Common Name: Poke Root | Scientific Name: Phytolacca Decandra

Family: Phytolaccaceae

RESOURCES

Eclectic Notes
As an Adaptogen
A Potential Treatment for Auto-immune Disease
Article
Historical Notes
Lecture

As an Adaptogen
Phytolacca americana L.

(Formerly P. decandra L.)

Phytolaccaceae

Pokeweed
Part used

Root
Chemical constituents

Significant phytochemicals include phytolaccagenic acid, phytolaccagenin, resin, saponins, and tannins. (66)
Pharmacy

480 grains to the fluid ounce alcohol 67%. 5–20 drops in four ounces water. A teaspoonful every three or hour hours. (23)
History

Phytolacca americana is native to the eastern seaboard of the United States and Mexico . The plant is perennial and produces large tuberous roots weighing as much as 5 kilos. Any cleared land in the South Eastern United States is quickly colonised by this hardy perennial due to birds’ fondness for its fruit and the veracity of the plants’ growth habit.

Throughout its range, P. americana factored into domestic medicine. The Virginia tribes called it Pokan which lead to its English common name, pokeweed. The Pamunkey Tribe used the berries in decoction to treat rheumatism. (3–5) Other tribes treated inflammation with a root pulp poultice. (3)

Initially the Colonials used the root of P. americana to treat inflammatory conditions of the cow udder, specifically in the condition known as garget. Hence its’ early common name, “garget plant.” In time, this practice extended to women suffering from mastitis. As the colonial period progressed the root was used to treat all manner of inflammation, especially inflamed joints, applied topically and taken internally. (3) The berry, macerated in alcohol, was a common domestic remedy for “rheumatism.”

When the 19 th century the medical establishment became enamoured of purging patients they turned to Phytolacca americana . Taken in large quantities, the drug is both purgative and emetic. More specifically, it was used when chronic diseases of the skin and joints presented themselves. The 1814 “American Dispensatory” recommended it for the treatment of chronic skin disease and rheumatism. (26) In 1820 the root was added to the Primary List of “The Pharmacopoeia United States” and the berries were added to the Secondary List. (2) In the 1833 edition of “The Dispensatory of the United States ” it was listed as being useful in chronic inflammatory skin and joint disease topically and internally. (33)

Wooster Beach , the founder of the Eclectic movement, published his “Medical and Botanical Dictionary” in 1848. In it we find the first “Eclectic” reference to P. americana . Beach stated the plant was alterative, cathartic, discutient, eschartotic, and vulnerary and recommended its use in rheumatic conditions and chronic skin disease. (3) Beach’s uses are identical to those found in “The American Dispensatory” written 34 years earlier with one notable innovation.

The Eclectics’ did not believe in purging patients and abhorred any and all deleterious medical practices. As such, they did away with large purgative doses of P. americana and instead used small, innocuous doses of the drug. Between 1848 and 1932 Eclectic knowledge of clinical applications of P. americana grew enormously. (2, 3, 6–18)
Eclectic uses (2–24)
Actions

Alterative, tonic, resolvent, anti-zygotic.
Indications

“This is the remedy for mammary irritation and inflammation, for the sore mouth of the nursing child, for some cases of nursing sore mouth, subinvolution of the uterus, enlargement of the submaxillary and cervical lymphatic glands from sore mouth and throat, and for diphtheria. It is also an epidemic remedy. The most prominent indication for it in ordinary cases is a pallid, somewhat leaden colored tongue, very little coated, and looking slick, as if coated with glutinous material. Phytolacca is the first of remedies in mammitis and in various affections of the lymphatics with hardness and swelling. It is not without value in many phases of rheumatism, and has a good influence upon Peyer’s patches in typhoid fever. Orchitis or rheumatic origin is well treated with Phytolacca.” (23)
Digestive

Haemorrhoids, parasites, inactive liver, constipation, poor digestion, poor absorption, and poor excretion of waste, atony of the glands, maxillary gland dysfunction, mumps, parotitis, mucous membranes, ulceration of the mucous membrane, stomatitis, sore lips, infantile sore mouth, nursing sore mouth, adult sore mouth, chancre, aphthae, ulceration of the mouth, pallid tongue with slick coat, sore tongue, coating on tongue from tip to base, diphtheria, formation of false membranes in diphtheria, tonsillitis, chronically enlarged tonsils, tonsillitis attended by musculo-skeletal pain, syphilitic faucial ulceration, sore throat, acute inflammation of the throat cough, irritated or inflamed throat, fungal infection of the throat, dry throat, throat covered with patches of tenacious secretions or ash coloured exudation, pharyngitis, follicular pharyngitis, ulcerated pharynx; ulceration of mucous crypts, ulceration of Peyer’s patches, ulceration of stomach, bowels, or rectum.
Endocrine

Threatened mammary inflammation, inflammation of mammae, mastitis, mammary suppuration, abscesses of mammae, morbid sensitiveness of mammae during menstruation, swelling of breast in the new born, sore nipples, cracked nipples, orchitis, metastasis of mumps to testicles, enlargement of the thyroid gland, goitre, ovaritis.
Lymphatic

Lymphatic node enlargement, acute inflammation of lymph nodes, cervical node enlargement due to scarlet fever, painful lymph nodes, tubercular lymph nodes, hardened enlarged lymph nodes, suppurating lymph nodes, and lymphoma.
Musculoskeletal

Chronic syphilitic rheumatism, chronic rheumatism, mercurial rheumatism, rheumatism of joints, rheumatic “deep pains”, rheumatism associated with irritation, ulceration, and inflammation of the mucous membranes, rheumatism associated with chronic skin conditions including ulcers, psoriasis, and eczema, rheumatic pains associated with deficient excretion of waste, rheumatic pain associated with sore throat, rheumatism associated with glandular enlargement, muscular pain, muscular pain attending tonsillitis or pharyngitis, pectoral pain, syphilitic muscular pain, rheumatic muscular pain, rheumatism of the periosteum, bone pain associated with chronic infection, rheumatism of connective tissues (white fibres).
Nervous

Pain, pain of late syphilis, headache from nervous, syphilitic, rheumatic, or sympathetic digestive causes, neuralgia, dizziness, blepharitis, conjunctival inflammations, conjunctivitis, gonorrhoeal and syphilitic sore eyes, granular conjunctivitis, rheumatic iritis.
Respiratory

Ulceration of the mucous membranes, difficult respiration due to bronchiocele, congestion, ulceration of the mucous membranes, cephalgia, influenza catarrh, nasal catarrh, hay fever, catarrhal affections, polyps, ozena, tracheitis.
Genito-Urinary

Water and waste retention, Bright’s disease (nephrotic syndrome), albumen in the urine, abnormal deposits in the urine, irritation of the urinary tract, gonorrhoea, copious nocturnal emission, uterine or vaginal leucorrhea, ulceration of the os uteri, ulceration of the meatus.
Skin

Cancerous and malignant ulcers, old and indolent ulcers, varicose ulcers, ulceration of the outlets of the body, ulcerating skin disease, sycosis, fissures, fistulae, boils, carbuncles, dermal abscesses, psoriasis, tinea capitis, felons, tumours, suppurative skin conditions, vesicular, pustular and tubercular eruptions, scabies, indolent action of skin, irritation and burning of skin, chronic eczema, dry eczema with cracks and fissures, syphilitic eruptions, favus, squamous skin diseases, skin diseases common to childhood, inflamed skin with no itchiness due to laxity of tissue.
The drug from Selye’s perspective
State of Resistance

The drug was used to raise resistance to acute and chronic infection and immune dysfunction.
State of Exhaustion

The drug was used when resistance could no longer be maintained and State of Exhaustion set in. Conditions causing State of Exhaustion included chronic infection (syphilis, tuberculosis, or malaria), severe acute infection (streptococcal or diphtheria), or autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis). Signs of State of Exhaustion , treated with this drug included mucous membrane abnormalities, wasting, joint abnormalities, temperature abnormalities, and skin abnormalities.
Adaptation energy

From Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to augment the GAS, which suggests it increases adaptation energy. Evidence to this effect includes the following. The drug was used to raise resistance to acute and chronic infection and immune dysfunction. The drug was used to bolster patients having entered into State of Exhaustion . Lastly, the drug was used topically to inspire healing in non-healing wounds and ulcers.
Brekhman’s adaptogen criterion

An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.

There is evidence P. americana is an innocuous drug. The Eclectics used minute doses for over 100 years and did not report any disastrous results. For centuries, indigenous people, who knew how to use it, used it both as food and medicine without ill effect (2–24) however, it must be used in small doses.

The action of an adaptogen should be non-specific i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical, and biological nature.

Clinically, P. americana was used to increase resistance to infection and autoimmune disease. (2–24)

Experimentally, the drug has been determined to increase resistance to a range of bacteria, virus, fungus, and cancer cells. One constituent offers hepato-protective activity. (65) A small Sistine rich protein was isolated from Phytolacca americana , which was found to inhibit gram positive bacteria. (41) A group of 107 tonsillitis patients were effectively treated with a homeopathic dose of P. americana . (44) The drug contains strong antifungal peptides active against a wide range of pathogenic fungi. (36, 37, 47).

PAP (pokeweed antiviral protein), a protein found in Phytolacca americana has been established to have potent antiviral activity in a collection of viral infections (Herpes simplex, HIV, Hep-2, and Polio). The drug acted through inhibition of viral life processes. (38, 39, 42, 61, 62)

PAP has been shown to have an anticancer/anti-tumour activity via ribosome inactivation. Cells were unable to replicate in the presence of PAP. (40)

An adaptogen may possess normalising action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathological changes.

Clinically, the drug was used to normalise the physiological abnormalities associated with State of Exhaustion . (2–24)

Experimentally, P. americana displays normalising activity. It contains compounds, which both raise and lower blood pressure. (65) Astragalin acts as a hypotensive (32) and Phytolaccatoxin acts as a hypertensive. (30) Americanin acts as a hepatotrophic (31) Two lignans, isoamericanol A (1–2) enhanced choline acetyltransferase activity of cultured neuronal cell system derived from foetal rat hemispheres. (55) There is some evidence that the cardioactive effects of Phytolacca americana are due to increased vagal tone. (51) Phytolaccatoxin acts a convulsant. (30) Astragalin acts as an expectorant (32) and Phytolaccatoxin as a respirostimulant. (30)

The drug and its constituents normalise immune function in a variety of circumstances. Phytolacca lectins (PL) have been established to be active on the immune system, inhibiting histamine release (48, 49) and increasing activity in mononuclear white blood cells (50). The crude drug caused proliferative responses in the spleen and lymphoproliferative response in immunocompromised rats. (55) Astragalin acts as an immunostimulant. (32) PAP had a potent immunotoxin effect against B-lineage leukaemia and lymphoma cells. (56) PAP is highly cytotoxic to the human T-leukemic cell line CEM. (58) Astragalin acts as an anti-leukaemia agent. (32). Phytolaccoside acts an anti-inflammatory (30). Jaligonic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory. (33) The PL Pa-2 altered the antibody response to Type III pneumococcal polysaccharide. If the PL was given at the time of the inoculation, the response was suppressed. If it was given two days after the inoculation, the antibody response was enhanced. (59) Lastly, Phytolacca americana induces interferon production. (60)
Discussion

The drug exhibits properties consistent with Brekhman’s definition of an adaptogen. The drug is innocuous in the doses recommended it raised resistance to an assortment of biological threats, and normalised physiological function.

