Thursday, April 23, 2009


The use of pokeweed dates back to pioneer times and was used as a folk remedy for various ailments- acne, tonsillitis, weight loss, and rheumatism. It was also popular among Native American Indians who used it to treat inflammation, rashes, as a laxative and to induce vomiting. Pokeweed goes by many names- ink berry, pigeon-berry, bears’ grape, crowberry, garget, nightshade, and red-ink plant.

People have consumed the leaves, which according to recipes call for them to be boiled at least three times and drained to rid them of toxins. (Ever heard the song “Polk Salad Annie”?)

Some sites claim that the berries are also ok to eat if cooked, but I remain skeptical. It seems most information I’ve come across say not to consume any part of this plant due to those toxins contained in the roots, leaves, stems, and berries- specifically phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin which are toxic to mammals including humans.

Birds though are immune to the toxins and gorge themselves on the berries making them the main dispersers of the plant’s seeds.

Some other interesting facts about pokeweed:

~ The ink used to write the Declaration of Independence and letters home written during the Civil War was made from the fermented juice of pokeweed.

~ Native American Indians used its juices as a dye to decorate horses, dye cloth, and as a face paint.

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