IS AMERICAN POKEWEED EDIBLE? IS IT GOOD TO USE?

IS AMERICAN POKEWEED EDIBLE? IS IT GOOD TO USE?

American pokeweed is more popular outside the US now for its benefits. Is American pokeweed edible? This plant is a medicine for many ailments but contains some poisons for humans and animals. Therefore, users must understand the properties of this plant and the safety rules to use it. Learn everything about this plant here. 

AMERICAN POKEWEED

IS AMERICAN POKEWEED EDIBLE? IS IT GOOD TO USE?

I. What is American pokeweed?
1.1. Appearance
1.2. Characteristics
1.3. Flavor
II. Is American pokeweed edible?
2.1. Should you digest pokeweed?
2.2. How to process pokeweed?
III. Is pokeweed good for anything?
IV. How to use American pokeweed safely?
4.1. What are the side effects of pokeweed?
4.2. Safety rules for digestion & application
4.3. Is American pokeweed poisonous to touch?
V. Conclusion

I. What is American pokeweed?

Pokeweed, known as Phytolacca americana, poke sallet, inkberry, and dragon berries, is a tall herbaceous perennial plant native to North America. Here are significant characteristics of this plant. 

1.1. Appearance 

Pokeweed can grow from seeds to 4 -10 feet tall. Mature pokeweeds look like young trees and shrubs. They produce clusters of dark-purple berries with small seeds. You can grow it from American pokeweed seeds.

pokeweed tree

This plant has a big white taproot and large leaves on green, red, or purplish stems. It produces flowers ranging from green to white colors. Then, ripe poke berries develop from red to purple and almost black. They have the same color as ripe elderberries, but poke berries are bigger when comparing poke berries vs elderberries.

1.2. Characteristics

Poke berries, leaves, and shoots look attractive with red-purple colors. But they are toxic to humans and many animals. Therefore, you should separate your pets and domestic animals from pokeweed fields. 

IS AMERICAN POKEWEED EDIBLE? IS IT GOOD TO USE?

Raw Phytolacca americana can be dangerous and deadly in digestion. Moreover, American pokeweed is safer when harvested in the spring as it’s still young. 

1.3. Flavor

Unprocessed Phytolacca americana tastes bitter and tingling. If the cooked vegetable still has a tingling taste, it is unsafe to use. You have to boil it again until it is not tingling anymore. Well-cooked vegetable has a lovely flavor, similar to baby spinach. It has a unique indescribable creamy taste. You cannot taste the creaminess of other vegetables. 

Flavor of pokeweed

II. Is American pokeweed edible?

Pokeweed has both nutrients and poisons. Therefore, users must be careful when using this plant for healthcare purposes. Check out if you can digest pokeweed or not. 

2.1. Should you digest pokeweed?

Raw pokeweed is inedible due to the high concentration of poisons. Therefore, you must avoid eating them raw. Cook it thoroughly and carefully to remove toxic substances in the vegetable. People can use some parts of the pokeweed plant for food or medicine, including:

  • young leaves
  • shoots
  • berries 

How to process pokeweed

Only consume well-cooked American pokeweed. However, some toxic substances may persist in the vegetable despite cooking. You had better change the water at least two to three times when boiling its shoots and leaves until you remove all tingles and poisons.

2.2. How to process pokeweed?

When you choose to work with the plant for some reason, take appropriate safety measures to protect yourself from potential toxicity. Here are some general instructions for processing pokeweed:

  1. Wear gloves and protective clothing when handling pokeweed to avoid skin irritation. Cover skin areas that can come into contact with the plant. 
  2. Harvest the plant in the spring or early summer when the young leaves and shoots are still tender. The plant will develop a purple coloration when it is too old.
  3. Cut off the stems and leaves from the rest of the plant and discard any tough and woody stems or discolored and damaged parts.
  4. Wash the leaves and shoots thoroughly in cold water to remove dirt, insects, or other debris.
  5. Blanch the leaves and shoots in boiling water for 10 - 15 minutes to reduce their bitterness and remove any remaining toxins. 
  6. Rinse the leaves and shoots in cold water.
  7. Change the water and repeatedly boil the vegetable at least twice for safety. 
  8. Dispose of any leftover plant material safely, as it can be toxic to humans and animals.

Should you digest American pokeweed

It is best to avoid using or handling American pokeweed altogether, especially without processing.

III. Is pokeweed good for anything?

Humans have been using Phytolacca americana for medicinal purposes. Here are some potential uses of this plant:

  • Relieve pain: It helps reduce rheumatism and arthritis pains, and menstruation pain (1). 
  • Boost the immune system: It can help treat many infections, such as laryngitis, tonsillitis, and cancers (2). 
  • Has antiviral properties: American pokeweed extracts have antiviral activity against some viruses, including herpes simplex virus, AIDS, skin infections, acne, swellings, mumps, and scabies (3). 
  • Has laxative effect: Humans have used certain pokeweed products as a laxative to promote bowel movements and relieve constipation.

reduce rheumatism pains

You must consult with a doctor or healthcare expert before using pokeweed for any purpose. Only use this plant after you get advice and safety rules before using it.

IV. How to use American pokeweed safely?

Some people have reported adverse effects due to the improper use of Phytolacca americana. When your skin, organs, and body come into contact with toxicants in the plant, it will cause the following side effects

4.1. What are the side effects of pokeweed?

Consuming unprocessed Phytolacca americana can cause serious health problems, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain 
  • Cramping 
  • Diarrhea  
  • Low blood pressure
  • Incontinence (means difficulty in controlling urination)
  • Thirst 
  • Moreover, ingesting this plant in large quantities can be fatal.

Stomach Pain

To avoid these adverse effects, you must use them correctly by following the safety rules below.

4.2. Safety rules for digestion & application

You should follow the safety rules when consuming American pokeweed by mouth or applying it to the skin. It helps you avoid unexpected reactions in your body. 

  • Grill or boil the stems and leaves to remove poisons.
  • Do not apply it to your skin because it can irritate.
  • Consuming tea brewed from its leaves and roots, poke berry wine, and pancakes is poisonous. 
  • It is unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.
  • Consuming it by mouth can cause adverse effects, such as vomiting, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, low blood pressure, incontinence, thirst, and even death.
  • Use less than 60 to 100 mg of dried pokeweed root daily to avoid bad reactions. Do not eat more than ten poke berries.
do not taste it

Process it properly and consult professional healthcare experts before using it. Stop consuming the well-processed vegetable when experiencing allergic reactions and see doctors for timely diagnosis and treatment. 

4.3. Is American pokeweed poisonous to touch?

Yes, pokeweed can be poisonous to touch. The plant contains toxins that can cause skin irritation, rash, and blistering upon contact. It is best to avoid touching or handling the plant without gloves or protective clothing, especially when the skin is broken or scratched. Wash your hands and tools after coming to contact with the plant. Don’t try to collect American pokeweed seeds with bare hands.

pokeweed-poisonous-to-touch-with-bare-hands

V. Conclusion

The article has solved the question ‘Is American pokeweed edible? style="font-weight: 400;">’ and shown you how to use it safely. Avoid consuming raw pokeweed or applying it to the skin. Boil it several times until the tingling taste disappears. Follow safety rules when using it. You can buy American pokeweed seeds from The Rike to grow this plant. 


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