consumption is greater than 1/2 ounce of the berries or root or 10 berries in an infant, coma and death by respiratory paralysis

Copyright 1998 – 2007 by L. Vicky Crouse, ND and James S. Reiley, ND

Poke: A Weed No More
Traditional Herbalist Whitewolf shares the magic of a common weed.

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is an exceptionally beautiful and powerful Native American medicinal herb. Unfortunately, many people perceive Poke to be a nuisance weed or a dangerous poisonous plant. Others know it in the form of “Poke Sallet,” a traditional pot-herb that, when properly cooked, is both safe and delicious. Early Tribal healers and the 19th-century American Eclectic Physicians who popularized Native botanicals knew Poke as a powerful lymphatic system stimulant and medicine for arthritis and various skin diseases. Today, herbalists use Poke cautiously for similar conditions and modern researchers are investigating its antiviral, anticancer, antifungal, antirheumatic, and immune stimulant properties.

It is a mistake to think of this powerful plant as a useless “weed” – rather it is the source of many wonderful gifts to those who learn to use it with respect and understanding.

Poke is actually one of the easier wild plants of our area to identify. For a non-woody perennial, it gets big…really big. A happy mature Pokeweed can be 10 – 12 feet tall , although most grow from 3 to 6 feet or so. The stems are large, tough, filled with hollow chambers inside, and unmistakably magenta. Phytolacca bears large, thin, emerald-green leaves and upright clusters of small white flowers which droop as they mature into bunches of deeply purple, almost black berries. Inside these berries is a bright pink juice which has been used for ink, skin paint, and a temporary dye. Poke is well described in many field guides; if you are interested in working with this plant, make sure you have positively identified it.

Poke Sallet
Many mountain folks keep up the tradition of using young Poke sprouts as a spring tonic food known as “Poke Sallet.” Sallet is an old English word that means “cooked greens,” and should not be mistanken for “salad”; in fact, a great many cases of Pokeweed poisoning result from this linguistic mistake. When Poke leaves are eaten raw, they cause a characteristically severe but self-limiting gastroenteritis with repeated vomiting and diarrhea. The chemicals responsible for this reaction are known as triterpene saponins, and they are both broken down by the heat of cooking, and leached out into the cooking water. It is also important to pick the Poke sprouts when they are no more than 6 – 8 inches tall; if too mature, they contain a greater amount of toxins and can be unsafe.

Properly prepared, however, Poke Sallet is delicious, tasting like a somewhat wilder version of asparagus; it is also rich in vitamins and minerals, as are wild food plants in general. Here is a foolproof recipe for cooking Poke sprouts which will remove the saponins and provide you with an excellent tonic food. Note that in the Southern Appalachians, Poke sprouts are an early spring treat, being available in April or early May depending on elevation. Do not pick overly mature sprouts or leaves for Sallet! Although some people are less sensitive to the toxins and can get away with this, others become ill.

Put two pots of water to boil on the stove. One pot should be the right size for cooking your sprouts and the other should be about three times as big. The second pot is your resevoir of boiling water. When both pots are at a boil, drop the sprouts into the cooking pot and boil them for one minute. Drain away this first water (use a colander), then refill the cooking pot with fresh hot water from the resevoir pot and boil sprouts again for one minute. Throw out this second water too, refill the cooking pot once again, and boil the sprouts in this third change of water for a minimum of 15 minutes. Some folks recommend a longer cooking time here, but I have personally found 15 minutes to be adequate if you have changed the water twice already. When done, the cooked sprouts can be dressed in any way you would dress asparagus, or eaten plain to enjoy their unique flavor undiluted.

Phytolacca Medicine The Eclectic Physicians, a group of botanically-inclined practitioners working in the 19th and early 20th centuries, left an extensive literature on the clinical use of Native American plants including Phytolacca. One of the prominent Eclectic authors was Dr. Finely Ellingwood, who reviewed Poke in his definitive work American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. His “Specific Symptomatology” calling for the use of this medicine is as follows:

The most direct action of this agent is in inflammation of glandular structures, especially of the lymphatic glands. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in rheumatic subjects, sanious ulcers [those yielding a thin, fetid discharge of pus mixed with serum or blood], scabies, tinea capitis [a fungal infection of the scalp, also known as ringworm], sycopsis [a morbid ulcer or growth on the skin, with a figlike appearance], psoriasis, favus [a contagious skin disease, characterized by pustules and resembling the texture of a honeycomb], noli me tangere [an eroding ulceration of the face], and all skin diseases. It is especially valuable in the squamous variety of skin diseases.

