POKE WEED-POKE ROOT.
(Phytolacca-0vrov, phuton, plant; lac, lake or pigment, so- called in allusion to the high color of the juice of the berries; Decandra, having ten stamens; Poke, from pocan, the American Indian name for the plant.)
Phytolacca is indigenous to this country and its use has been handed down from the Indians, who employed the root as an emetic as well as a cathartic and the berries for rheumatism, especially syphilitic and gonorrhoeal. Phytolacca is still officinal in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
While the gross effects had long been known, probably the first recorded results for our use are to be found in the second volume of the American Institute Transactions. Hale had much to do in making this remedy known to us and many a suggestion I take his book, Special Therapeutics of the New Remedies.
Phytolacca is a r. sided remedy (163), with pains worse at night and from damp weather (9). The pains, especially those from rheumatism, are shifting (149).
The headaches of Phytolacca are neuralgic, rheumatic or syphilitic (98), with dull frontal pain or pressure and a sensation of soreness in the brain (91) or as if the brain were bruised, and aggravated by walking (96) or jar, as from stepping down from a high step. There is aggravation during wet or stormy weather (98) and perhaps on the r. side. (All references that we make concerning the use of Phytolacca in syphilis can be taken subject to such revision as you future study of the remedy warrants. While of value in certain conditions, it would seem as though too much credit were given to it.)
In the eyes Phytolacca is to be thought of in rheumatic ophthalmia and in blepharitis, with styes and tumors, the especial indications for its use being the thickening and induration of the lids and the dark redness or purple color.
In the ears it is of value in neuralgic earache (63), especially of the r. side, with shooting pains from the throat to the ears when swallowing (65).
There is ulceration of the inside the cheek and of the margins of the tongue 9192), with increased, thick and tenacious secretions in the mouth.
Phytolacca is of great value in the throat and you will probably find more frequent indications for its use here than in any other portion of the body. In chronic enlargement of the tonsils (192) it is often called for, especially when they are hard and dark red or bluish in color. In sore throat in general, with or without ulceration, the general indications for this remedy are, the rawness or roughness internally and the stiffness of the muscles externally (174), associated with severe aching in head, neck and back. The tonsils and pharynx are congested and of dark or purple color (191) and the r. side is especially apt to be affected.
It is of value in follicular tonsillitis (192), more particularly in the beginning. It is an especially good remedy for people subject to recurrent attacks of follicular tonsillitis to have with them so that they can take it on the first intimation of trouble, and patients have frequently bragged to me as to the time that has elapsed since they have been laid up with tonsillitis and have commented, on my lack of business instinct when I gave them the medicine.
It is useful in diphtheria, beginning with very severe pains all over the body, an aching apparently in the bones, fever chilliness and great weakness, and associated with scanty, dark red and albuminous urine. The pain in the throat is referred chiefly to the root of the tongue and to the tonsils, extending to the ears on swallowing (184). The pseudo-membrane is grayish or pearly-white and the peculiar fetor of the breath is much lessened when Phytolacca is indicated. We may have, in addition to the backache, a decided aching in the knees, and often find that hot drinks aggravate the pains in the throat. These cases of diphtheria usually have a catarrhal or rheumatic origin and are precipitated by exposure to a cold, damp atmosphere or from sleeping in a damp, ill-ventilated room.
Phytolacca is useful in catarrhal laryngitis, worse at night and in cold, damp weather, especially when associated with enlarged tonsils.
It may prove useful in the constipation of old people or those with a weak heart, with torpor of the rectum and neuralgic pains shooting from the anus along the perineum into the penis.
In the kidneys it is of value in croupous nephritis (124), especially after diphtheria or scarlet fever, the urine scanty (200), and dark red or even mahogany colored. In chronic interstitial nephritis (124) it has proved useful even with uraemic convulsions (36).
Phytolacca is one of our most valuable remedies for inflammation of the mammary glands 922), especially after the acute symptoms have subsided; there are violent pains whenever the milk flows into the breast, especially when nursing (146), pains which start from the nipple and radiate over the whole body, particularly up and down the spine. It is also of value for sore and cracked nipples (23), with great pain whenever the child attempts to nurse, and for tender and inflamed breasts during pregnancy.
It is frequently called for in tumors of the breast (23), with enlargement of the axillary glands; the breast has a purplish (23), streaked appearance and the pains radiate over the whole body.
In the heart it is to be thought of in chronic endocarditis, when the pain in the heart shoots into the arm, especially into the r. arm (110), as well as in fatty degeneration of the heart (109), with weak, soft, intermittent (110).
Phytolacca is of value in “affections of the fibrous tissues, fibrous coverings of muscles and sheaths of nerves, generally rheumatic or syphilitic in their nature” (Hale). It is useful in subacute rheumatism, the pains affecting in particular the long bones or the tendinous attachment of muscles. The pains, which sometimes seem to be in the periosteum, are burning, shooting and shifting (149), always worse at night and in damp weather (9). It is to be thought of for rheumatism of the heels, with soreness (71), the especial indication being that the pains are only relieved by keeping the heels higher than the head. (If Dickens had known of this symptom he would have thought that most of the Americans he wrote about needed a dose of this remedy.) In syphilitic and gonorrhoeal rheumatism (161) it is of value, the joints swollen and red, the glands swollen, and with aggravation in damp weather.
We find in Phytolacca a tendency to boils (22) and carbuncles, and it is useful in rheumatic or debilitated subjects, with swelling of the glands, soreness and burning pains, all aggravated at night. It is also useful for chronic ulcers, the ulcers looking as if punched out, and surrounded by small boils.
Perhaps we should speak here of the use of Phytolacca berries. (The remedy that we have been considering is made from the root of the plant.)
Dr. Hale found that birds which fed on the berries lost all their adipose tissue, and reasoning from that, it has been recommended for obesity. According to the literature sent out by the different Pharmacies, it is a specific as a fat reducer; the weight may remain the same but the girth will be lessened.
The physicians that I have met who have taken it do not report nor show any especial change. It seems to be harmless; prescribe it if you wish and note the results.
I use Phytolacca in the tincture.