Looking at the drug from a contemporary pathophysiological perspective, it could be said that the Eclectics’ used the drug to treat immune system abnormalities including hypo-immunity, hyper- immunity, and auto-immunity. However, from Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to treat patients having entered into State of Exhaustion immune abnormalities being merely a symptom of the greater problem, State of Exhaustion .

At the moment, viral infection is causing a great deal of disease. There is evidence that Phytolacca americana may offer raised resistance to this type of infection. PAP is a ribosome inactivating protein isolated from Phytolacca americana . It is characterised by its ability to depurinate the sarcin/ricin loop of the large rRNA of prokaryotic and eukaryotic ribosome’s. (39) liver cells were infected with Herpes simplex 1 or with the poliovirus, PAP reduced viral yield, decreased HSV-1 plaque forming efficiency, and inhibited protein synthesis more in infected cells than in uninfected cells. (62) PAP is a protein that prevents replication of several viruses and inactivates ribosomes, thus inhibiting protein synthesis (herpes simplex virus type 1). (61) PAP including isoforms PAP-I-III depurinate RNA of human immunodeficiency virus-1. (42) PAP was found to denature the HIV virus and not to alter sperm or female genital tract epithelial cells, the implication being that HIV positive people could use the drug to concieve without infecting their partner. (38)
Potential clinical applications

The drug may have a role in raising resistance to infectious disease, particular chronic infectious disease viral in nature. In addition, it may have a role in treating patients who are no longer able to maintain resistance and who have entered into State of Exhaustion , especially when manifestations of this state are prominent in the immune system.
Future research

•  Toxicity of Phytolacca americana in small doses. Some authorities claim the drug is dangerous. (28, 65) However, the doses used by the Eclectics have not been studied. A full toxicological screen on the drug, used in the doses recommended by the Eclectics should
be conducted.

•  chronic bacterial infection (i.e. tuberculosis, syphilis). Its role in raising resistance to poor immune function should
be examined.

•  Phytolacca americana and hyper- immune function. P. americana was used to treat allergic responses or hyper-immunity (i.e. eczema and hay fever). When the immune system over- reacted to a harmless antigen and caused unnecessary tissue inflammation, the Eclectics used P. americana . The drug and its role in raising resistance to hypersensitivity reactions should be examined.

•  Phytolacca americana and autoimmune disease of unknown aetiology. P. americana was used to treat idiopathic autoimmune disease. (i.e. blepharitis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis). When the immune system had lost the ability to distinguish between self and non-self, and had begun attacking itself this drug was used. Its role in raising resistance to conditions of this type should be examined.

•  Phytolacca americana and autoimmune disease of known aetiology. P. americana was used to treat autoimmune disease when it was the sequelae of a bacterial infection. It was used to treat inflamed joints, ulcerated mucous membranes, and kidney failure following streptococcal infection. It was used to treat ulceration of the eyes and joint inflammation following gonococcus infection (Reiter’s Syndrome). It was used to treat the chronic inflammation with syphilis infection. Its role in raising resistance to conditions of this nature should be examined.

•  Phytolacca americana and multiple system autoimmune function. P. americana was used to treat multi-system autoimmune disease. (i.e. psoriasis with joint involvement, rheumatoid arthritis with mucous membrane ulceration, digestive tract ulceration with joint involvement.) Its role in raising resistance to this type of condition should be examined.

•  Phytolacca americana as an immune modulator. There is evidence to suggest the drug raises resistance to immune abnormalities. Its effect on immune dysregulation should be examined.
Eco-availability

The drug is available in the wild and readily grown.

References for Phytolacca americanum

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A Potential Treatment for Auto-immune Disease

Phytolacca decandra: A Potential Treatment for Auto-immune Disease.

Introduction

Perverted immune function lies behing many of the chronic diseases plaguing the modern age. Rheumatoid arthrtis, eczema, Systemic Lupus Erythematose, and ulcerative collitis are a few examples of immune related diseases which cost lives innumerable and initiate incredible suffering.

In these conditions, for reasons that allude scientists, the immune system looses its ability to differentiate friend from foe. The immune system begins to target specific tissues of the body and systematically attack them. When the immune system goes on the war path, any tissue can be the recipient of its abuse. In rheumatoid arthritis the immune cells attack the joints; in ulcerative collitis the immune system attacks the colon. Though one tissue may receive the brunt of the abuse, more often the not, the immune system attacks a variety of tissues around the body. As an example, rheumatoid arthritis patients often have disturbed digestion because the immune system is also attacking the gut linings.

At the present time, allopathic medicine has a very limited range of drugs available to treat these complicated, varied, and crippling conditions. At present allopathic treatment is entirely symptomatic and involves the use of immuno-suppressive drugs and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs are undesirable for several reasons. The first being that when the patient stops taking these drugs their condition comes back. The drugs have simply masked the pathological process. More over, these drugs come packing with serioius side effects. Most patients suffering from auto-immune disease end up with secondary disease as a consequence of taking the disease masking drugs. All done and said, the auto-immune patient finds him or herself in a unenviable position.

Research needs to be conducted to find drugs that offer the auto-immune patient a permenant solution to their problem. A cure. Conventional wisdom is that once a person develops an autoimmune disease, they will always suffer from that auto-immune disease. This theory may be flawed. They are cases of apparent spontaneous remissions from auto-immune disease processes. Patients with intractable eczema will suddenly become disease free and will stay disease free.

Along these lines, the world of herbal medicine offers the seeker a list of herbal medicines reported to cure auto-immune diseases. If one looks in the textbooks of the last century one finds doctors discussing medicinal plants which cure auto-immune diseases. They used words like “this plant effects a permenant cure of rheumatic conditions”. Though current thinking holds these diseases cannot be cured, textbooks from the last century describe cures. These cures were brought about with herbal medicines, medicines which desperately warrant review by the contemporary scientific community. If one was looking for a source of a cure, the plants described in the last century as being able to cure would be a good place to start.

The doctors of the last century also described auto-immune diseases which would not be cured. In this case, they listed medicinal plants which improved auto-immune diseases. Again, the drugs said to accomplish this were herbal. They had an extensive range of medicinal plants they used to reduce the severity of an auto-immune disease and render it a manageable inconveniance. Here again, we need to investigate the medicinal plants reported to have this effect. Some might say this is not necessary, we already have drugs which mitigate the suffering associated with auto-immune disease. It would be helpful to remember that most allopathic drugs have considerable side effects and that most herbal medicines do not have serious side effects. .

In the last century Phytolacca decandra was said to cure auto-immune disease in some cases and to control it in others. Its recommendations are so strong it clearly warrants examination as a potential drug to be used today. Indeed, some practitioners still use it today. Past and present, Phytolacca has been shown to be effective in treating these conditions a. For this reason it warrants additinal research and validation by the scientific community.

Workers that know the drug feel that additional research is warranted for another reason. It has been shown to cause remission in cases of intractable auto-immune disease. Studying the mechanism of its efficacy may result in the discovery of a new technology which leads to the cure of auto-immune disease. For all these reasons, Phytolacca deserves a careful examination.

Botany of Phytolacca Decandra

Scientific name: Phytolacca decandra
Common name: Pokeweed

Plant family: Phytolaccaceae

Phytolacca is a member of the Phytolaccaceae family native to the eastern seaboard of the United States and Mexico. It is a weed plant that can be seen growing in abandoned lots and waste places throughout its range. The plant is perennial, springing from a large tuberous root that can weigh as much as 5 kilos. Poke self seeds readily due to birds fondness of its purple berries produced in the late summer. Any cleared land in the southern United states is quickly colonized by this hardy perennial.

Native American Use of Phytolacca decandra

The Virginia tribes called Phytolacca decandra “Pokan” which lead to its common name, pokeweed. It is called chou-gras in Louisiana by the Creoles, jucato in Jamaica, and cuechiliz in Mexico. The Native Americans were well acquainted with the plant prior to the arrival of the colonials. In example, records indicate it was used by the Native Americans as poultice for various forms of inflammation.

Colonial Use of Phytolacca decandra

Poke is an unusual and attractive plant and one that does not go unnoticed. The colonials took note of the plant and with the aide of the Native Americans knowledge, learned to use the plant as a food, a dye, and as a medicine.

From the earliest day the colonials ate the young shoots as a substitute for asparagus and the tender leaves as a spinach like green. This practice has continued to present day. Dr.Wooster Beach.MD., writing in 1848, commented that the leaves, having matured, became purgative. He also comments that the berries were used as a source of ink and combined with urine a source of blue dye. He states that birds and fowl inclined to eat the berries develop an unpleasant tasting flesh.

Barton tells us that pokeweed shoots were brought to the Philadelphia market in great quantities and were sold as a delicacy. Raffinesque states that it in Louisiana, the fresh leaves are boiled in a soup. Indeed, this practise still persists in the Bayoux today.

The Historic record indicates the Colonials used phytolacca in inflammatory conditions of the cows udders. Specifically, the colonials used it in the condition known as garget. It is from this use the plant recieved its early name, garget plant.

Eventually this practice would extend to women suffering from mastitis and other inflammatory breast complaints. As time passed, Phytolacca was used domestically to treat all manner of inflammation. It was especially used in cases of joint inflammation and disease, topically applied and taken internally.

Early Medical Use of Phytolacca decandra

The medical community in the very young United States made use of Phytolacca decandra in their medical practice. In “The Eclectic and General Dispensatory” written by Tower and Hogan in 1827, we find the following reference to its use. Though entitled the “Eclectic Dispensatory” this was not an Eclectic text, it was only eclectic in the usual sense of the word.

“The phytolacca is a poison; it is a narcotic, and produces giddiness; it operates as an emetic when given in the dose of 20 grains and according to Dr.Bigelow, with the same certainty, though much more slowly than ipecacuanha. It is most celebrated as a remedy in chronic rheumatism; it is given in the dose of a tablespoon of the tincture three times a day. It is also used in cutaneous eruptions, as tinea capitis, itch, and also in ulcers of a cancerous nature. The root is gathered in the fall, and cut into thin slices, and dried, and kept in closed vials for use.”