Phytolacca was also known to the Eclectics as a powerful remedy in cases of mastitis, breast cysts,testicular and breast cancers as well as other types of cancers. It was rightfully considered to be a potent medicine that was cautiously used to help correct serious health problems. Today, practitioners use homeopathic preparations of Phytolacca, or small doses of the tincture or extract made from the root or berries. You can’t buy Poke extracts in the store, as the FDA considers them too toxic for casual use by the general public, but you can learn how to use this medicine under the guidance of an experienced herbalist or naturopathic physician. Modern practitioners use Poke in cases of acute or chronic infection as an immune stimulant and lymphatic system alterative, as an effective anti-inflammatory in rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions, and as part of a treatment for breast conditions including mastitis, cysts, and cancers. It is also still employed for “ringworm” and other fungal conditions of the skin.

Pokeberries are very interesting in that they contain good medicine and fewer toxins than other parts of the plant – with the exception of their seeds. Poke seeds are poisonous and should not be eaten! However, some Appalachian old-timers will swallow one or two dried berries whole, not crunching up the seeds, as a tonic for “rheumatism.” They say that the seeds won’t hurt you if you don’t break them open. I personally spit out the seeds whenever I use Poke berries, just to be safe. Each berry contains 8 – 13 tiny black seeds, making it an exercise in attention to eat them. As an experiment last year, I ate 25 berries at once, carefully spitting out each little seed and swallowing the juice, flesh, and skins. After 10 berries the tip of my toungue had a moderately burnt feeling; but other than that, I was fine. Reports of Pokeberry toxicity in the scientific literature often do not distinguish between the berries and the seeds, which is why you will find assertions that Pokeberries are poisonous and possibly fatal. The only well-documented report of a fatality from Poke that I have yet found – after 6 months of research – is a case of a child dying after the ingestion of “grape juice” made from large amounts of crushed berries – ones with the seeds broken open.

Pokeweed Toxicology
As part of my research for a large monograph on Phytolacca, I have extensively reviewed the scientific literature regarding Poke toxicology and poisoning. Although many general plant books indulge in what I call “Pokeweed Paranoia,” and repeat that Pokeweed can be fatal, the truth is that Poke, when properly used, is both safe and effective. It can also be a serious poison when ingested improperly, but is far less poisonous than some other plants and many pharmaceutical drugs. A study published in 1995 by Krenzelok and Provost in the Journal of Natural Toxins analyzed information from American Poison Information Centers over a recent ten-year period. They found that Poke was the seventh most frequently ingested poisonous plant, but that 65.3 % of these exposures resulted in “no effect,” 5.8 % in a “minor effect,” and 0.4 % in a “moderate effect”; there were no fatalities reported. Contrast this to the recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Lazarou, 1998) which informs us that more than 100,000 hospitalized patients die and more than 2 million are seriously injured every year in the U. S. from adverse reactions to properly administered drugs. When considered in context, Poke’s toxicity becomes less of a scary boogey-man and more of a reminder to “proceed with caution.” For an extensive review of Pokeweed toxicology, see the website at http://www.unca.edu/~lnleivan/toolkit.html.

Pokeweed is my Friend
In traditional healing, practitioners work with both the bodies and spirits of the plants. I have learned to see Pokeweed as one of the Grandmothers, powerful healing spirits with medicine that must be well understood and respected before use. Grandmother Poke can help us to become aware of the blockages in the lymphatic and energetic channels of our bodies and well as in the pathways of our spirits. She is a wise warrior who appears to me in dreams as a large white or red horse, bringing confidence and assurance while helping to guide me through fearful situations. Of course, a plant spirit does not necessarily appear in the same way to different people. If you want to establish a relationship with this Grandmother, I suggest finding a Poke plant in a quiet place and sitting to meditate with it for as long as possible. Bring the plant a gift (a coin, tobacco, water in a drought…) and let it know your intentions and your requests. If you persist in your respectful efforts, Grandmother Poke will reward you with insight and healing. As thanks, you can spread her seeds about or distribute the seeds of Pokeweed knowledge – and help the people to remember that Poke is no longer a weed but a powerful healing gift from the Mother Earth and the Great Spirit.

