This striking herb is rare in Europe, but a common weed in the US. It grows along fences and hedges - occasionally up to 9 feet high. The robust stems turn reddish purple with age and the purple black berries are conspicuously tempting - yet, there is a certain glow about this herb that signals a warning - I am a herb of power, treat me with respect! And it certainly is a powerful herb, as old herbals will attest. Modern herbals tend to be more cautious and often advise against the use of this herb - perhaps wisely so, as many people wrongly assume all herbal remedies to be safe and without side effects. This certainly is not the case with Poke root, which is very potent and potentially toxic.
Due to its powerful and potentially dangerous nature it is best to use this herb only under professional guidance. It is considered a potent immune system stimulant and lymphatic decongestant. Native Americans predominantly used this herb as an external remedy for various skin conditions, sores, ulcers and even cancer and other tumours. For internal use it is taken in miniscule doses to stimulate the immune system to fight infectious diseases (e.g. flu, strep throat etc.) and to clear congestion in the glands and lymphatic system. It has been noted to be useful in cases of mastitis and breast cancer. Do not use during pregnancy.
The berries yield a deep red juice which can be used as a magical ink. The root can be worn as an amulet for protection.
Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.