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!

Useful Benefits of Poke Root

Poke salve and oil have traditionally be used for lymphatic support when applied externally or on lymph glands, lumps, bumps, a range of inflamed or irritated skin tissues, and a variety of skin anomalies.

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 beneficial and the least toxic.

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

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


Deborah said:

I’ve been reading this and found good comments on poke wood we are going to try it out

Christie Harrmann said:

I have purchased poke Tincture I thought was the oil to put on my body. Would it be possible that I turn this tincture into some salve? Could I add some to oil or bees wax?
It was pricey so I don’t want it to go to waste
Thank you so much for your time and help

Brittany said:

To DJFreeman: the seeds of the poke berry are toxic if crushed, so please don’t juice! They pass, unharmed, through our bodies, so whole berries are best. However, I make tincture just by infusion, and sometimes smash the berries in a glass (gently, so I don’t crush the seeds) and fill it with water. They are so full of antioxidants and wonderful for lymph & arthritic conditions.

Sheikh Gulzar said:

Intensive Breast Care Oil contains poke root, a traditional herb historically used for breast abscesses, cysts, lumps, tumors and mastitis. We’ve added essential oil of grapefruit for its refreshing and uplifting qualities.

Suzi said:

I’m so happy I found your website and directions! I have let my poke-root sit in a glass jar for 6 weeks now! I don’t have beeswax (yet). I made this for my dog who had a large cancer cyst removed and has several swollen glands and new lumps forming. A friend who makes natural remedies told me she cured her breast cancer using pokeroot salve (along with other natural remedies). Can I just drop the infused oil on her lumps and rub it in instead of making a “paste?” It sure seems easier.
Also, how do we store it? In the refrigerator?
Thank you!

James Conn said:

Poke root is the only thing I’ve ever found to stop hotspots on my heeler’s difference is I prepare ft feed them a little of it. I boil it long enough to loosen all the bark then cut up the meat in bite size slice’s and boil it semi tender.
remove 95%water. Add a cup of bacon grease and simmer for a half hour feed a double hands full to each heeler size dog. Adjust for weight. The hotspots leave behind my happy dog and the dogs person. Great thing is it lasts 2-4 years. No medicine costs and you get to eat the bacon. I hate giving up my seasoning grease but I can handle it. I was at my witts end I’ve kept heeler’s for 30+years.the first 18 were miserable for the dogs and me.

cherry said:

I have dry eyes, that water all the time, used the poke root salve on eyelids, the watering has been greatly diminished. Not sure it was meant for eyelids, but it seemed to work? Does anyone have a comment?

Heather Wood Buzzard said:

Hi DJ Freeman,

The poke berry juice is not the same as consuming the whole berry, which is what is done in folk tradition. I would not substitute the two.

Heather Wood Buzzard said:

Poke oil should not have a particularly strong smell. It’s possible that the oil you may have used was rancid or off. I would recommend getting ahold of some of our poke oil and smelling it.

Cathy said:

I recently discovered I have a bunch of the American poke on my property. I will harvest the whole plant and use it. Coz you never know who might need it, especially in these last days before the Lord returns…..that you for your website.

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 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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