Pokeberry Wine for Arthritis

sam_mdNovember 26, 2004

Recently I heard about a 19th century home remedy to treat arthritis. An ancestor of mine from N.Carolina hills made wine from Pokeweed berries. This was from a time when people depended greatly on home remedies.

It appears that the juice from the berries can be fermented into wine, the poisonous seed however must be strained out.

Has anyone on this forum ever heard of using Pokeberry wine to treat arthritis, or anything else for that matter?


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It can make an interesting ornamental, if you don't mind the risk of it reseeding all over the place.

As for medicinal uses, it had a place in Native American medicine for treating "rheumatism". Unfortunately all parts of the plant are poisonous to one degree or another, including the flesh of the berries and anything made from them.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2004 at 4:50PM
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I have a friend that has taken this for 2 years who was unable to do much due to arthritis in her hip not only is she off of her meds ( that wasn't really helping anyway) but she is working on her feet 8-16 hours a day with no pain and no side effects. I have osteoarthritis of my back and crohns disease (which is treated with some arthritis meds among alot of other meds) I started taking this saturday night she made me a batch and gave me she is giving me the receipe also if you are interested. You take 2 tablespoons in the morning and 2 tablespoons at night. the is monday and i am already seeing a big diffrence. If you have anymore questions let me know.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 11:55PM
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arttulip(New Zealand)

I am interested in this recipe, please.
You can send it to sps_nz at yahoo.com

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 2:30AM
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arttulip(New Zealand)

In NZ people use


KARMOZIJNBES, Phytolacca Americana
Parts used: Root
Constituents: Triterpenoid saponins, Alkaloids, Resins, Formic acid, Tannins, Mitogens, Lectins, Proteins. Vitamins: A, C. Minerals: calcium, iron, phosphorus, and iodine

Actions Indications
Lymph stimulant

Anti-parasitic Tonsillitis, laryngitis, adenitis +Figwort, lymphatic congestion

Respiratory tract; swollen glands, esp. thyroid and spleen, hyperchlorhydria, postnasal drip
Eczema, ulcers, dry skin, mastitis, mumps
Increases cell division, stimulates lymphocyte proliferation Ovarian cysts +Thuja, Calendula.
Cancer of breast, throat, uterus. Breast lumps, tumors and cancer + Red clover
MAIN Thyroid herb
Herpes simplex HSV-1 and 2, polio, mumps, influenza

Topically: acne, mastitis, scabies, tinea, sycosis (as an ointment 4g/40g of base)
Can make tea and add drops of tincture

Tincture, 1-5mL per week
Energetics: Neutral, pungent, sweet
Meridians: liver, kidney, bladder
Contraindications: Planning conception - may lead to foetal abnormalities. Pregnancy, lactation, and malignancies. Stick to recommended dosage toxic, emetic in large doses

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 2:42AM
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arttulip(New Zealand)

Vinum Phytolaccae Compositum.Compound Wine of Poke.
Related entry: Phytolacca.Phytolacca - Wines
Other tomes

SYNONYM: Rheumatic liquid.

Preparation.Take of inspissated juice of poke berries, white turpentine, each, 4 ounces; sherry or native wine, 2 gallons. Macerate for 14 days, with occasional agitation, and filter (Beach's Amer. Prac.).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.This is an excellent preparation for chronic rheumatism, chronic gonorrhoea, syphilitic pains, etc. The dose is from 1/2 to 1 fluid ounce, 2 or 3 times a day.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 2:54AM
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    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 12:00PM
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Would you send me the recipe for pokeberry wine. My great aunt used to make and use it and said that it worked for arthritis.

Thank you,

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 1:05PM
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Anyone with a recipe for POKEBERRY WINE
PLEASE send it to Rpatrick@iname.com.

My meds don't work. I need to try something else.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 6:26PM
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arttulip(New Zealand)

What I have found today

1)For arthritis.
Put as many slivers of poke root as can be held between the middle finger and thumb of the left hand and cut on each side of the hand. Cut these pieces in half and put in a quart of whiskey and let stand for seven days. Take a tablespoon 3 times daily for 7 days. Rest a few days and repeat.

