Vintage Botanical Illustration Poke Root (Phytolacca americana)

by Corinna Wood

Growing up in the Northeast, I loved playing with the purple pokeberries, painting designs on my skin. My parents allowed this, though they made it clear that I shouldn’t eat the berries of this “poisonous, invasive weed.” The huge poke plants were such a bane in their garden that they would actually tie a rope around the roots and use a Jeep to pull them out!

Medicinal Benefits of Poke Root

Poke salve and oil have traditionally be used for lymphatic support when applied externally or on lymph glands, lumps, bumps, growths and tumors.

Poke root is best dug up in the fall, after the plant has died back for the winter. This is when the plant is the most medicinal and the least toxic.

Once you’ve dug up the root (and parked the Jeep), the next step is drawing out those medicinal properties. . .

How to Make Poke Root Oil and Salve

Making poke oil:

1) Wash the root

2) Chop it into small pieces (Important: wear gloves to protect  skin from absorbing the medicine.)

3) Leave it out to air dry in a warm place for a few hours, until it is dry to the touch.

3) Fill a jar with the chunks of root, and add oil to cover the roots. (Note: Any oil works. Olive oil resists rancidity.) 

4) Leave on your counter for six weeks, topping off the oil level as needed to cover the roots.

5) After six weeks, strain out the roots.

Making poke salve:

1) Grate a tablespoon of beeswax for each ounce of infused oil.

2) Warm the oil on low heat, add the grated beeswax, and stir until melted.

3) Pour liquid into jar and allow to cool and solidify.

(Note: if consistency is too hard, remelt and add more infused oil, if too soft, remelt and add more wax.)

 “[Poke] speaks to our blood…What a perfect maturity it arrives at! It is the emblem of a successful life…What if we were to mature as perfectly, root and branch…like the poke!” ~ Henry David Thoreau



Basho said:

I made a poke oil using olive oil and dried poke root. I put a jar in a paper bag and left it in the sun for two weeks. End product smelled a bit funny. Do you have any experience with what poke oil should smell like?

DJ Freeman

DJ Freeman said:

You have mentioned that one pokeberry equals one drop of poke root tincture.
I harvested a decent amount of poke berries on a friend’s property the other day and think they might be a little too squishy to dry or take whole. (I put them in a baggie and they got bumped around a bit. LOL)
Could I juice them and take drops of juice instead?


Kay said:

I wanted a guide for a ROOT oil infusion and thought it might differ from herbs. Today it’s Solomon Seal. This is great, thanks.

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