Herb: Indian Poke
Latin name: Phytolacca acinosa
Family: Phytolaccaceae (Pokeweed Family)
Medicinal use of Indian Poke:The root is antiasthmatic, antibacterial, antidote, antifungal, antitussive, diuretic, expectorant, laxative and vermifuge. The plant has an interesting chemistry and it is currently (1995) being investigated as a potential anti-AIDS drug. It contains potent anti-inflammatory agents, antiviral proteins and substances that affect cell division. These compounds are toxic to many disease-causing organisms, including the water snails that cause schistosomiasis. The root is used internally in the treatment of urinary disorders, nephritis, oedema and abdominal distension. Externally, it is used to treat boils, carbuncles and sores. The roots are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. All parts of the plant are toxic, this remedy should be used with caution and preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Valleys, hillsides, forest understories, forest margins and roadsides at elevations of 500 - 3400 metres. It is also found in cultivated land houses, moist fertile lands and as a weed.
Edible parts of Indian Poke:Leaves - they must be cooked, and are then used as a spinach. Only the young leaves should be used since the leaves become toxic with age. The young shoots are used as an asparagus substitute. They have an excellent flavour. Root - cooked. Must be leeched first. Only the white root of the white flowered form (if it exists!) should be eaten. See notes above.
Other uses of the herb:A red ink is obtained from the fruit.
Propagation of Indian Poke:Seed - sow autumn or spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it might be worthwhile trying an outdoor sowing in a seed bed in early spring. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for their first year and plant them out the following spring. Division in March or October. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, making sure that each section has at least one growth bud. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.
Cultivation of the herb:Valleys, hillsides, forest understories, forest margins and roadsides at elevations of 500 - 3400 metres. It is also found in cultivated land houses, moist fertile lands and as a weed.
Known hazards of Phytolacca acinosa:The leaves are poisonous. They are said to be safe to eat when young, the toxins developing as they grow older. According to another report it is only a form with reddish purple flowers and a purple root that is poisonous.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.