2)POKEBERRY WINE (said to be good for rheumatism)
Garhter fresh, ripe fruit only. Add water, boil and strain. To each quart of juice, add 2 cups sugar and spices for taste (if desired). cover, let ripen for 6 months. Strain and bottle.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 2:07AM
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arttulip(New Zealand)


    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 8:54PM
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I cant say poke is posion i`ve ate it all my life.even the big stalks.strip off the skin roll in meal and fry until slightly crisp. as far as the wine i make homemand wine havn`t made pokebery wine but my father made some pokeberry and eldeberry wine when i was young.depending on how much you are making and what you are using to fermrnt it in.if you dont have anything to use you can use a 1 gal pickle jar,it has to be sterelized.bring a large pot of water ta a boil boil for 10 min.let cool long enough to handle wash the jar with a little bleech and water rince well with the boiled water.(there are other ways to sterelize it you can get tablet at a home brewery store.)do the lid the same way.get some clear tubing like the ones used for oxigen tanks about a 1/4 in dia. and 3 ft long drill or punch a hole in the middle of the lid where the tube can be inserted to fit snug.insert the tube into the lid about 1/2in. gather enough berrys crush and strain about 1/2 gal. juice. boil the juice for at lesat 10 min. put 2 cups sugar 1 1/2 cups water in pot slowly bring 2 a boil boil for 10 min. stering a little to keep the sugar from burning let cool. you need 1 pack of fleshmans yeast desolve (proof) about 1 teaspoon yeast in about 1/2 cup of the boiled water about 110 degeres add 1/2 teaspoon of the boiled sugar let stand for 10 min.if the yeast foams its active. let the juice cool put into jar pour the sugar in the jar (it should be surpy like, put the yeast in the jar(and again it needs to be active (proofed) fill the jar with the boiled warter to about 2 1/2 to 3in from the top of the jar ster with a sterelized wooden or plastic spoon.) do not use metal again (everthing needs to be sterelized)put the lid with the tubing on the jar make sure the tubing is tight so no air can get in or out. make sure the tubing is not into the juice. put the other end of the tubing in a clear glass of water. when the juice starts to ferment bubbles will come out in the glass jar.they will start slow then a lot of bubbles when the bubbles get to about 1 a min or less(anywhere from 3 weeks to 30 days or more)you can bottle it. i use 1 quart canning jars.(again sterelized) make sure it has stopped fermrnting 1 bubble or less less is better.you can drank it after it stops fermenting the longer it ages the better 3 to 6 months if possible. hope this helps

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 7:46AM
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oakleif(z6 AR)

Just read today of a lady in MO MAKNG IT AND USEING IT. Aparrently the poison is left out of the wine as it turns to wine. Which Doctor A.H. DOES'NT KNOW ABOUT. I've eaten spring polk sallet greens all my life and never been poisoned. Doctor A.H, showing his ignorance again. One parboils the greens in two different waters before cooking with bacon or scrambled eggs. I hope no one listens to anything the good doctor says as he is full of balogny. You did know eric says he is a doctor. But never seems to have anything to do but persecute herbalests.
please pardon my spelling seeing eric and company are up to their old tricks is pathetic and i'm in a hurry. Why in the world you allow this to happen herbalists with out shuttng them up is beyond me.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 3:44AM
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oakleif, I noticed this a long while back.

I use poke medicinally as well. In the late 1800's it (poke berries) were in medicinal commercial product used as a fat burner for weight reduction. It does have iodine in it.. maybe it acts to balance the thyroid... somehow balancing the bodies metabolism?

Anyway... it's up to each individual to thoroughly research what goes into and onto their bodies.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 10:24AM
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I would like the wine recipe please! My beautiful wife suffers from regional pain disorder and nothing helps!! We would like to try this wine and see if it helps her and for my degenerative disk pain.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 6:38PM
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I throw fresh poke root (gathered when the plant begins to wilt)in Everclear & let it sit two weeks to a month then strain. The everclear turns cloudy. I take 5 DROPS once a day to clear my lymph system. The first day you take it, you feel yourself begin to drain & it's like you're coming down with a cold. The next day & thereafter, you feel mostly normal. I only take it for three or four days. A few years ago, I fell on a stick & sent it through my forearm-- three surgeries & 9 months later, the doc said my body would get rid of the remaining wood-- he'd just mess up my arm more if he kept trying to get the pieces out. That fall I was processing poke root & did not wear gloves. I probably chopped three or four cups of root-- my hands were bright red-- and the next day a good half-inch-long splinter very calmly worked its way out of the hollow in my forearm. I have had people use the tincture for herpes, lupus, arthritis, allergies & at the onset of colds/flu with good results. It will tend to make you nauseous if you take too much.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 9:46PM
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I just ate my first mess of "Poke Salad" the other day--will never do that again so late in the day, as it kept me awake. I did feel a rush of energy with it, similar to that reported by a blogger I found on Google.

Additionally, my chest had been a bit wheezy, and I had a brief coughing spell and just a tiny bit of mucus came out, but the next few days I have not been as wheezy.

