What is Shanglu?

Commercial land (Pokeweed) is a poisonous herb that has long been used as food and folk medicine in parts of eastern North America, the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast.

It is an ingredient used in traditional Appalachian cuisine and is made edible by repeatedly cooking the shoots of plants to remove toxic toxins. When cooked this way, it has a taste similar to asparagus.

Shanglu is also known as:

  • American nightshade
  • Cancer root
  • Inkberry
  • pigeon berries
  • stamp
  • Poke Salad (or Poke Salad)

In traditional Chinese medicine, pokeweed is called cBack to Xu on the road. Alternative practitioners sometimes refer to it as the “Jekyll and Hyde plant” because of its potential toxicity.

What is the use of Shanglu?

Historically, Native Americans have used pokeweed as a laxative (stimulates bowel clearance) and emetic (stimulates vomiting). Many traditional cultures believe that doing this “cleanses” the body.

Its use in folk medicine can be traced back to a book written in the late 19th century titled King’s American Pharmacy, Among them, pokeweed is said to treat skin diseases and joint pains.

Despite its toxicity, many alternative practitioners believe pokeweed can be effective in treating a variety of health conditions, including tonsillitis, laryngitis, acne, scabies, dysmenorrhea, mumps, and even skin cancer and AIDS.

Few of the health claims of pokeweed are backed by science. Although pokeweed is known to be poisonous — not only to humans but also mammals — herbalists consider it safe to use and less “toxic” than medicines used to treat many of the same ailments Not low.

However, there is currently very little literature exploring the medicinal properties of pokeweed.

Many of the claimed benefits are attributed to a compound called pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP), which proponents believe can not only improve skin conditions, but also prevent or treat viral infections ranging from herpes to HIV.


There are many homeopathic preparations for tonsillitis that contain traces of pokeweed, capsaicin, lignan, and other natural ingredients. They are thought to lubricate and maintain the mucous membranes of the throat while reducing pain, inflammation, and itching.

Despite the health claims, there are no reliable clinical trials to test the effectiveness of homeopathy for acute tonsillitis.

skin condition

Pokeweed is often used in folk medicine to treat skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema, and scrofula (neck tuberculosis).

This is a paradoxical association, as pokeweed can cause disease if it comes into contact with broken or frayed skin. Additionally, contact with roots, stems, or leaves can cause a spreading blister-like rash similar to poison ivy.

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Still, pokeweed is thought to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and may help relieve localized pain and swelling.

One of the few studies investigating this goes back to 1975, in which pokeweed is one of the substances that can suppress the inflammatory immune response when applied topically to the skin of sheep.

Whether this response can be safely (and consistently) presented in humans is debatable given the high risk of toxicity.

Cancer and HIV

One of the bolder claims made by proponents of pokeweed is that PAP may help prevent or treat certain cancers. In fact, some believe that the toxicity of pokeweed can inhibit the mechanisms that trigger the development of cancer cells.

PAP is known to inhibit molecules called ribosomes in all living cells. Some ribosomal mutations are loosely linked to certain cancers, including breast cancer, melanoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia.

A 2012 review of studies suggested that PAPs have the potential to convert into potent immunotoxins that stimulate immune cells to attack tumors or cells in the same way targeted therapy does.

The researchers cited a 1993 study that successfully treated leukemia in mice using the PAP immunotoxin and a chemotherapy drug called cyclophosphamide.

They also noted a 1993 study in which the PAP immunotoxin was designed to bind to immune cells called CD4 T cells, the primary target of HIV infection.

None of this suggests that consuming pokeweed will have nearly the same effect. (The doses needed to achieve this clearance are almost certain to be life-threatening.) The evidence does suggest a promising avenue for new drug design—however, it could take years to develop.

What is targeted therapy?

possible side effects

Pokeweed contains phytates, which are powerful irritants that can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms in humans and mammals. (Birds are largely unaffected, hence the nickname “pigeon berries.”)

Every part of the pokeweed plant is poisonous, including the roots, stems, leaves, and berries. Concentrations of phytolactones gradually increase as plants age (with the exception of berries, which are more toxic when green).

If consumed, pokeweed usually causes symptoms within two to six hours of ingestion, including:

  • abdominal cramps and cramps
  • burning sensation in the mouth, throat, and esophagus
  • diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • headache
  • irregular heartbeat
  • Vomit

The same can happen if any part of the plant comes into contact with broken skin, although it is less severe. Others may develop contact dermatitis after touching the plant with intact skin, causing inflammation and a painful, blistering rash.