Originally, this article appeared in New Life Journal’s Fall 1999 issue. This article is © 1999 Lisa Leivan and New Life Journal and is not to be reprinted without the written permission of New Life Journal.

 

Poke (Phytolacca americana)

That strange-looking weed with the drooping black berries that towers over gardens and roadsides throughout much of eastern North America is pokeweed—an old favorite of wise women dealing with breast lumps and breast cancer. If I felt a suspicious lump, I’d reach for poke root oil. It reduces congestion, relieves swelling, and literally dissolves growths in the breasts.

Jethro Kloss, author of the classic herbal Back to Eden, used freshly grated raw poke root poultices to burn away breast cancer. Caution: Fresh poke placed directly on the skin is strong enough to damage healthy tissues as well as cancerous ones.

The infused oil is also effective and far safer. A generous amount is gently applied to the lump, covered with a flannel cloth and then with a hot water bottle (no heating pads), and left on for as long as you’re comfortable. This is repeated at least twice a day. Poke root oil is too powerful for regular preventive care. Caution: Poke oil can cause a rash on sensitive skin. Ingestion of poke oil can cause severe intestinal distress.

Poke root tincture can be used instead of poke root oil. The properties are quite similar, though the oil is absorbed better and may be considerably more effective.

Other Names: Cancer root, kermesberro, skookum, ink berry

Type: Potentially poisonous

Found in: Gardens (as a weed) and roadsides of northeastern North America; easily cultivated; naturalized in Europe, Australia.

Part Used: One- or two-year-old roots, dug after first frost, fresh only; berries, before frost, fresh or dried—do not chew.

Actions & Uses: Resolves cysts, lumps, and some in situ breast cancers; stimulates immune system; counters infection (especially pneumonia); protects lungs; relieves lymph congestion; antiviral; antiseptic; anti-tumor; anti-cancer. Used externally and internally.

Important Constituents: Acids, antioxidants, alkaloids, carotenes, phytosterols, pokeweed-antiviral-protein, saponins, tannins, resins (root only).

Preparation & Daily Dose: Used with caution for short periods; rarely for more than 10 months.

Tincture of fresh (not dried) root: 1–20 drops.

Fresh berry juice preserved with honey: 4 teaspoons/20ml.

Dried berries: 1–4 swallowed whole. Seeds are poisonous.

Oil/ointment/poultice of fresh roots: with care.

Toxicity: Caution! All parts of fresh or dried poke—except berries with unbroken seeds and well-cooked young leaves—can cause such intense vomiting, diarrhea, and pain that you don’t know which end to point at the toilet. This is frequently accompanied by out-of-the-body sensations, but rarely leads to death. (I felt a little “spacey” when I swallowed two dried berries as an anti-inflammatory against joint pain one evening.) The numerous seeds are only toxic if crushed, and are too hard for children (and most adults) to break. I’ve read of skin rashes caused by handling fresh poke, but have never personally experienced such problems. Alkaloids in poke root tincture can accumulate in the kidneys, making extended use risky, though some people have taken doses of 15 drops a day for a year or more without apparent harm.

Works Well With: Echinacea.

Results & Notes: Poke root tincture kicks the immune system into gear incredibly fast. I’ve seen chronic infection of many years’ standing begin to resolve after only one dose, and acute infection subside in a matter of hours. Poke’s effect seems to be focused on the lymphatic and glandular tissues of the breasts, ovaries, throat, and uterus, where it reliably resolves cysts, growths, infections, and swellings. First-hand reports attest to the ability of fresh poke root poultices to burn away tumors, including breast cancers. Phytolacca is a standard homeopathic remedy against breast cancer. Women at high-risk of developing breast cancer may wish to follow advice from Traditional Chinese Medicine and use one drop of poke tincture daily from the beginning of May until mid-June yearly as a preventive. To be assured of a supply of poke tincture, I make it myself, as it is rarely found for sale.