When I try this again, I will try not to do so right after a heavy gardening session, so I can see if I feel achy or not after ingesting it. I cooked it in three changes of boiling water with a rinse after each. I only used little sprouts, and only the leaves, shorter than the 12" maximum.

I was a bit too compassionate with the first Pokeberry plant that appeared on my property, and this will be a good way to retard the growth of it in the Spring...I have to say, though, that the one berry a day for arthritis treatment sounds sort of appealing, as does the idea of Pokeberry wine.


Anyway, here is the article, from a regional internet news site. It's the best article I could find tonight on Pokeberry, and I don't think the author would mind, so I am reproducing it here. It's a few years old, so I don't know if the her link still works or not:


Poke-ing around in the garden
A potpourri of local facilities and events
by Corinna Wood in Vol. 11 / Iss. 39 on 05/04/2005

[Editor's note: Pokeweed is a potentially toxic plant; taken in large doses, it can cause severe side effects, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Try these recipes at your own risk.]

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!

So when I moved to the South, I was surprised to hear a number of people report that their grandmothers always ate poke as a spring green. Intrigued, I discovered that poke root has traditionally been used in tiny doses as an immune stimulant. And swallowing one berry a day is an old treatment for arthritis. This powerful plant actually has a wide range of medicinal uses -- but you have to treat it with respect or risk unpleasant side effects (see below).

As it turns out, there's a long history here in the mountains of using this common "weed" as a potherb. But don't make the all-too-common mistake of confusing "poke sallit" (the English word for cooked greens) with "poke salad." DON'T EAT POKE IN A SALAD! It's considered safe ONLY when boiled in three changes of water (traditionally with some pork or "fatback"). And it should be harvested for cooking greens ONLY when the plant is less than a foot tall.

I've cooked poke this way a few times. It was certainly tasty (especially with the fatback!), but I was still a bit mystified. Why all the focus on poke? This is a time of year when many wild greens are abundant -- dandelion, chickweed and nettles are among my favorites. And with these, you don't need to toss out the cooking water (and a lot of nutrients with it). But I do know folks who say they feel a powerful energy from eating the poke greens.

My favorite way to use poke is to make a tincture from the root for stimulating the immune system. Herbs can rival the effectiveness of antibiotics, and they're generally much gentler on the body. Many herbalists turn to goldenseal for this purpose, but it's an endangered species. Poke, on the other hand, is a weed -- the problem is not having too little of it, but too much. And for most purposes, poke is at least as good, if not better.

Pokeroot 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. The next best time to dig the roots is in the early spring, when the leaves are just coming out (as long as you're sure what you're picking!).

As anyone who's ever tried to pull up a poke plant knows, getting anything but the smallest roots out of the ground is a project. They range in size from a large carrot to a construction cone. Fortunately, just one small root will make enough medicine to last you and your loved ones for years -- proving once again that there's no lack of good medicine all around us.

Once you've dug up the root (and parked the Jeep), the next step -- if you've decided to give pokeweed a try -- is drawing out those medicinal properties. The best way to do that is to make a tincture (alcohol extract). Wash the root, chop it into small pieces, fill a jar with the plant material, and then add enough 100-proof alcohol to cover the roots. Leave it on your counter for six weeks, then strain out the roots. The resulting milky liquid is remarkably mild-looking and -tasting, considering the punch it packs.

Poke is so powerful that it's taken by the drop. Begin with one to three drops (using a dropper, of course). Wait 24 hours. If that doesn't seem to help, add one drop per day to the dosage (and that's drops, not droppersful!).

Individuals show widely varying tolerance for poke. Some people can't handle more than three or five drops per day, while others can take 25 or 50 drops with no adverse effects. The side effects of poke include mental unclarity, spaciness and out-of-body feelings. If you notice such feelings, it means you've found your tolerance level, so back off to a lower dosage. If you take way too much (such as mistaking droppersful for drops, which some people have done!), you may encounter more severe side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

When I was using poke to treat Lyme disease a number of years ago, I found that after taking 10 drops per day for several weeks, I started feeling unclear, spacy and disconnected, as if I weren't really in my body. I cut the dosage back to five drops and the side effects vanished, but the tincture was still very effective in helping resolve the Lyme disease. Remember, everyone's tolerance and needs are different.

Over the years, I've found poke to be invaluable as an herbal alternative to antibiotics when immune or lymphatic stimulation is needed. For many generations, this plant has helped people with immune issues ranging from sore throat to breast cancer. And of course, there are times when antibiotics are called for -- so when in doubt, consult your doctor or herbalist.