The use of Phytolacca decandra in early American medical circles can be summarized as follows.

Actions

Alterative

Anti-rheumatic

Discutient

Emetic

Vulnerary

Pathologies

chronic rheumatism

eruptive skin disease

ulcers

skin cancer

Eclectic Medical School Use

The Eclectics were a group of eccentric American physicians practising medicine in the frontier territories of the rapidly expanding United States. They believed that any medicine that made you sick was bad medicine and that life threatening medical practises, bleeding,purging, included, were insanity. They mixed with the Native Americans in search of herbal medicines that could be used to cure their patients.

1848. Wooster Beach. “Medical and Botanical Dictionary”

Actions Attributed to Phytolacca decandra Alterative

Cathartic

Discutient

Escharotic

Vulnerary

Pathologies Treated with Phytolacca decandra

rheumatic conditions

chronic skin disease

The first books issued from the Eclectic medical movement were written by Wooster Beach, the founder of the movement. In 1848 Dr. Beach published the “Medical and Botanical Dictionary” and in it we find the first reference to Phytolacca decandra in the Eclectic movement.

Wooster Beach was trained in standard medical practice in New York City. For the most part, his thoughts on Phytolacca decandra mirror mainstream medical thought of the day. Pokeweed is an emetic and used in sufficient quantity it can make a person vomit. For this reason, it was popular amongst the physicians using bleeding and purging in their medical practise.

Though Beach parrots that which he learned in medical school, he does offer some fresh insight into the drug. Here we find Beach listing Phytolacca decandra as an “alterative”. Alteratives were drugs used to alter the usual progression of a chronic disease. Diseases like syphilis, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema were treated with alteratives. The theory was that these diseases followed a predictable course and using drugs like Phytolacca, the usual progression could be aborted. Beach’s text does give us a window into the early use of Phytolacca and it would pay to learn that which the early physicians knew.

Systems

Digestive System

Dr.Beach introduces one of the very old uses for Phytolacca decandra, that of a cathartic and emetic. “Valuable active plant; root emetic and cathartic without spasms, dose ten to thirty grains of dry powder, safe and powerful.” The message being Phytolacca activates the digestive tract in a powerful manner and can result in the contents of the digestive tract being expelled. Early on we learn that dosage is an issue!

Musculoskeletal System

Beach recommends Phytolacca berries to treat musculoskeletal disease and this comes as no surprise. Phytolacca was used by the Native Americans to treat “Rheumatism”. However, he does make a comment which seperates him from his colleagues and suggests knowledge of this plant was increasing. He suggests using this plant specifically for the rheumatism of syphilis. “Berries juice alterative, specific for chronic and syphilitic rheumatism, fresh or kept by adding one third alcohol, a tablespoonful full each four hours. The extract less certain, one pound is made by four pounds; doses five grains.”

Tissues

Skin

Beach suggests using Phytolacca roots and leaves topically agent to heal ulcerations, to bring skin eruptians to a head, and for chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis. Beach recognized Phytolacca stimulated healing broken skin surfaces.

“Fresh roots and leaves escharotic, discutient, specific in poultice for cancerous or malignant ulcers, psora, tinea capitis, and C., or extract as a plaster, a wash of rumex used at same time. Leaves used by farriers for ulcers of horses and c.”

Pharmacy

Chemistry

At the time Beach was writing, there had been sufficient interest in the plant for its chemistry to have undergone some review. “Stems and leaves contain more potash than any plant, 67% by burning, and 42% of pure caustic potash by lixiviation. Has a peculiar acid phytolacic, near malic.” The peculiar acid, phytolacic, was the first specific compound to be isolated from this plant.

Dosage

Beach lists the emetic dose of Phytolacca decandra root as being between .65gm and 1.95gm. In rheumatic conditions he suggests a teaspoonful of a 1:3 tincture made of the berries be administered every four hours. These dosages are quite high, though they are in keeping with those found in other medical texts of the day.

1854. John King. Materia Medica.

Summary of Actions

Emetic

Cathartic

Alterative

Antiherpetic

Narcotic.

Discutient

Vulnerary

Summary of Pathologies

Systems

Digestive system: haemorrhoids

Nervous system: pain

Musculoskeletal: rheumatic conditions

Skin: masses

chronic skin disease

ulcers

Glands

Glands: glandular dysfunction associated with chronic disease.

In this text we find the uses suggested by physicians preceding the Eclectic movement and the early Eclectic Wooster Beach. Its primary activity being an alterative in chronic disease. However, we do see signs that the Eclectic use of this plant has begun to diversify. The three new uses of Phytolacca were as an anti-inflammatory application in haemorrhoids, a narcotic pain killer in syphilitic pain, and as an agent active on the glands of the body.

Systems

Digestive system

Previously Dr.Beach recorded Phytolacca as being a powerful emetic and cathartic. King on the other hand, states that as there were superior drugs, it was no longer used for those purposes. “In doses of from ten to thirty grains(.65-1.95 gm) it acts both as an emetic and cathartic, but is seldom used for these purposes on account of the slowness of its action, which, when established, continues for a long time.”

Hemorrhoids

King lists Phytolacca as having activity in treating haemorrhoids, a use not previously seen. The drug was applied topically and taken internally for the treatment of haemorrhoids. This activity is of interest bearing in mind the raw leaves are known to raise blisters. “A strong decoction of the leaves is of much benefit to haemorrhoids; injected into the rectum two or three times a day, and a fomentation of the leaves applied to the part, will almost always give relief, and eventually effect a cure. A fluid drachm or two (3.70-7.4 ml) may be taken internally at the same time, and repeated two or three times a day; should any narcotic effects be produced, its use may be omitted for a day or two, and then commenced in smaller doses.”

Nervous system

In regards the nervous system, Phytolacca is for the first time described as a pain killer. This text states that it paralyses the central and peripheral nervous system. This narcotic activity was exploited in cases of chronic pain as in the late stages of syphilis. It was found to act both centrally and peripherally.

Central nervous system

“Narcotic effects as drowsiness, dimness of vision, vertigo, etc,. frequently attend its action, but very rarely any pain or spasm.”

Peripheral nervous system

“The extract of the root is an excellent remedy for the removal of these severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections (osteocopus), in which it is more beneficial than opium.”

Musculoskeletal System

King offers a rehash of what Beach said previously. “A saturated tincture of the berries has been successfully employed in chronic rheumatism. It is also recommended in the same diseases as the root.” The important words here are “successfully employed”. King found it effective in rheumatoid conditions and Dr.King was not easily sold on a product.

Skin

King suggests that Phytolacca be used to dissolve masses, to improve chronic skin conditions, and to heal ulcers. Its ability to heal the skin, mentioned first by Beach, is confirmed here.

masses

“The root roasted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, is unrivalled in felons and tumours of various kinds. It dissolves them rapidly, or if too far advanced, hastens their suppuration.”

chronic skin conditions

“A drachm(3.88 gm) of the pulverized root or leaves, mixed with one ounce of lard has proved beneficial in psora, tinea-capitis, and some other forms of cutaneous disease; when first applied it occasions a sense of heat and smarting.”

skin ulcers

“The leaves are somewhat purgative, and are used, in some parts of the country, as a dressing to ulcers. The inspissated juice of the leaves has been recommended in indolent ulcers, and as a remedy in cancer; in this last disease, Dr. Bone combined it with gun powder”.

Glands

King is the first Eclectic to describe Phytolacca as being highly active on the glands of the body and glandular tissue. It had been used for sometime to treat mastitis in cows, and mammae are composed of glandular tissue, but up until now the use had not spread beyong the milk shed.

At this time Eclectic doctors noted that systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and syphilis often involved the glands. They also noted that Phytolacca decandra resolved the glandular problems associated with these diseases. “In doses of from one to five grains(.065-.325gm) it acts as an alterative. The root excites the whole glandular system, and has been highly extolled in syphilitic, scrofulous, rheumatic, and cutaneous diseases.”

Pharmacy

From the earliest day, Phytolacca decandra was respected as a potentially dangerous agent and one that needed to be used with caution. In King’s text we see that overdoses of the drug were possible and a potential problem. “Overdoses cause excessive vomiting or purging, great nervous prostration, occasionally convulsions, and sometimes a tingling or prickling sensation over the whole surface.” Indeed, King tells us that inhaling the dust resulting from powdering the herb could produce effects. “Care must be had in powdering the root, as it sometimes occasions headache, purging, prostration of strength, and all the symptoms of severe coryza.”

To put this in perspective, King does not reported deaths from overdoses of Phytolacca. Despite its potential drawbacks, Phytolacca decandra was of enough interest that pharmaceutical concerns were working to create a standardized extract of the plant. King’s words drive this point home. “The Franklin Institute of the city of New York advertise the active principle of poke root under the name of Phytolaccin; said to be a light-brown powder, with a pleasant, mucilaginous taste, soluble in water, and insoluble in alcohol or ether. I am not advised of its mode of preparation. Said likewise to be a most powerful alterative, aperient, and slightly narcotic. Dose from one-fourth of a grain to a grain, three times a day.”

According to King, the issue with Phytolacca is dosage. He recomends the following amounts of the drug be used, the therapeutic dose being quite small.

Emetic: powdered root 1.3-1.95 gm

Alterative:powdered root.065-.325 gm

tincture of the berry: 3.70 ml three or four times a day

In his mention of hemorrhoids and Phytolacca, King warns that if a patient develops unpleasant side effects, the medication should be discontinued. This is sound advice and indicates that Phytolacca is a medicine that requires medical supervision.

1874: John M. Scudder. Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. Revised. Fifth Edition.

Summary of Actions

Alterative

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Lymphatic: tuberculer diseases of the lymph nodes

Tissues

Skin: chronic skin disease

Glands

Mammae:mammary gland dysfunction

Mucous membranes: oral mucous membrane dysfunction

Dr.Scudder was fond of this drug and made this clear. “It will be found a very valuable remedy, and as it is so common, I would advise every one to prepare them a tincture in the fall and rest it in practice.” Scudder had a fairly focused use for the plant and that was in the treatment of chronic disease. He states that it worked efficiently in syphilis, chronic skin disease, and lymph node abnormalities.

Constitutional disease

The Eclectic’s had noticed that chronic disease was often attended by perversion of constitutional function. A person suffering from eczema would also suffer from poor digestion, assimilation of nutrients, and excretion of waste. The eczema was seen as one manifestation of a greater systemic fault. Drugs like Phytolacca decandra were said to restore the constitution to normal function and in turn all the symptoms then improved. In the following quote we see that this doctor found this plant highly effective in correcting a perverted constitution.

