We Need Your Feedback
We want you to tell us what you would like to see on our posts; more recipes, more information about the same herbs and spices, or do you want to know about different ones?If so,which? Please leave answers to these questions in the comments boxes.We have made it easier for you to do this (today). If you have any other advice or a recipe that you would like us to include, tell us (recipes will be attributed to you).
Friday, February 10, 2012
POKEWEED, "GOURMET" FOOD: HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF POKEWEED
Pokeweed is a member of the Phytolaccaceae family, also called by a number of other names such as Poke root and American nightshade. Like Belladonna it is poisonous and if handling it, especially if you have scratches on your hands, wear gloves. It is native to North and
Central America but has naturalized in parts of where it is a garden escapee. It is a relative of the Guinea hen weed. Britain
It can grow to heights of six feet (around 2 metres) and may have a spread of around 5 feet. It flowers in August and September, and these are followed by fruit, which looks tasty but is poisonous to children and animals. Only birds seem immune to it and scatter the seeds through their droppings.
The leaves are rich in vitamins A and C and some of the B-complex ones, including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3). They also contain the minerals calcium, phosphorous and iron.
The Native Americans used the extremely poisonous roots externally in poultices for sprains and swellings, and in preparations for skin troubles and rheumatism. These are violently emetic and purgative and may be fatal, causing paralysis of the respiratory organs. However were also employed by Native Americans as cancer and syphilis remedies and as a heart stimulant in the same way as digitalis from the foxglove is used.
Clinical studies have discovered a protein called pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) which has had anti-tumour effects on mice and this has also shown some activity against the HIV virus. However as yet there are no indications that this is effective in humans. The plant’s extracts have proved to be effective against water snails which carry bacteria and studies into this activity are ongoing as are the other studies mentioned.
The poisonous substances are saponins-like and the roots can be chopped and boiled to produce a soap substitute, as can other plants such as soapwort and reetha (soap nut). This plant should not be used for home remedies but may be safe in homeopathic remedies for muscular tissues, throat, breast and painful joint.