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The herb pokeroot grows wild in many parts of North America. The name comes from a Native American word, "pocan," a term that indicates any plant used to provide a red-colored dye. Pokeroot is a source of a blood-red pigment. Medicinally, it was used as an “alterative,” a substance that supposedly removes toxins from the body and restores overall health. Like other alteratives, pokeroot was used for the treatment of cancer, skin conditions, and many other diseases attributed to toxins. Pokeroot causes vomiting and diarrhea, and these effects were also traditionally considered salutary. 1 However, in modern times, it has become clear that pokeroot causes vomiting and diarrhea because it is toxic; it should not be used at all.
We recommend against using pokeroot in any dosage.
- Stolberg M. [The miraculous effects of taking laxatives. Success and failure of pre-modern medical treatment from the patients' perspective] Wurzbg Medizinhist Mitt. 22():167-77.