“The tincture of the fresh root is one of my favourite remedies. It exerts a direct influence upon the processes of waste and nutrition, and therefore possesses those properties called alterative in a high degree. I have used it in secondary syphilis, in chronic skin disease, and in scrofula, with excellent results.”

Glandular Tissue

In Scudder’s text we see Phytolacca being used to treat a number of glandular malfunctions. As an example, the plant had been used in veterinary medicine to treat mastitis in cows and in the Eclectic age this use was extended to women.

“It has a direct influence upon the mammary glands, and will generally arrest inflammation if given in the early stage. I also employ it in cases of sore nipples, both internally and locally, with good results.”

Chronic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, and syphilis are often attended by disturbances of the mucous membranes. Scudder was the first Eclectic to indicate that Phytolacca improved the health and function of these membranes.

Moreover, here for the first time we read of it being used in diphtheria, a bacterial infection that leads to the devastation of the mucous membranes. At the time, diphtheria was wrecking havoc in the rural communities in the western United States. The majority of Eclectic physicians worked in the west and therefore worked extensively with the disease. “It has been considerably employed in diphtheria, and many believe it will be found a specific to the sore throat. In this disease it is given internally, and employed as a local application.”

Pharmacy

As the Eclectics worked with the Phytolacca they became cleat that the best tinctures were made of the fresh root. “This is one of those remedies that loses its medical properties by drying, and the crude article furnished from drug stores is wholly worthless, as are the preparations from it. Preparation – We prepare a tincture from the fresh root, 3viij. to Alcohol 76 degree Oj. Dose gtts. ij. to 3ss.”

1883: John M. Scudder. “The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics.” Tenth Edition, revised and rewritten.

Summary of Action

emetic

cathartic

alterative

discutient.

narcotic

errhine

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Digestive system: haemorrhoids

Musculoskeletal system: chronic joint disease

Skin: chronic skin conditions

abscesses and boils

Glands

Mammae: Mammary gland pathologies

Mucous membrane: oral mucous membrane dysfunction

Salivary: Maxillary gland pathologies

Testes: Orchitis

In the nine years that lapsed between Scudder’s first book and the publication of his second book, Scudder’s knowledge of Phytolacca increased substantially. When one compares his comments regarding Phytolacca in 1873 and in 1883 this point becomes plain. In the last test he mentions that it is effective in glandular disease, here he has a lot more to say. He has become very specific!

“The mucous membranes are pale, and the epithelium gives way, showing vesicles, erosions, ulceration. Deposits in and upon the mucous epithelium, of an ashen grey colour, enlargement of the lymphatic glands with pallor, mammary pain or inflammation, irritation of the salivary glands, or of the testes.”

Scudder sees Phytolacca decandra being a specific for mucous membrane dysfunction, whether atonic or hypertonic. He has added dysfunction of the salivary glands to the list of glands addressed by this plant. This book suggests that Phytolacca decandra has a specific action on the glands.

In Scudder’s first book a passing comment is made that Phytolacca is highly praised in scrofula, tuberculosis in the lymph nodes. Tuberculous lymph nodes can suppurate and in this text Scudder tells us that even in this advanced form of tuberculosis, Phytolacca will help. “The root may also be roasted and applied to scirrhous and scrofulous tumours, bronchiocele, indurated and enlarged glands, and as an application to felons, as a discutient, with much advantage.” He also indicates that whenever the glands are enlarged, whether due to tuberculosis or other diseases, it works to bring down the glands.

Musculoskeletal system

In this latest book we see Phytolacca being used for more than just simple rheumatoid conditions, it is now being recomended more specifically. The use has gone from syphilitic rheumatic complaints to chronic rheumatism, the rheumatism of secondary syphilis, and mercurial syphilis. Scudder speaks about in glowing terms which is unusual for this writer.

“As an alterative , in chronic rheumatism, mercurial rheumatism, secondary syphilis, etc. but few agents are known to the profession which are so searching or more truly alterative. For this purpose the root, extract of the root, berries, or inspissated juice of the berries, or the tincture, may be prescribed alone, or combined with other agents; while the root may be roasted and applied to the part affected in the form of a poultice, or the saturated tincture or extract may be used as a local application.”

Here we find the doctor recomending that the plant be used internally and externally. Indeed, we find a native American use of Phytolacca. Scudder recomends roasting the root, mashing the roasted root, and applying this mash as a poultice. This he says, done while the patient is taking Phytolacca internally, is the winning combination.

Skin

Like other Eclectics, Scudder mentions using Phytolacca in chronic skin disease and suggests an ointment be made. “An ointment of the leaves or root will be found serviceable in the same disease, and may also be used with much advantage in scabies, psoriasis, tinea capitis, etc. The root has been used to keep open fistulous pipes, and as a gentle escharotic and excitant to old and indolent ulcers.”

Glands

Scudder used Phytolacca in pathologies of four glands, the mucous membranes, the mammae, the salivary glands, and the testes. The specificity of use indicates the Eclectic understanding of Phytolacca in glandular disease was becoming more sophisticated. Here Scudder says use it in diptheria, but use it early!

Its range of use in glandular disease is quite interesting; Phytolacca is used both in acute disease, as mumps, and in chronic disease as in the glandular derangement of rheumatoid arthritis. When the glands were inflammed, the Eclectics recomended Phytolacca.

Mucous membranes

nasal mucous membranes

Scudder introduces Phytolacca as an errhine, an agent that induces sneezing. He also talks about it being used in catarrhal conditions. We had heard about it being used in problems with the mucous membrane, here we are getting a little more specific.

“The root of Phytolacca decandra, or poke root, is likewise employed as an errhines in cephalgia, catarrhal affections, rheumatic and paralytic disorders, also in cases of polypi. In the later affection it is united with Sanguinaria and employed as an escharotic. For ordinary use the powdered root should be diluted with some mild and less irritating agent. It acts violently as an errhines and sternutatory, and to some individuals, it proves quite poisonous when inhaled, even in small quantities.”

oral mucous membranes

Scudder states that Phytolacca has an activity on the oral mucous membranes, lips to throat. Stomatitis and diphtheria alike were remedied by its application.

“Phytolacca is a prominent remedy in stomatitis. Infantile sore mouths yield readily to it, and for the ordinary sore mouths of adults, we rarely think of another remedy. It is not so certain in nursing sore mouth, but yet it will cure some cases better than any other single remedy.

The first and most important use of phytolacca is its specific action in diphtheria. The name here indicates a special pathological condition, and we might expect to find a remedy which would meet the large number of cases. Unless there is a strong indication for other remedies, I prescribe this as follows. Tincture of aconite, gtt.v., tincture of phytolacca ftt.x.to gtt.xx. water 3iv. a teaspoonful every hour. Hundreds of cases have been treated with a success almost marvellous. Of course, the treatment must be commenced early. If a patients blood is saturated with the poison, and the tissues of the throat are dying, we could not expect success.”

Scudder tells us that when used early in diphtheria, Phytolacca could effect a cure. This was indeed marvelous news. The regular physicians were having about a zero success rate treating this disease and anything that made a difference was considered miraculous.

Mammary Glands

In the Eclectic day most women breast fed their children and as a consequence, there was considerable breast infection. If left untreated, mastitis often lead to suppuration and very nasty ulcers and furuncles. The Eclectics found that Phytolacca could abort this eventuality. “It is the remedy for threatened mammary inflammation. It should be given early in the disease, with the commencement of engorgement, heat, pain, and redness. It is so positive in its action, that in the larger number of cases the inflammation can be aborted. This use of phytolacca should be widely known, as it will prevent the severe suffering that attends the usual course of mammary inflammation, terminating in suppuration. As an application to the inflamed breast, nothing is better than the powdered root, wetted with warm water, or even the tincture with water. Phytolacca is a valuable remedy in many cases of sore nipples, and when the child has a sore mouth, both mother and child should take the remedy.”

Maxillary Glands

Inflammation of the salivary glands can be an acute condition, as in mumps, or it can be a symptom of auto-immune disease. Here we see Phytolacca being used in both instances. “It is the remedy of parotitis or mumps, when a remedy is needed, and I rarely think of giving anything but this and aconite.”

Testes

The midwest was pioneer territory and there were a lot of farm yard accidents. Men were forever hurting their testicles and often inflammations resulted. Here too we see Phytolacca employed. “It is also a good internal remedy for orchitis, and may be combined with cannabis, veratrum, belladonna, or gelsemium, according to the indications.”

Pharmacy

Preparation and dosage

Scudder affirms the fact that the preparation should be made of the fresh root and that the dosage should be very small. “The root of phytolacca decandra. Preparation: Tincture of Phytolacca (the fresh root). Dose: From the fraction of a drop to twenty drops. Usually we add gtt. v. to 3ss. to water 3iv.; the dose being one teaspoonful.”

Toxicicology

Here again Scudder warns us that Phytolacca is to be used in extremely small amounts and that one paid a price for using it in large amounts. “In over‑doses, it is said to cause excessive vomiting and purging, with great prostration, and occasionally convulsions. The dust inhaled, while pulverizing the root, produces severe coryza, with headache and prostration.”

1892: J.S.Neiderkorn. The Physicians and Students Ready Guide to Specific Medication.

The Eclectics believed in what they called specific medication. The notion being that for every patient there was a very specific medicine out there that would perfectly address the patient in question. For this reason, they often described what patient would be benefited by a medicinal plant and they were pretty specific. Here we see a specific indication listed. “Pale skin, lymphatic enlargements, indolent action of skin. dose: one drop every three hours.”

1895: Lyman Watkins. An Eclectic Compendium of The Practice of Medicine.

In this next book we find another specific indication. “Pallid mucous membrane, pallid tongue with slick coat, soreness of mouth, dribbling of saliva, irritation and burning in skin, enlarged lymphatics, sore nipples, mastitis. Five to twenty drops in four ounces water; teaspoonful every two hours.”

1898: Felter and Lloyd. Kings Dispensatory.

Summary of Actions

emetic

cathartic

narcotic

alterative.

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Digestive system:haemorrhoids

Musculoskeletal system: chronic rheumatism

syphilitic joints.

Nervous system: severe pains attending syphilis

headache

Lymphatic system: swelling and suppuration of lymph nodes.

Skin: itch, chronic eczema, syphilitic eruptions, ulcers, boils, carbuncles, fissures, felons, tumours, ulcerations of the outlets of the body, burns.

Adipose tissue : obesity.

Glandular tissue

Mucous membranes: leucorrhea, oral membrane affections, digestive mucous membrane ulceration, conjunctival affections.