 

History:
Poke Root is also known by the names Pigeon Berry, Cancer Root, Red Ink Plant, Shang-lu, Congora, Coakum, Inkberry, Scoke, and Red Weed. Poke Root is an American perennial shrub which grows in damp woodlands, hedges, and waste places, especially in the South. The parts of this plant used medicinally are the roots and the berries. The genus name Phytolacca is from the Greek “phyton”, meaning “plant”, and the French word “lac” in reference to the plant’s ability to yield a “reddish dye”. The name Poke is derived from an Indian word “pocan”, a name for any plant that yields a red dye, and from “pak”, meaning “blood”. A dye from the berries has been used as ink and paint, and for basket coloring. In fact, t he United States Constitution was written in Pokeberry ink. During the presidential campaign of James Polk, his supporters wore a sprig of Poke in their lapels. At one time, Poke was even used to treat syphilis. In Africa, the plant is being investigated for its ability to control Bilharzia, a parasitic disease contracted by bathing in water containing certain snails. The primary chemical constituents of Poke Root include triterpenoid saponins, alkaloids ( phytolaccine ), phytolaccic acid, formic acid, lectins, tannin, antiviral protein (PAP), fatty oil, resin, and sugars. The alkaloid constituents are fundamentally nitrogen containing molecules that have a marked effect on both animal & human physiology in varying roles – from pain killer to poison. Tannins have the effect of precipitating protein molecules, producing a sort of “leather coat” on the surface of tissues. Little documented evidence exists as to the specific beneficial role of the phytolaccic acid. Poke Root is broadly described as an alterative, purgative, and emetic. An alterative is any herb which will gradually restore the proper function of the body, and increase health & vitality. They act to alter the body’s processes of metabolism so that tissues can best deal with the range of functions from nutrition to elimination. Emetics are herbs that cause vomiting through irritation of the stomach or nervous system. A purgative is an herb which has the effect of causing rapid and violent diarrhea. In large doses, Poke Root may produce gastro enteritis with concomitant vomiting and diarrhea. It acts as a depressant on the respiratory & cardiac centers, as

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phytolacca americana is well known to herbalists, cell biologists, and toxicologists. According to some accounts, its young leaves, after being boiled in two waters (the first being discarded) to deactivate toxins, are edible, even being available canned (they pose no culinary threat to spinach). Young shoots are eaten as a substitute for asparagus. Ripe berries were used to color wine and are eaten (cooked) in pies. Poke is used as an emetic, a purgative, a suppurative, a spring tonic, and a treatment for various skin maladies, especially hemorrhoids.

Pokeweed mitogen is a mixture of glycoprotein lectins that are powerful immune stimulants, promoting T- and B-lymphocyte proliferation and increased immun-oglobulin levels. “Accidental exposure to juices from Phytolacca americana via ingestion, breaks in the skin, and the conjunctiva has brought about hematological changes in numerous people, including researchers studying this species” (G. K. Rogers 1985).

 Poke antiviral proteins are of great interest for their broad, potent antiviral (including Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and antifungal properties (P. Wang et al. 1998). Saponins found in P. americana and P. dodecandra are lethal to the molluscan intermediate host of schistosomiasis (J. M. Pezzuto et al. 1984). The toxic compounds in P. americana are phytolaccatoxin and related triterpene saponins, the alkaloid phytolaccin, various histamines, and oxalic acid. When ingested, the roots, leaves, and fruits may poison animals, including Homo sapiens. Symptoms of poke poisoning include sweating, burning of the mouth and throat, severe gastritis, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, blurred vision, elevated white-blood-cell counts, unconsciousness, and, rarely, death.

“Poke” is thought to come from “pocan” or “puccoon,” probably from the Algonquin term for a plant that contains dye.

SELECTED REFERENCES

Armesto, J. J., G. P. Cheplick, and M. J. McDonnell. 1983. Observations of the reproductive biology of Phytolacca americana (Phytolaccaceae). Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 110: 380-383. Caulkins, D. B. and R. Wyatt. 1990. Variation and taxonomy of Phytolacca americana and P. rigida in the southeastern United States. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 117: 357-367. Davis, J. I. 1985. Introgression in Central American Phytolacca (Phytolaccaceae). Amer. J. Bot. 72: 1944-1953. Hardin, J. W. 1964b. A comparison of Phytolacca americana and P. rigida. Castanea 29: 155-164. Sauer, J. D. 1950. Pokeweed, an old American herb. Missouri Bot. Gard. Bull. 38: 82-88. Sauer, J. D. 1951. Studies of variation in the weed genus Phytolacca. II. Latitudinally adapted variants within a North American species. Evolution 5: 273-279. Sauer, J. D. 1952. A geography of pokeweed. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 39: 113-125.

