Monday, 4 May 2009

Pokeweed - A Toxic Herb

Pokeweed - A Toxic HerbI'd never heard of pokeweed before so looking up about this herb is new to me. It will certainly stick in my mind now that I know about its dangerous toxins and also the benefits it gives in medical remedies. Certain a gamble to the novice, perhaps it should be called pokerweed.

Pokeweed is also known as poke, poke bush, pokeberry, pokeroot, polk salad, polk sallet, inkberry and ombĂș. There is quite a selection of names to choose from depending on where you come from. They are perennial plants and originate from North America, South America, East Asia and New Zealand. Pokeweed are poisonous to mammals although the berries are eaten by birds who are not affected by the toxin as the seeds have a very hard outer shells and remain sealed throughout their digestive process.

Pokeweeds grows up to 10 ft. tall with single alternate leaves which are pointed at the end and has crinkled edges. The stems are usually pink or red with greenish-white flowers that come in long groups at the top of the stems. These flowers go on to develop into dark purple berries.

Boiling young pokeweed leaves three times will reduce the toxins producing a poke salad this is and is occasionally available in shops. There is an official campaign against eating pokeweed even after triple boiling, as some toxin may still remain. Poke salad has been a staple of southern USA diet even tough discouraged by the medical profession. There are poke salad festivals held annually in this region.

Pokeweed - A Toxic HerbPokeweed has been used as remedies to treat many ailments such as acne, tonsillitis/swollen glands and weight loss. Grated pokeroot was used as a poultice to treat inflammations and rashes of the breast. There is ongoing research are investigating the use in treating Aids and cancer patients. It can relieve the pain of arthritis add pokeberry juice to other juices for jelly.

Pokeweed berries can be made into a red ink or dye. This was used by Native American Indians to paint their horses. The United States Declaration of Independence was actually written in fermented pokeberry juice. Soaking fabrics in fermenting berries in hollowed-out pumpkins can make a brown dye.

Some pokeweeds make attractive ornamental plants and the impressive display of berries have been selected and cultivated to enhance the size.

To those who have not been properly trained in its use, pokeweed should be considered dangerous and possibly deadly. So beware of the dangers.
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