Mammary glands: mastitis

Maxillary glands: mastitis

Ovaries: ovaritis

Testes: mumps having spread to the testicles

Kings Dispensatory can be seen as the Bible of the Eclectic medical movement. Orignally written by Dr.King, the book was updated periodically with the latest developments and discoveries. As we approach the turn of the century, Eclectic knowledge of Phytolacca decandra had increased and we see this in the latest “Kings Dispensatory”.

Systems

Urinary System

There are several types of kidney disease which are auto-immune in nature. Curiously, in this text we discover that the Eclectics had begun using Phytolacca to treat the symptoms of kidney failure. “We find that the good results have followed its internal administration in albuminuria, and in those dropsies attended with albumen in the urine.” When the kidneys fail to do their job, protein, albumen, ends up being excreted rather than retained by the kidneys.

Lymphatic System

Previously Phytolacca was seen as being excellent in suppurative conditions of the lymph nodes but here we see a change of heart. This edition states that the is best used when the lymph nodes are hard and swollen. “In diseases of the glandular apparatus phytolacca and iris are our best drugs. Unlike iris, through, the former is best suited to hard, lymphatic enlargements. It is not the remedy for suppurative conditions of the glands. In such cases iris with baptisia renders the best service. Lymphoma has been cured by it.”

Nervous system

One of the common features of auto-immune diseases is pain. When the immune system attacks skin,joints, bones, pain results. The curious feature about Phytolacca is its apparent ability to deaden pain. The Eclectics used it specifically for the pain of degenerative conditions and for simple headaches. “Preparations of the root are excellent for the removal of those severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections (osteocopus), often being more beneficial than opium. Headache, whether rheumatic, nervous, syphilitic, or sympathetic (as, sick headache from gastric acidity and debility), is much benefited by it.”

The opiates are some of the best pain killers around! The fact the Eclectics saw it as being as powerful as the opiates is a strong endorsement!

Skin

When we look at the Eclectic use of Phytolacca and the skin, we find a very similar situation to that which we find when we look at their treatment of the mucous membrane. On one hand the plant can cause inflammation and on the other it is used to effectively treat inflammation!

Phytolacca is so stimulating it can raise blisters. “Applied to the skin, either in the form of juice, strong decoction, or poultice of the root, it produces an erythematous, sometimes pustular eruption. Phytolacca plays an important part in dermatological practice.” We are warned that Phytolacca can cause inflammation.

This ability to activate the skin was used by the Eclectics when the skin lacked vitality and the ability to heal itself. “The condition which calls for it is one of indolent action of the skin, usually associated with vitiated blood. There is a glandular difficulty – a scrofulous condition. There may be scaly, vesicular, pustular, or tuberculous eruptions, and lymphatic enlargements with pain. The skin may be inflamed, but does not itch because there is not activity enough in the part.”

This activating quality was used to get old ulcers to heal. These writers mention that this plant was even used to stimulate the healing of cancerous ulcers. Bear in mind though, their definition of cancer was not always the same as ours. Really nasty ulcers which would not heal were sometimes known as carcinoma. “When bruised an applied locally, they(leaves) are beneficial in indolent ulcers. The inspissated juice of the leaves has been recommended in indolent ulcers, and as a remedy in cancer; in this last disease, Dr. Bone combined it with gunpowder. Quite recently, the inspissated juice of the leaves has been lauded as a new local remedy for the removal of carcinoma. The treatment, however, is not new, having been referred to by American medical writers early in the present century”.

Along these same lines, Phytolacca was used to speed the healing of tumors and felons. “Applied as a poultice it has been greatly beneficial in the treatment of felons. The root, roasted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, is unrivalled in felons and tumours of various kinds. It discusses them rapidly, or, if too far advanced, hastens their suppuration.”

The Eclectics felt that Phytolacca would stimulate healing when the body seemed slow to bring healing about. .

Things become a bit strange when you realise the Eclectic use did not stop here. They used Phytolacca in situations where the skin behaved in a hyperactive manner as well as in a hypoactive manner. “The root or leaves finely powdered, and added to lard to form an ointment, in the proportion of 60 grains to 1 ounce of lard, is very efficient in scaldhead, and many other obstinate skin diseases, occasionally causing a slight degree of irritation when applied. It is often indicated in chronic eczema, syphilitic eruptions, psoriasis, tinea capitis, favus, and varicose and other ulcers of the leg. Associated with iris, it is a valuable agent in acute sycosis, fissures, fistulae, boils, carbuncles, dermal abscesses, and all ulcerations of the outlets of the body.”

There is much talk today of medicinal plants providing the body with compounds that encourage the body to achieve balance. We see this with Phytolacca. It was used to treat immune dysfunction, bother insufficient immune function and hyperimmune function. The truly amazing part is that the physicians that used it said it really worked in both cases.

Tissues

Adipose Tissue

In this text we see Phytolacca being used for something entirely new, as a slimming aid. The Eclectics had noticed that birds eating Phytolacca berries lost weight. In response, they gave it a trial amongst themselves and their patients to see if it would make them loose weight. “Several years ago it was noticed that birds lost their adipose(fat) tissue when feeding upon poke-berries. Recently, this agent, in the form of an extract of the berries, has been employed to reduce obesity. Reports for and against its virtues in this line are now appearing in journals, but its action is still doubtful. Some, believing that it does act in this way, have suggested its use in fatty degeneration of the heart. Probably it would be more clearly indicated if associated with a rheumatic diathesis.”

As obesity and high cholesterol levels are a significant problems today, any agent with a potential activity in these areas is of interest. Phytolacca decandra and its potential activity in weight loss and blood lipid level reduction require additional research!

Glandular Tissue

Mucous membranes

When we look at the statements made in this text about the mucous membranes, we find the same situation we found with the skin. In the first instance it is said to be an irritant to the mucous membrane. “The powdered root when inhaled is very irritating to the respiratory passages, and often produces a severe coryza, with headache and prostration, pain in chest, back, and abdomen, conjunctival injection and ocular irritation, and occasionally causes violent emeto-catharsis.”

In the second instance we read that it is efficient in quieting irritated mucous membranes. We see that it is used in acute and chronic disturbances of the mucous membranes. Conditions like acute tonsillitis and diptheria are treated with Phytolacca as well as the ulcerated eyes. We see it being used when the mucous membrane can use an immune stimulant and when it needs an immune depressant. It would pay to look at the specific uses.

acute and chronic inflammation of the oral mucous membranes

“In diseases of the mouth and throat it is highly esteemed. It is useful in acute and chronic mucous affections, as, in tracheitis, laryngitis, influenza, catarrh, and especially in those affections where there is a tendency to the formation of false membrane, as diphtheria. There is a pallid, somewhat leaden-coloured tongue, with but little coating, being a slick, glutinous coat, if covered at all. The mucous membranes present whitish erosions, or vesicular patches. With these conditions it may be employed in tonsillitis, follicular pharyngitis, stomatitis, aphthae, nursing sore mouth, or ordinary sore mouth, and syphilitic faucial ulcerations. It should be taken internally and used locally as a gargle. It is a good remedy in chronic tonsillar hypertrophy.”

nasal mucous membrane

“It is beneficial in difficult respiration produced by bronchiocele (iris is useful here also) and associated with baptisia, does good service as a local wash in ozena and other forms of nasal catarrh. Cough resulting from inflamed or irritated sore throat is cured by it when the other indications for the drug are present. Nasal catarrh, ozena, and other ulcerated conditions of the nasal membranes are benefited by phytolacca associated with specific baptisia.”

digestive mucous membrane

“Ulceration of the mucous crypts of the stomach and of Peyer’s patches call for phytolacca.”

urogenital mucous membrane

“It has been used with success in gonorrhoea and copious nocturnal urination. Subinvolution of the uterus, uterine and vaginal leucorrhea, and some cases of membranous dysmenorrhoea are cured by this agent.”

ocular mucous membrane

“It relieves conjunctival inflammations, and gonorrhoeal and syphilitic sore eyes. In granular conjunctivitis I have derived much advantage by bathing the eyes daily with a decoction of the root, applying it to the affected conjunctiva by means of a camel’s hair pencil, at the same time administering the tincture of the recent root internally (J. King).”

As has been made clear, when the mucous membrane were behaving peculiarly, Phytolacca decandra was called in. This included those suffering from occular mucous membrane involvement.

Patients suffering from an auto-immune process can present with ocular involvement. Chronic inflammation of the eye margin(blepharitis) and dry eyes(xerostomia) being two noteable examples. Pateints with these manifestations are not happy people. When the glands fail to produce the neccessary lubricating substances the eyes become unbearably sore and painful. The fact that the Eclectics found Phytolacca decandra effective in both of these instances could be good news for these patients.

mammary glands

The Eclectics continued to use this medicinal plant to treat inflammation of the breast. “No other remedy equals phytolacca in acute mastitis. If employed early it prevents suppuration, yet it acts kindly even when the abscess has to be opened, and the diluted specific phytolacca may be injected into the cavity. The remedy should be administered internally, alternated with specific aconite. Locally, specific phytolacca and glycerin may be applied when suppuration has not begun. Or the powdered root may be employed, moistened with water.” There is no surprise in this use. But, the authors go onto say something which is new information. “Sore nipples and mammary tenderness, or morbid sensitiveness of the breasts during the menstrual period call for phytolacca.” Menstrual related breast tenderness is still a problem today and women who use it do find it works!

salivary glands

Auto-immune diseases can attack the salivary glands as well as the tear producing glands of the eyes. When salivary glands fail to product their much needed saliva, life becomes a misery. Here we see this drug may offer such a patient hope. “Parotitis is almost always cured with phytolacca and aconite.”

Pharmacy

The Eclectics really had been getting to know this medicinal plant and keeping track on others experiences. It would seem they had discovered that the drug could cause an overdose and what happened in an overdose situation. “Phytolacca slows the heart’s action, reduces the force of the pulse, and lessens the respiratory movements. It is a paralyser of the spinal cord, acting principally on the medulla. In poisoning by this agent tetanic convulsions may ensue. Death results from carbonic acid poisoning, the result of respiratory paralysis. Dimness of vision, diplopia, vertigo, and drowsiness are occasioned by large doses not sufficient to produce death.”

We had been warned previously that the drug was potentially dangerous and one might have assumed that this due to its emetic and cathartic nature. Here we learn it is indeed active on the nervous system and causes death by paralysis of respiration!

Dose is important when it comes to Phytolacca!