Severe pokeweed poisoning can cause convulsions, bloody diarrhea (blood in the stool), and bloody vomiting (vomiting blood). Death usually occurs from respiratory paralysis.

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Call 911 or seek emergency care if you experience vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, or irregular heartbeat or breathing after eating or being exposed to pokeweed.

While some people consider homeopathic remedies containing pokeweed to be safe for human consumption, it’s important to remember that they have not been evaluated for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, they need to be used with caution, preferably under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

medicine interactions

We don’t know much about how pokeweed affects other medicines you may be taking. However, based on the body’s response to pokeweed, it’s safe to assume that interactions do exist — some of which may be potentially meaningful.

Pokeweed contains compounds known to cause red blood cells to agglutinate (clump together). Therefore, if you are taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as coumarin (warfarin), heparin, or Plavix (clopidogrel), you may want to avoid this.

Pokeweed may also cause a decrease in blood pressure, possibly triggering low blood pressure (hypotension) in people taking antihypertensive drugs such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and diuretics (water pills).

Always inform your healthcare provider of any supplements or herbs you may be taking to avoid potential serious drug interactions.

Dosage and Preparation

There are no guidelines for the safe use of pokeweed or pokeweed therapy in humans. In general, fresh pokeweed should be avoided.

Pokeweed is often sold as a tincture or extract for health purposes. Appalachian herbalists often make tinctures by preserving the roots or juices of berries in whiskey.

Modern homeopathy employs other extraction methods, including steam and solvent distillation, to obtain extracts. They are then infused into a carrier oil, lotion, or wax-based balm.

Many commercial tinctures and extracts are sold in dropper bottles and can be purchased online or through homeopathic specialty stores. Since most people won’t tell you how much pokeweed is in it, it’s best for you not to exceed the recommended dose on the product label.

Other manufacturers sell dried “wild” pokeweed or pokeweed powder. These are used by home herbalists to make tinctures and salves, but consumers should avoid them due to the high risk of toxicity. Commercially produced ointments and balms are also available.

Due to a lack of research, pokeweed medicines should not be used by children, pregnant women, or breastfeeding mothers.

What is pepper?

what to look for

Given that few people are tested by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or other independent certification bodies, ensuring that Pokeweed products are safe can be difficult.

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Additionally, as a dietary supplement, Pokeweed extract does not require the same rigorous testing as pharmaceuticals. Instead, they must follow certain guidelines and labeling practices outlined by the FDA.

This includes informing consumers that supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition.

Buy products that contain pokeweed concentrations on the product label without USP certification (usually, look for products with no more than 20%). Additionally, the goal is to obtain certified organic products according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards.


If you or a loved one develops symptoms of pokeweed poisoning, call 911 or the National Toll Free Poison Helpline (1-800-222-1222) and you will be contacted by a poison control center in your area.

Do not induce vomiting unless your healthcare provider or poison controller tells you to. Doing so may result in chemical inhalation (inhalation of vomit and poison into the lungs).

Treatment may involve gastric lavage (giving and removing small amounts of fluid to clear the stomach), activated charcoal, laxatives, and supportive care. Inpatient observation may be required. Mild to moderate cases tend to improve within one to two days.

Child Safety and First Aid

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there any health benefits of pokeweed?

    Pokeweed has many anecdotal benefits, but little science supports them. In traditional folk medicine, pokeweed can irritate the gut and cause vomiting. Homeopathic medicine uses pokeweed to treat tonsillitis. It is also used to treat psoriasis and eczema and suppress the inflammatory immune response.

    There are also rumors that pokeweed can prevent or treat cancer and boost immunity in people with HIV. However, there is little research to support any health benefits of pokeweed.

  • How do you treat a pokeweed rash?

    Pokeweed rash can usually be treated at home unless it is severe. Wash your skin as soon as possible and treat it like a poisoned oak. Avoid scratching and apply calamine lotion to help dry and heal injured skin.

    Non-steroidal pain relievers such as over-the-counter (OTC) 1% hydrocortisone cream and Advil (ibuprofen) can help reduce pain and inflammation. Avoid topical antihistamines and benzocaine numbing creams, which may cause allergic rashes on pokeweed rashes.

  • Can you eat pokeweed berries?

    No, Pokeweed berries are highly poisonous. If you or someone close to you has ingested pokeweed berries, call the National Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222.

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