In my community, poke tincture is a favorite for sore throats, strep throat, severe colds and respiratory infections. It's also used for infected gums, swollen lymph glands and breast cysts. Studies in Germany and the United States are even finding positive results with HIV, cancer and lymphoma. In addition, it's very effective in treating genital herpes -- taking just a few drops when the tingling begins usually prevents the blister phase entirely and reduces the frequency of outbreaks.

Poke root can also be made into an oil simply by substituting oil for alcohol. Any cooking oil will work, but olive oil is my favorite because of its high resistance to rancidity. And by melting in some beeswax (which gives it a creamy consistency), the oil can be made into a balm or salve. Both the salve and the oil are also used externally to dissolve lumps, bumps, growths and tumors. And many people find them helpful when applied externally to swollen lymph glands, sore throats or breast lumps.

Pokeberries are useful, too -- and not just for body paint. (This paint, by the way, is quite safe; it's only the seeds inside that are toxic, and then only when chewed.) In Appalachian folk medicine, the berries are swallowed as a treatment for arthritis and for immune stimulation -- one berry (either fresh or dried) is the equivalent of one drop of root tincture.

Since the seeds are the toxic part, you just spit them out. And even if you swallow some seeds, don't worry -- they're extremely difficult to break open with your teeth and will come out the other end intact. (That's how poke spreads, in fact -- birds love to eat the berries, and then the seeds spread through their droppings.) Although poke proliferates by seed, the plants are perennial, and the roots will grow larger every year.

So if you find yourself cursing this "dangerous, noxious weed" in your yard or garden this spring, just remember that if you let a few plants thrive until fall, they can reward you with some very powerful medicine -- not to mention beautiful purple berries that make a delightful body paint!"

[Corinna Wood, the director of Red Moon Herbs, has been teaching herbal medicine for more than 10 years. She can be reached at ... her Web site (redmoonherbs.com).]

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 8:10PM
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There does seem to be a long tradition of using pokeweed for spring greens when boiled with several changes of water, though I wonder what taste or consistency are left after this process is finished. I'd think that another spring weed, wild violet, would be far more appetizing (I've tried this, and it's similar to spinach).

Normally I'd applaud a source that suggests an alternative for endangered goldenseal, but Ms. Wood gets overenthusiastic about medicinal uses of pokeweed. Of the studies she vaguely refers to concerning use of poke for cancers and AIDS, I haven't seen any that demonstrate effectiveness in humans (most of the literature involves cells in test tubes or mice, and tends to be of older vintage). The claim about curing breast lumps is alarming - you wonder how many people would use a folk remedy like this hoping a potentially serious lump will go away (many, such as ones associated with cysts will diminish of their own accord, leading to another "success" for whatever is rubbed into the skin, but don't expect a malignant lump to respond to poke or other herbal tincture or salve.
The claim about immune stimulation is intereresting but far less documented for poke than for echinacea, which also has the virtue of not sharing poke's toxicity (one wonders why some of the same people who express concern about flushing out "toxins" from the body, mess around with a plant like pokeweed that has a bunch of them.

Though I do like the plants' decorative effect in fall (it helps if they are kept away from walks and driveways, which the berries can stain). And there's even a variegated leaf form that comes true from seed.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 7:06PM
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It strikes me that it is a useful plant to have around, certainly not to be totally eradicated because of its weedy nature.

The tiny leaves I cooked up had so little fiber in them that they were little more than mush after the three boilings and rinsings. The flavor was mild; I just had them with a bit of hemp oil and salt. The cooked amount that I ate was probably about a third of a cupful.

Cook.com has several recipes in which the preboiled and rinsed greens are then cooked with bacon and eggs. Most of the recipes just say to boil the leaves once, which I think is unwise.

Most of the recipes say to "pour" the leaves into the pan, which suggests to me that they usually do become mushy. The mushiness explained to me how the toxin could be almost completely removed; one would think if the leaves did not break down, more toxins would remain.

My chest is still not wheezy.


There was also a claim in another article that some skin the young, tender stalks, then slice and fry them like okra--with no mention of boiling them first, but I suspect the reporter didn't bother to check that part out. Also, the stalks would have to be taller than a foot to be as wide as most okra.

Another article I found, which I should have also copied, was that one reporter's grandparents had been hospitalized after eating a mess of poke...so it is definitely not without risk. I suspect growing conditions and even whether one has a first or second cutting of leaves from a plant would make the toxins vary in concentration. I know, for example, that radishes develop more "bite" after being attacked by an insect; possibly poke does the same thing.

I would not chance it, quite frankly, if I were younger and in excellent health. Why take the risk?

Until recently, though, one company on the internet was selling the stuff canned, and still offers it in glass jars. There are people that still seek it out, and are even willing to pay someone else (also on the internet) to collect and mail it to them!