Dosage

“The usual prescription for specific uses is: R Specific phytolacca gtt. x to xxx, aqua 3iv. Mix. Sig. Teaspoonful every 1, 2, or 3 hours. As a glycerol: R Specific phytolacca 3ii, glycerin 3i. Mix. Apply in chronic skin diseases. The dose of specific phytolacca ranges from 1 to 10 drops.

For skin diseases it should be employed internally and locally. Rx Specific phytolacca 3ss, aqua 3iv. Sig. Teaspoonful every 3 hours. Locally: Rx Specific phytolacca 3ij, glycerin 3j. Mix. Apply.”

1898: H.T.Webster. “Dynamical Therapeutics-A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with Special References to the Newer Remedies. Second Edition.

Summary of Actions

Antiseptic

Antizymotic

Corrective

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Digestive: parasites

Lymphatic: acute inflammation of the lymph nodes

Musculoskeletal: muscular rheumatism

chronic rheumatism

periosteal rheumatism

Tissues

Adipose: obesity

Skin: corrective of suppurative tendency

Mucous membranes: pharyngitis

tonsillitis

congestion

sore mouth

stomatitis

Glands

Mammary: mastitis

testes: orchitis

Ductless Glands

Thyroid

Webster has the most comprehensive list of uses for phytolacca of all of the Eclectics that wrote about it. He is the most specific about its use and leaves a very clear record as to how Phytolacca ought to be used in the practice of medicine. This was clearly an herb he spent studying and prescribing.

Most of the Eclectics described Phytolacca as being an alterative. Webster says the same thing in more contemporary language and adds to this description. He describes it as being anti-zymotic,antiseptic, and corrective. The word corrective was a synonym for alteratice. Webster felt that Phytolacca corrected a tendency toward disease.

Now, anti-zymotics and antiseptic were drugs that cleared the body of toxins, whether those produced by the body or those produced by a bacteria living in the body. Webster felt that in chronic diseases the body was producing compounds that were attacking the body. These substances needed to be removed so the auto-intoxication could come to an end and anti-zymotics and antiseptics accomplished this. Webster was working with his eyes, eventually those working with microscopes would find this was the case.

When you compare this work with that of Beach it is clear that the Eclectic movement advanced our understanding of Phytolacca to a great degree. To Beach it was an active cathartic serviceable in rheumatism. Here we see a great deal more.

For the most part, Webster gives us the general Eclectic opinion of the plant. In his estimation it was an excellent choice when the mucous membranes, the musculoskeletal system, and the glands were involved in a chronic disease process.

Systems

Lymphatic System

Chronic inflammation and acute inflammation can cause the lymph nodes to swell. Webster suggests that Phytolacca is best used in acute inflammation of the lymph nodes. “It is especially valuable in the inflammatory action liable to occur in the cervical lymphatics due to absorption from the fauces in the late stage of scarlatina. However, in all forms of acute inflammation of the lymphatic glands, it will be found a very useful remedy.”

Musculoskeletal System

Previous writers have recommended Phytolacca in musculoskeletal disease, usually indicating its use in rheumatic joints. Webster becomes much more specific. He suggests it in muscular, joint, and bone pathologies of a rheumatic origin. Rheumatoid arthritis effects the muscles, joints, and bones and Webster states that Phytolacca addresses all three of these manifestations of the disease.

muscles

When one thinks of autoimmune disease, one usually thinks of the joints being attacked. Ever increasingly we are becoming aware that auto-immune disease can and does involve the muscles which are attached to joints. “Phytolacca exerts a positive influence upon the muscles, relieving muscular pain, in some cases, promptly. It was a favourite remedy in rheumatism with our old Eclectics, and it is not to be despised for this purpose, though I think that we have better ones. For the muscular pains attending acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis it is promptly curative, while it also relieves the inflammation of the mucous membrane. It is also of value in the treatment of pectoral pains, when these are confined to the pectoral muscles – not shifting.”

Joints

” In chronic rheumatism phytolacca should be awarded a fair trial, as it will sometimes excel more than highly accredited remedies. It is always worthy a trial in stubborn cases. Syphilitic muscular pains will demand phytolacca after Berberis aquifolium has failed. The former remedy, however, is worthy of first notice.

Bones(Periosteum)

“This remedy is very highly commended by Hale as a cure for rheumatism involving the periosteum. Deep seated pain, situated apparently upon the surface of the bone, with tendency to shifting of its location and other evidences of rheumatic dyscrasia, would call for its exhibition. In this case there is not likely to be much swelling but simply a deep seated pain, not much affected by pressure, of dull, aching character.

Dr. Hale, in his New Remedies , cites a number of such cases promptly cured by phytolacca, after all the most reputed remedies for rheumatism had failed. Apparently in these cases the tissue involved had not been taken into consideration enough in making the therapeutic adaptation – the tissue affinity of drugs had not been sufficiently kept in sight, in the therapeutic application.

Tissues

Adipose tissue
Again we see Phytolacca being used to rid the body of excess fat! It would seem that Webster himself

had a weight problem and that for this reason it was of particular interest to him.

“The extract of poke berries has been recommended as an agent to correct obesity. Dr. Standlee ( Chicago Medicinal Times , 1890) observes, respecting this property: We find a remedy in the fruit of the phytolacca decandra, which clinical observation has taught us possesses all the valuable characteristics that we desire. It was discovered by noticing birds that feast on these berries in the fall of the year. Their bodies become very destitute of adipose tissue, though they seem to be otherwise in a normal condition. The fruit does not possess the acro-narcotic properties of the root. Small children, being attracted by their beautiful colour, have been known to eat large quantities of these berries with no alarming symptoms following. Take the berries (best after frost) and compress the juice from them. Strain this juice through a cheese-cloth to remove any seeds that may have escaped into it, after which place it in large, flat dishes and evaporate to a waxy mass by a gentle heat, or in the sun’s rays. Take the mass and make into pills of two or three grains each, or if beauty and exactness are desired the mass can be sent to a manufacturer, that they may be more evenly divided, and sugar or gelatine coated.

Three of these pills taken daily will often diminish the weight of the body at the rate of from five to ten pounds per week. The evacuations from the bowels are more copious than usual, but in all other respects are perfectly natural. The muscles become firm, their action more free than before, and the power is increased. The patient soon experiences a feeling of lightness, renewed energy, and ability to endure greater muscular exertion than before. No bad effects will result.

Extract of phytolacca berries(juice)seems to lessen the amount of fluids in the body, or, perhaps I better say, the amount of fat. But I am inclined to the belief that the value of the agent in obesity does not assist so much in its power to remove fat as to stimulate the absorption of superfluous fluids in persons of lymphatic temperament. In those who are stout on account of the deposition of fat the remedy produces a marked effect so far as the reduction of the weight is concerned, though it may improve general elasticity. On this subject a writer in the homeopathic News remarks:

I have used the phytolacca as an anti-fat remedy for several years, and know that it is good, having proved it on myself. My grandfather was a great ale and beer drinker, and of course had a very large corporation, big belly. He used to tell me that grandfather would never be dead as long as I lived, meaning that I would grow like him. This used to scare me as a child, but despite of my annoyance, as I grew to manhood, and found the prediction becoming true, and in late years I was very much troubled about it. In studying phytolacca, I saw the statement about birds, and began trying it, and always with great benefit. My own corporation is entirely gone. I can stand upright, look down on my body, and see everything. I used one drop of tincture made from berries picked from a tree in my garden. Equal berries to their weight of alcohol. The berry juice, with only enough alcohol to prevent their fermentation is the best, then one drop doses night and morning are enough.

While I was taking these drops I felt as light and springing as a bouncing ball;could run and jump with any boy. I am now fifty eight years old, and take my saturday half holidays in the cricket field, playing that manly and scientific game. I have use it on others, and all with benefit. Some very fat women have been made comfortable. I have used it in the solid extract prepared by Professor Waterhouse’s formula. By actual measurement their adipose tissue has been reduce by inches. It was easier to keep track by measure than by weight. In a few cases they have said they gained weight, while they grew less in bulk, but all confessed to the elasticity they felt”.

Doctor Webster spoke so highly of this remedy in obesity it raises some pretty interesting questions! The most amazing part is that the dieters felt great while they were dieting!

Glands

When it came to glands and glandular tissue, Webster confirmed that which we have seen before. “This agent is one of the most reliable ones we have in the treatment of acute adenitis. This remedy influences other glandular organs besides the lympathics, as, for instance the mammae, the testes, the thyroid, etc.” There are a few notable exceptions which require our attention.

Webster recomends the use of Phytolacca in colds to cure the congestion associated with with such upper respirartory infections. This is of interest as nasal congestion and the general discomfort of having a cold is currently best treated by Ephedra sinica, a drug that has become increasingly restricted. In time it may not be available to practitioners and we may find ourselves looking for something else that works!

Webster goes on to describe a truly fascinating use of Phytolacca. He recomends it for the treatment of thyroid disorders! “I wish to call attention here to the value of phytolacca in enlargement of the thyroid gland. Dr.H.H.Webster, formerly of North Jackson, Ohio, used it successfully, for years, for this purpose, and always with satisfactory results. He considers it superior iris, calcarea car.,spongia, or any other remedy in this class.”

Now, this is very interesting. Firstly, we phytotherapists have very little to offer someone suffering from thyroid disease. Not that the plants do not exist, we simply do not have them. So, it would be a welcome plant to our medicine chest if this was the case. But, more fascinatingly, the thyroid hormone, thyroxin, governs metabolism. If this plant somehow stimulates the thyroid gland to increased activity, it might explain why it was found effective in weight loss.

Pharmacy

Webster left us fairly specific instructions when it came to using Phytolacca. As you will see, each disease process was treated seperately.

Obesity: In obesity, the inspissated juice of the ripe berries only, should be employed. This is prepared by crushing the ripe fruit, and after straining through a fine sieve or coarse cloth, to remove the seeds, allowing the product to evaporate to a waxy consistency in the sun. This is administered in doses of three or four grains, repeated three or four times daily.”

mucous membrane: The specific medicine is always reliable, where preparation of the root is required, as in aphthae, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, etc. The inspissated juice is easily prepared from the berried, by the process of expression and exposure to the sun on earthen trays. Dose-Of the specific medicine, add half a drachm to four ounces of water, and order a teaspoonful every hour. Two or four grains of the inspissated juice may be taken three times a day.”

musculoskeletal disease: The tincture made from the fresh root, by macerating the crushed article in pure alcohol, fulfils the best purpose. The only reliable substitute for this known to me is the specific medicine. This usually fulfils the requirements of the case. dose: One or two drops three or four times daily.”

Glands: The specific medicine, when an action on the lymphatics in adenitis is desirable. These dose of the specific medicine, in adenitis, should be a drachm to four ounces of water, from which a teaspoonful may be taken every two hours.”