 

 

 

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Pedicels

 

well as depressing the visual & auditory senses. Known topical applications of this herb have included its use as a poultice for boils, fungal infections, skin & breast cancer, and as a compress for mastitis. A poultice of the berries has been used on boils, ringworm, scabies and wounds, and as a salve for bedsores, carbuncles, chickenpox, eczema, fungal infection, hemorrhoids, herpes, measles, psoriasis, and shingles.

I. GOKTEPE, B. Milford, and M. Ahmedna. Food Science & Nutrition Program, North Carolina A&T State Univ., Dept. of Human Environment & Family Sciences, 161 Carver Hall, Greensboro, NC 27411

Poke root (Phytolacca americana) is an American perennial shrub which grows in damp woodlands, hedges, and waste places, especially in the South. The primary chemical constituents of poke root include triterpenoid saponins, alkaloids, phytolaccic acid, formic acid, lectins, tannin, antiviral protein (PAP), fatty oil, resin, and sugars. Although poke root has been broadly used as an alterative to restore the proper function of the body, and increase health and vitality by American Indians, there is very limited information on its properties against cancer.

 

Therefore, this study was carried out to ascertain anticarcinogenic effects of poke root on breast cancer cells. Poke roots were freeze-dried and powdered. The powdered materials were extracted three times with methanol/water mixture and/or water. The extracts were administered at concentrations of 0 to 1 mg/mL into human breast (ATCC ZR-75-30) cell cultures maintained in RPMI medium supplemented with 10% FBS and cultured in the presence of a serial dilution of crude extracts for 24, 48, and 72 h.

 

The antiproliferative activity of crude extracts from poke root on cancer cells was measured using MTT assay. Methanol/water extracts of poke root significantly reduced breast cancer cells’ proliferation and growth at concentration of 0.6 mg/mL and above. The water extract of poke root showed less inhibitory effect on breast cancer cell growth. There is a need for detailed investigation of the mechanism of modulation of poke root extracts and based on that, a possible therapeutic agent can be visualized.

 

Several toxins have been identified in species of Phytolacca, usually concentrated in the roots, berries and seeds. These poisons include an alkaloid [phytolaccine], a resin [phytolaccatoxin], and a saponin [phytolaccigenin]. According to W.H. Lewis and M.P.F. Elvin-Lewis [Medical Botany, 1977], the most serious health hazard from Phytolacca comes from a very toxic plantprotein called a lectin. Lectins can cause red blood cells to clump together [agglutinate] and may stimulate abnormal cell division in quiescent B and T-lymphocytes. Lectins are the primary toxic principle in the world’s deadliest seeds, including the castor bean [Ricinus communis] and prayer bead =
[Abrus precatorius]. The agglutination property of lectins serves a useful purpose in legumes, by binding and localizing essential nitrogen-fixing bacteria within the swollen nodules of roots.=20

 

Properties: Pokeweed is edible [cooked] and medicinal. It has a long history of use by Native Americans and in alternative medicine. The young shoots are boiled in two changes of water and taste similar to asparagus, berries are cooked and the resulting liquid used to color canned fruits and vegetables. The root is alterative, anodyne, antiinflammatory, cathartic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic and purgative. It is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis and diseases related to a compromised immune system it has potential as an anti-AIDS drug. Some of the chemical constituents in the plant are triterpenoid saponins, lectins, antiviral proteins and many phytolaccagenic acids, which are not completely understood. New research has revealed that a possible CURE for Childhood Leukemia called [B43-PAP] is found in the common Pokeweed. Anti-B43-pokeweed antiviral protein, B43-PAP, PAP is a pokeweed toxin. The B43 carries the weapon–the PAP–to the leukemia cells. It has been touted as a smart =
weapon. In one study 15 out of 18 children who had participated had attained remission. The following is part of a repot from Parker Hughes Institute:=
The two parts of this drug are the B43 antibody [or anti-CD19] and the pokeweed antiviral protein [PAP] immunotoxin, a natural product in the pokeweed plant. B43 is designed to recognize specific B-cell leukemia cells just as natural antibodies attack and recognize germs. When the antibody finds a leukemia cell, it attaches and B43 delivers the other part of the drug, PAP. Inside the cell, PAP is released by the antibody and inactivates the ribosomes that make the proteins the cell needs to survive. With the cell unable to produce proteins, the specific leukemia cell is killed. More than 100 patients have been treated with B43-PAP and shown only minimal side effects.=20
Caution is advised as the whole plant, but especially the berries, is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
A beautiful red ink and a dye are obtained from the fruit. The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute.