And for all these years, I have looked upon it as a virulent, albeit attractive, weed....

Next I'll be collecting poison ivy.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 4:54AM
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In talking about eating cooked wild violets, I should have mentioned that I got the idea by reading the chapter on them in Euell Gibbons' "Stalking The Healthful Herbs" (he was mainly into eating them for flavor and vitamin C content as I remember).

This site has a recipe for violet syrup (which Gibbons recommended for pancakes), made from blossoms. Historic medicinal uses for violets are also mentioned.

I think I'll try syrup making the next time there are a bunch of violet blossoms out. There won't be any shortage, seeing as how the things are abundant in the lawn and attempting to take over the garden.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 9:00AM
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Poke salet has a very distinctive and strong(as in cabbage) taste even after several parboilings. I'd hate to eat it for the taste with nothing done to it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 8:11AM
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I suspect the poisons in the leaves vary in quantity depending on leaf size and the stressors in the environment the plant is growing in.

What I ate was very small leaves that cooked down to mush.
If you collect the leaves before the plant is over a foot tall that would tend to be universally true.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 3:35AM
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hi i would love to make some of the wine for my husban he has really bad joints and back he already takes a few berry per day but would like to try this wine and by the way the berry does help alot to thank you

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 3:00PM
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My mom was a coal miner's daughter (now almost 80) and her father was given a pokeberry recipe by a Native American for arthritis and made up batches for his fellow coal miners to great effect. I once sent the recipe to Merck, but although I don't know the recipe off hand, I remember he boiled it up with Quinine. As I am now experiencing Gout issues with my ankle, I have turned to Cherries and Cherry extract which works amazing. In thinking about such dark red berries, it made me think again about Poke berries for such arthritic issues.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:15PM
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It will soon be the season for Pokeweed to sprout in South Central PA, and from the remains of last year's crop--the telltale skeletal white stalks remaining--there should be a good crop in my very own back garden.


As my arthritis worsens, it is comforting to realize there are still many folk remedies out there that reputedly help to some extent or other.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:32AM
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I'm also from PA. My uncle lived to be 104 without any arthritis. He would soak the berries in vodka and have one or two shots per day of this extract. It was a mild solution, yet strong enough to keep the system healthy.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 9:44AM
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wow, what an interesting thread, thank you all! i love reading about the 'old timey' folk uses of this and others plants which many of you shared...and i took notes, just for the fun of knowing, these are the folk medicine traditions that have allowed us to maintain ourselves on this continent for millenia, cool stuff. keep it coming community, thank you again!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:06PM
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I have pokeberries which are ripe now, HerbDoctor, what is the recipe for the berries tincture, that is how much berries, to how much vodka. And when you say a shot, I guess you mean a jigger (1 1/2 ounces), right? would he take every day of the year or just at certain times??

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 1:33PM
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My uncle would add about two tablespoons of the fresh berries in a quart of vodka and let soak for 1 month. (Two weeks would be plenty of time.) Then he'd take a nip of that mild solution every day. I don't think he had arthritis remedy in mind every time he took it, though. ha, ha

If you wanted to make a menstrum strength, you could add one ounce (weight) of fresh berries to two ounces (liquid) vodka. Strain after about two weeks. Of this, you would only take 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon once daily. After two weeks, take a one month break. It's not something you would want to nor need to take all the time.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 4:04PM
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sunburygirl(z5 OH)

I'd be a bit leery of ingesting something that is poison, but I also realize that the leaves of rhubarb is the same. I believe there are other herbs that are effective for arthritis and aren't poison. Check out this site:

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 11:57AM
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Taro/Elephant's Ear is the same too, yet the dried or boiled roots don't hurt and actually are considered a staple in some areas.
While I've never used Devil's Claw, Pokeberry Wine sounds to be better than Rhus Tox in the case of possible reactions, 9 Raisin Gin, and more effective than Diluted ACV. Especially in the dosages mentioned.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 5:42PM
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the seeds of the poke berry contain a good bit of the toxic principle so make sure you don't crush them during the cooking process. cook the berries whole but don't crush them.

a recent success using poke root oil for mastitis...after the second day of topical application the breast opened to release a lot of pus, the next day was beginning to heal over. this good work was done by kristi, an herbalist-midwife friend

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 3:37PM
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The most toxic part of pokeweed is the roots, followed by leaves and stems. Berries are relatively low in poisonous components, but still need to be cooked thoroughly before being consumed.

It's an interesting plant with potential medical uses, but a lot more work needs to be done to maximize any benefit while limiting toxicity.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2013 at 2:48PM
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