Rheumatism(Joints) : The specific medicine. Dose: From the fraction of a drop to five drops.”

1901: Harvey W Felter. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J.Locke. edited with pharmacological additions by H.W.Felter. Second edition, with appendix.

Summary of Actions

Alterative

Diuretic

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Urinary: water retention

Musculoskeletal: chronic rheumatism

Glands

Mucous membranes: dysfunction and ulceration

Mammary glands: mastitis.

mammary abscess

Felter offers us the most succinct description of Phytolacca’s use in medicine to date. “As an alterative it is very valuable to increase waste and improve nutrition. It acts specifically upon the glands and mucous membranes. It may be employed when there is a languid condition of the blood vessels and absorbents.” We do not see any new information proffered, but, we are given a well balanced view of the plant.

Felter does suggest one use for the plant we have not seen before and that is as a diuretic. Earlier writers have suggested that its activity in obesity was likely to have been due to an ability to get the fluids moving, but it was not suggested to be a diuretic outright.

Systems

Digestive System

“In large doses phytolacca is cathartic and emetic… It is not a desirable emetic, being very slow in its action, though when emesis results it persists for a long time, producing great discomfort and also purgation.”

Musculoskeletal System

“A tincture of the berries is also useful in obstinate cases of chronic rheumatism. The following is a good preparation for chronic rheumatism. Take of poke berries two ounces an macerate them in one pint of holland gin. Give this from a teaspoonful to a tablespoon dose.”

Urinary System

“In dropsy it is one of our best alternatives… and in very large doses it influences the kidney as a diuretic.”

Glands

Mucous membranes

“In general, Phytolacca is a stimulant of the mucous surfaces and absorbents, acting much like iodide of potassium. Use it where the mucous membranes are blanched, pallid, or ulcerated. Employ it in all ulcerations of the outlets of the body.”

Pharynx: “It is a very good drug in simple diphtheria when the disease is diffused. In the early stage Aconite and Belladonna are better, but if the disease is not arrested by these, then give Phytolacca in alternation with them.”

Tonsils: ” It is of much value in ulceration of the mucous surfaces, as of the tonsils, fauces, etc. Many time it reduces a chronically enlarged tonsil.”

Lung: “It has cured bronchocele when iodine has failed.”

Uterus and Vagina: ” As a constitutional remedy it may be employed for ulceration of the os uteri, and also in leucorrhea.”

Occular mucous membranes ” Rheumatic iritis is greatly benefited by it.”

Mammary Glands

“Phytolacca is very valuable in the treatment of mammary inflammation with threatened abscess, or when the abscess has already formed. Give the remedy internally and apply it locally. In case of cold in the mammae with threatened mammary abscess give it in alternation with Aconite. If the swelling be great the breasts may be supported by an adhesive strip.”

non-suppurating mammary abscesses: ” If abscess results and it has not opened of its own accord, lance it and then syringe the cavity with Phytolacca diluted and continue internally the prescriptions as above directed. Take of the tincture one-half ounce, and warm water nine ounces. and syringe the part; this relieves the pain and promotes healing.”

Sensitive breasts: “It is a valuable drug for females who have morbid sensitiveness and tenderness of the breast at the menstrual period.”

Cracked nipples: “It is also a good remedy for cracked nipples. Apply it locally and give in internally.”

Swelling of neonate breasts: “It is a good agent in swelling of the breast of new-born infants.”

Pharmacy

Preparation:

“ This is a common native plant, flowering in July and ripening its berries in August. It has a greenish flower and a light-coloured root, having a taste at first sweetish, but afterwards acrid. Alcohol and boiling water extract its virtues. Use the tincture, and, if convenient, prepare your own tincture from the fresh root (preferably dug in September), cut fine and fill with alcohol. Let this stand until needed, when it may be filtered and is ready to use.

Specific Phytolacca has a light-reddish colour and the flavour of the recent root. It is liable to alteration by age, casting down a light, nearly white precipitate. This does not interfere, however, with the medicinal value of the remedy.”

Dosages

Mucous membrane disorders

Rx. Specific Phytolacca, fl 3 j.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

Sig. – Dose, a teaspoonful every one, two, three or four hours, as required.”

Threatened mammary abscess

Administer a teaspoonful each of the following solutions alternately every hour:

Rx. Specific Aconite, gtt.x.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

Rx. Specific Phytolacca, 3j. or ij.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

If is possible and desirable to check the formation of abscess apply the following:

R. Specific Phytolacca

Glycerin, aa. M.

Morbid sensitiveness of breasts:

R. Specific Phytolacca, gtt. x. to xxx.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

Sig. – Dose, a teaspoonful every three hours.

1905: Dr.J.S.Neiderkorn.A Handy Reference Book. Published by the Author. Ohio.

“Chronic skin affections where tissues and veins are full, constipation, inactive liver, dirty yellowish coating on tongue from tip to base, heavy coating on base; dizziness. From two to five or ten drops every three hours.”

1905: F.J.Petersen,MD. Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics. F.J.Petersen,MD. Published by the author.Los Olivos, Calif.

Summary of Actions

small doses: alterative

large doses:

Cathartic

Emetic

Narcotic

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Lymphatic: hard and swollen lymph nodes.

Musculoskeletal: rheumatism.

Tissues

Mucous membranes: inflammation, irritation, ulceration.

Glands: inflammation of glands.

For the most part, Peterson does not add anything to the list of actions described for Phytolacca. However, in his “specific indications” we see how specific the Eclectics have become in regards their use of Phytolacca. “Pallid tongue and mucous membrane, tongue slightly coated, looking as though it was covered with a glutinous substance; sometimes tongue has a leaden appearance. In inflammation and various affections of the lymphatic glands, especially if swollen and hard.”

This paragraph demonstrates they have narrowed the field of use for Phytolacca down considerably from the days of Wooster Beach.

1907: Finley Ellingwood,MD. A Systematic Treatise on Materia Medica and Therapeutics with reference to the specific action of Drugs. Fifth edition.

Summary of Actions:

Alterative

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Lymphatic: inflammation of the lymph nodes.

Musculoskeletal: irritation, inflammation, and ulceration in rheumatic subjects.

Tissues

Skin: squamous skin conditions.

Glands

Inflammation of glandular structures.

This early of Ellingwood’s is unremarkable except in one regard. Here Ellingwood states that Phytolacca is an excellent choice in rheumatic subjects with problematic mucous membranes and chronic skin conditions. He states it is excellent in all skin conditions attending what we now call rheumatoid arthritis. This is the first time these conditions are linked together so clearly.

“Pains of rheumatism, characterized by deficient catabolism, are relieved by it. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation, and ulceration in rheumatic subjects, squamous ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, psoriasis, and all skin diseases.” It is especially valuable in the squamous varieties of skin diseases.”

1911: John William Fyfe, MD. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics.

Summary of Actions :

(small doses)

Alterative

Diuretic

Laxative

Resolvent

Antiscorbutic

Antisyphilitic.

(large doses)

Emetic

Cathartic

Narcotic.

Summary of Pathologies

Systems

Cardiovascular: fatty degeneration of the heart.

Musculoskeletal: rheumatism of periosteum, fibres, and joints.

Tissues

Mucous Membranes: full and dark coloured.

Tonsils: swollen covered with exudation.

tonsillitis

Glands

General: inflamed glands.

depressed secretion.

threatened abscess

Mammary: threatened abscess

Parotid and submaxillary: threatened abscess.

In Fyfe’s text we see a continuation of the very specific indications for Phytolacca we saw earlier in Peterson’s text. By the year 1911 the Eclectics knew exactly when to use the drug.

“Enlargement, inflammation or pain in glands; mucous surface of the fauces full and of dark colour, the tonsils swollen, throat dry or covered with patches of tenacious secretion or ash coloured exudation, depressed function or imperfect secretion; fatty degeneration of the heart. Locally, threatened abscesses in glands.”

This is one of our most valuable remedies in tonsillitis , diphtheria, parotitis, threatened abscess of mammary, parotid,and submaxillary glands, fatty degeneration of the heart and rheumatism. All diseases of the glandular organs , periosteal, fibrous, and cutaneous tissues come within the range of its curative power. In fatty degeneration of the heart the extract of the berries is said to be the most efficient preparation of the drug. Six grains(.39 gm) is the dose usually employed.”

1919: Finley Ellingwood, MD. American Materia Medica,Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy.

Summary of Action

Cathartic

Emetic

Liver stimulant

Alterative

Summary of Pathologies Treated

Systems

Digestive: poor digestion, absorption, and excretion.

Musculoskeletal: rheumatic conditions, ulceration and irritation of mucous membranes in rheumatic patients.

Nervous: Pain

Urinary: irritation of urinary system, albumen in the urine, abnormal deposits in the urine.

Skin: chronic skin conditions, skin conditions based on constitutional wrongs.

Glands

General: all glandular disease.

Mucous Membrane disorders

Mammary: acute inflammation preceding or during lactation.

Testicles: directly influences these glands.

Our last and final commentary on Phytolacca comes from Finley Ellingwood. This, his second contribution, is substantially more detailed than his first. We find a complete summary of the Eclectic opionion over the years this group of physicians worked with the drug. There are new uses for the plant and a rehash of statements made earlier. This is by far the most comprehensive text on the subject of Phytolacca from the Eclectic movement and if proof positive the Eclectics had given the drug a comprehensive review over the years. .

Systems

Digestive System

“It has been thought to stimulate the liver, by those who hold the theory that rheumatism, peritonitis, tonsillitis, and the many diseases assigned to the uric acid diathesis depend upon abnormal protoplasmic change in the blood, as it circulates through the liver; but whether this be true or not, there is no doubt that it improves nutrition.”

Musculoskeletal System

“Pains of a rheumatic character from deficient catabolism are relieved by it. t is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in rheumatic subjects. he presence in the blood of an infectious irritant, which causes rheumatic pains, as in sciatic rheumatism, and irritation of mucous membranes, or inflammation of the throat associated with rheumatic pains, and enlargement and ulceration of lymphatic glands from scrofula or syphilis, is an indication for the remedial action of phytolacca.”

Nervous System

“The remedy acts also upon the spinal cord. It inhibits the influence of the medulla, to final paralysis. It slows the action of the heart, reduces the force of the pulse, and lessens respiratory movements. In poisonous doses it will induce convulsions of a tetanic character. It reduces muscular power and co-ordination. It produces dimness of vision, vertigo and drowsiness, prolonged in some cases to coma. Phytolacca is somewhat narcotic, and also a nerve stimulant in moderate doses, and this will explain its action in curing rheumatism, for those who take the ground that this obscure disease is a neurosis; and also explains its action in neuralgia.”