Folklore: Some Native American tribes used Pokeweed as a Witchcraft Medicine, believing that it’s ability to totally purge the body by causing drastic diarrhea and vomiting would also expel bad spirits. Fruit was made into a red dye used in painting horses and various articles of adornment. http://www.altnature.com/gallery/pokeweed.htm

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Properties: Pokeweed is edible [cooked] and medicinal. It has a long history of use by Native Americans and in alternative medicine. The young shoots are boiled in two changes of water and taste similar to asparagus, berries are cooked and the resulting liquid used to color canned fruits and vegetables. The root is alterative, anodyne, antiinflammatory, cathartic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic and purgative. It is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis and diseases related to a compromised immune system it has potential as an anti-AIDS drug. Some of the chemical constituents in the plant are triterpenoid saponins, lectins, antiviral proteins and many phytolaccagenic acids, which are not completely understood. New research has revealed that a possible CURE for Childhood Leukemia called [B43-PAP] is found in the common Pokeweed. Anti-B43-pokeweed antiviral protein, B43-PAP, PAP is a pokeweed toxin. The B43 carries the weapon–the PAP–to the leukemia cells. It has been touted as a smart weapon. In one study 15 out of 18 children who had participated had attained remission. The following is part of a repot from Parker Hughes Institute:=
The two parts of this drug are the B43 antibody [or anti-CD19] and the pokeweed antiviral protein [PAP] immunotoxin, a natural product in the pokeweed plant. B43 is designed to recognize specific B-cell leukemia cells just as natural antibodies attack and recognize germs. When the antibody finds a leukemia cell, it attaches and B43 delivers the other part of the drug, PAP. Inside the cell, PAP is released by the antibody and inactivates the ribosomes that make the proteins the cell needs to survive. With the cell unable to produce proteins, the specific leukemia cell is killed. More than 100 patients have been treated with B43-PAP and shown only minimal side effects.=20
Caution is advised as the whole plant, but especially the berries, is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
A beautiful red ink and a dye are obtained from the fruit. The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute.

Folklore: Some Native American tribes used Pokeweed as a Witchcraft Medicine, believing that it’s ability to totally purge the body by causing drastic diarrhea and vomiting would also expel bad spirits. Fruit was made into a red dye used in painting horses and various articles of adornment. http://www.altnature.com/gallery/pokeweed.htm

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HOW TO GROW FROM SEED

CULTURE
Pokeweed is most easily grown in a temperate climate such as that of eastern North America. The top dies down in winter. The young, asparagus-like shoots are formed in spring and can be grown from lifted roots dug in the winter. Pokeweed blooms in the warm weather from July to September.20There is little cultivation of pokeweed in the United States. It grows wild rather extensively and some is gathered from the wild. The young tender shoots are the part consumed and are used as a potherb. The roots and berries are poisonous and are used in the preparation of medicines. The older leaves may also be eaten as greens if boiled. The bitterness is removed by boiling and pouring off the cooking water.=20

Pokeweed grows in rich pastures, waste places, gardens, open places in woodlands, and along fence rows. It grows on deep, rich, gravelly soils, limestone, and sandy hammock soils in Florida. It is a perennial herb, reproducing by seeds or from a very large poisonous taproot.=20

The root when transplanted and forced in rich garden soil, will yield a plentiful supply of blanched shoots.=20

Pokeweed may also be grown from seeds in the following way. Gather about a pint of the purple berries, crush them, cover with water, and let ferment for a few days. The good seeds will settle to the bottom and the pulp and skins can be floated off and discarded. The seeds are then spread out to dry and then stored in a cool place. When time to plant, the seeds can be soaked in concentrated sulfuric acid to break dormancy and speed germination. =
After 5 minutes the solution is poured off and seeds are washed thoroughly in running water. The seeds are again dried and are then ready for planting.

The seeds should be sown early in the spring in rows 4 feet apart. The seeds should be barely covered. The seedlings are thinned to about 3 feet apart in the row.=20

 

 

Phytolacca decandra (L)

Synonyms: Phytolacca americana (L.), coakum, pigeonberry, poke, red plant, pocan, pokeweed, inkberry, red weed, scoke, American nightshade, garget, bear’s grape, crowberry, red-ink plant, jalap, cancer root, chongras, herbe de la laque

Order: Phytolaccaceae

Description: Phytolacca is a perennial which can reach a height of 4m, though more usually 1.5-2m. It has vigorous green or purple stems which bear alternate simple leaves and numerous small white or pale green flowers in drooping racemes that give way to clusters of red-staining purple berries. The large fleshy root is externally banded with bars of cork and is pale yellow-brown in colour, internally paler, and with zones of fibrous elements making it hard to break. It grows in damp soils and shady places in eastern North America and is naturalised in southern Europe.

Parts used: the root

Collection: The root should is unearthed in late autumn or spring. 

Constituents: triterpenoid saponins (phytolaccasides), alkaloid (phytolaccine), resins, phytolaccic acid, tannin, formic acid, sugars, proteins

Actions: antirheumatic, mild anodyne, cathartic, stimulant, anticatarrhal, purgative and emetic in large doses, parasiticide, fungicide, anti-inflammatory, possibly stimulates leucocyte and lymphatic activity

Indications: chronic rheumatism, chronic respiratory catarrh, tonsillitis, laryngitis, adenitis, mastitis, mumps. Externally as an ointment for scabies, tinea, acne; as a poultice for mastitis and mammary abscess

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Phytolacca a remedy used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions of the upper respiratory tract and lymphatic adenitis, removing catarrh and aiding the cleansing of the lymphatic glands. It may be used for catarrh, tonsillitis, laryngitis, swollen glands, mastitis, mumps, etc. It is of value in lymphatic problems elsewhere in the body, particularly mastitis, where it can be used internally and as a poultice. It also has a use in rheumatism, particularly where it is long-standing. Externally, as a lotion or ointment, it may be used to rid the skin of scabies and other pests, tinea, and acne, and it may be applied in a poultice to soothe ulcers, haemorrhoids and inflamed joints. The proteins have been shown to inhibit the replication of the influenza and HSV-1 viruses and poliovirus.

Combinations: For lymphatic problems, Phytolacca may be combined with Iris or Galium; with Guaiacum and Zanthoxylum in rheumatic conditions; or with Commiphora resin and Echinacea in tonsillitis.

Caution: The fresh plant is poisonous, and in large doses the dried root is an irritant and emetic and cathartic; there are also concerns for its wider safety. It should be used only as prescribed by a qualified practitioner, and the recommended dosages should never be exceeded. The seeds in the berries are poisonous and have caused fatalities in children. It may cause foetal abnormalities, so should not be used during pregnancy.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory Status: GSL Schedule 3

Dried root: 0.06-0.3g or by decoction

Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 45% alcohol, 0.1-0.5ml

Tincture: 1:10 in 45% alcohol, 0.2-0.6ml

Additional Comments: Called Pocon by the Native Americans, poke root was used as an emetic and externally for skin diseases. The Delaware people took it as a heart stimulant and in Virginia it was regarded as a strong purgative. The early American settlers used it to treat venereal disease. Even today Appalachian backwoodsmen chew the seeds and berries for arthritis – all the more remarkable because the fresh plant is extremely toxic. It arrived in Europe in the 19th century.

 

Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society and American Society of Pharmacognosy

Acinospesigenin-A, -B, and -C: Three New Triterpenoids from Phytolacca acinosa

Summon Koul, T. K. Razdan,* and C. S. Andotra

Department of Chemistry, University of Jammu, Ambedkar Road, Jammu-180006, India

Received February 12, 2003

Abstract:

Three new triterpenoids, designated as acinospesigenin-A (1), -B (2), and -C (3), isolated from the berries of Phytolacca acinosa, have been characterized as 3-acetoxy-11,23-dihydroxytaraxer-14-en-28-oic acid, olean-12-en-23-al-2,3-dihydroxy-30-methoxycarbonyl-28-oic acid and olean-12-en-23-al-2,3,11-trihydroxy-30-methoxycarbonyl-28-oic acid, respectively. The compounds have shown antiedemic activity (LD50 10-15 mg/kg mass) in albino rats.