Urinary system

“In irritation of the urinary tract, even in conditions resembling Bright’s disease, with albumin, and abnormal deposits in the urine, it tends to relieve the irritation, and effect a cure. Dr. Waska of Chicago is a strong advocate of the use of phytolacca and echinacea in the treatment of any form of albuminuria. He believes with proper auxiliary treatment, these two remedies will be of great service in overcoming the excretion of albumin and in restoring a normal condition of the kidneys.

Skin

“Skin disease of constitutional origin, and scrofulous skin diseases, are cured by it. The writer has, through a long experience, gotten into the habit of adding this remedy to alterative compounds. This is especially true of those prescribed for children’s glandular and skin disorders. It is an efficacious remedy in any of the forms of skin disease, common to childhood. Given in the incipiency of eczema and in some forms of chronic eczema, especially that of a dry character, where there are cracks or fissures in the skin, these promptly yield to the internal administration of this remedy.

It should be administered in the treatment of syphilitic disorders resulting in ulceration, and in the ulceration of the outlets of the body. In varicose and other long-standing ulcers, in psoriasis, dermal abscesses, fissures, boils and carbuncles it will be often found that a combination of phytolacca, echinacea, berberis, and stillingia will prove singly effective.

In the treatment of ulcers and ulcerating skin diseases, the local application of a concentrated preparation of the root or berries should be made, so as to exert something of a caustic effect, while full doses are given internally at the same time.

While it is specific in its influence upon all glandular structures, of whatever character, it also is a blood-making remedy of great power, and it acts directly also upon the skin, sanious ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, sycosis, psoriasis, favus, noli me tangere, and all skin diseases. It is especially valuable in the squamous variety of skin diseases.”

Glands

Mucous membranes

“Its action in relieving irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in all parts of the body – throat, larynx, lungs, stomach, bowels and rectum – suggests it as a remedy in inflammation of the lining membrane of the heart; and it is said to have cured cases of this kind.”

Oral Mucous Membranes

This agent must now have especial attention in its influence in the treatment of acute inflammations of the throat. it makes but little difference what forms of throat disease we have, from the simplest forms of pharyngitis, through all the variations of tonsillitis, to the extreme forms of diphtheria, this remedy may be given in conjunction with other indicated agents. But few of our physicians neglect its administration in these cases, and they are unitedly profuse in their praises of its influence. If there be an infection of the local glands of the neck, from the throat disease, the agent should be applied externally, as well as administered internally. Ten drops of equal parts of the juice of ripe poke berries and alcohol may be given every thirty minutes in membranous and spasmodic croup with great success, with other remedies as indicated.”

Conjunctiva

” In conjunctivitis, the local and internal use of the remedy is efficient; and also in the treatment of chancre and bubo.In the treatment of conjunctivitis, a saturated tincture of the fresh root should be given in sufficient quantity to produce fullness of the temples and head, while the eyes should be bathed frequently with the decoction.

Dr. J. V. Stevens is enthusiastic in his opinion that adenitis needs no other remedy than phytolacca decandra. Whatever the cause of the disease or of however long standing, he saturates the system with this remedy, and persists in it, applies it externally and claims to cure his cases. He has used it for many years with success. Others combine other active alteratives as general conditions demand.

Pharmacy

Phytochemistry

Constituents – Phytolaccic acid, phytolaccine, calcium malate, resin, starch, wax, gum, tannin, mucilage. The ashes contain over fifty per cent of caustic potassa.

Dosage

Extractum Phytolaccae Radicis Fluidum. Fluid Extract of Phytolacca Root. Dose, from five to thirty minims. Unguentum Phytolaccae, Ointment of Phytolacca. Specific Phytolacca. Dose, from one to ten minims.

Toxicity

Physiological Action – Though the young shoots of Phytolacca are used as greens the mature plant is poisonous when taken in large doses. Death has followed an overdose (one-half ounce) of the berries or root, proceeded by excessive vomiting and purging; drowsiness, prickling an tingling over the whole body; vertigo, dimness of vision, cold skin, feeble pulse, great prostration, convulsions an coma.

Summary of Pathologies Treated with Phytolacca decandra by the Eclectics 1848-1919.
Digestive System

Haemorrhoids

Parasites

poor digestion, absorption, and excretion

digestive atony, constipation

liver insufficiency

digestive mucous membrane dysfunction, ulceration of the stomach, bowel, and rectum.
Lymphatic System

scrofulous tumours

indurated and enlarged lymph nodes

lymphatic enlargement; hard lymphatic enlargement

suppurative conditions of the lymph nodes

lymphoma

cervical node enlargement due to scarlet fever

acute inflammation of lymph nodes

painful lymph nodes.

Musculoskeletal

chronic rheumatism

chronic syphilitic rheumatism

mercurial rheumatism

muscular pain, muscular pain attending tonsillitis or pharyngitis, pectoral pain; syphilitic muscular pain; rheumatic muscular pain

rheumatism of periosteum

rheumatic deep pain

rheumatism of connective tissues(white fibres)

rheumatism attended by irritation, ulceration, and inflammation of the mucous membranes

rheumatism attended by chronic skin conditions such as ulcers,psoriasis,and eczema

Deficient excretion of waste caused by rheumatic disease

rheumatic pain associated with sore throat

rheumatic disease attended by glandular enlargement.
Nervous System

Pain

Pain of late syphilis

Nervous headache

Syphilitic headache

Rheumatic headache

Digestive headache

Neuralgia

Dizziness
Urinary System

Kidney failure

water retention

irritation of the urinary tract

Bright’s disease(nephrotic syndrome)

albumen in the urine

abnormal deposits in the urine.
Skin

cancerous and malignant ulcers

old and indolent ulcers

varicose ulcers

ulceration of the outlets of the body

ulcerating skin disease

sycosis, fissures; fistulae; boils; carbuncles; dermal abscesses, felons.

psoriasis

tinea capitis

tumours

suppurative skin conditions, vesicular, pustular and tuberculous eruptions

scabies

indolent action of skin

irritation and burning of skin

chronic eczema

dry eczema with cracks and fissures

syphilitic eruptions

favus

squamous skin diseases

skin diseases common to childhood

inflamed skin with no itchiness due to laxity of tissue.

Glands

General

long standing glandular disease

inflammation and pain in glands

perverted glandular function

acute adenitis.

Mucous Membranes:

Pallid mucous membranes, whitish erosions, vesicular patches; blanched, pallid.

Irritation, inflammation, or ulceration of mucous membrane anywhere on the body.
Digestive Mucous Membranes

ulceration of mucous crypts

ulceration of Peyer’s patches

ulceration of stomach, bowels, or rectum.
Nasal Mucous Membranes

Cephalgia

influenzal catarrh

catarrhal affections

polyps

ozena

nasal catarrh

ulcerated nasal mucous membranes.
Ocular Mucous Membranes

conjunctival inflammations

conjunctivitis

gonorrhoeal and syphilitic sore eyes

granular conjunctivitis

rheumatic iritis;

Oral Mucous Membranes :

acute inflammation of the throat

diphtheria; formation of false membranes

sore throat

coating on tongue from tip to base

stomatitis

infantile sore mouth

nursing sore mouth

adult sore mouth

pallid tongue with slick coat

tracheitis

pharyngitis

follicular pharyngitis

ulcerated pharynx

tonsillitis

chronically enlarged tonsils

tonsillitis attended by musculoskeletal pain

dry throat

throat covered with patches of tenacious secretions or ash coloured exudation

chancre

aphthae

syphilitic faucial ulceration

ulceration of the mouth

cough caused by irritated or inflamed throat

fungal infection of the throat

sore lips and tongue

ulceration of any oral mucous membrane
Respiratory Mucous Membranes

difficult respiration due to bronchiocele

congestion

nasal congestion

ulceration of respiratory mucous membranes.

Urogenital Mucous Membranes

Gonorrhoea

copious nocturnal emission

uterine or vaginal leucorrhea

ulceration of the os uteri

ulceration of the meatus.
Mammary Glands

Mastitis

inflammation of mammae

sore nipples

threatened mammary inflammation

mammary suppuration

morbid sensitiveness of mammae during menstruation

abscesses of mammae

cracked nipples

swelling of breast in the new born.
Maxillary Glands

mumps

parotitis.

Ductless Glands

Thyroid

enlargement of the thyroid gland

goitre.

Testes

orchitis; metastasis of mumps to testicles.
Ovaries

ovaritis.

Concluding Eclectic Use

It is evident that the Eclectics worked with this drug a great deal and learned much about it during the 71 years they used it. In 1848 it was being used to treat skin conditions and arthritis. In 1919, it was being used to treat a wide variety of chronic disease.

The Eclectics found Phytolacca decandra to be an excellant drug in chronic disease, especially when it affected the mucous membrane , the skin , the connective tissue, or the articulations . It is interesting to note that it was used to treat diseases which are now known to be auto-immune in origin. Examples of such auto-immune diseases treated with Phytolacca were rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, and ulcerative colitis. Towards the end of the movement the Eclectics began using Phytolacca decandra to treat Nephrotic syndrome and thyroid disease, both of which are thought to be of an auto-immune origin.

The Eclectics also used Phytolacca decandra to treat chronic bacterial infection and its sequelae . Examples of this being syphilis and tuberculosis. Syphilis, left untreated with antibiotics, ultimately affects the skin, the articulations, and the mucous membranes much the way rheumatoid arthritis does. In addition, the Eclectics used Phytolacca to treat a condition that sounds remarkably similar to a condition now known as Reiter’s Syndrome, a sequelae of non-specific urethritis.

One of the drugs’ most interesting use was in streptococcal infection and most of its auto-immune based sequelae . Acute tonsillitis, often caused by streptococci, was treated with Phytolacca decandra. The systemic follow on to “strep” throat, rheumatic fever, was also treated with it. Rheumatic fever is thought to be due to an auto-immune reaction triggered by the streptococcal organisms presence in the body. Rheumatic fever is often followed by chronic abnormalities of the skin, joints, kidneys, and nerves. The Eclectics used Phytolacca decandra to treat all of these sequelae.

Though the Eclectics did not know these conditions were caused by a dysfunction of the immune system, they did describe them as being due to a disorder of the constitutional. Poor “blood making” was often blamed for these conditions and naively, the Eclectics were correct. Ironically, auto-immune diseases do start in the blood. Phytolacca decandra was used to correct the “constitutional wrongs” the Eclectics felt were at the root of these pathologies.

Eclectic Dosages of Phytolacca decandra

All of the Eclectic texts quickly state that in large doses Phytolacca decandra was both emetic and cathartic. They felt that it was inferior to many of the other emeto-cathartics as both emesis and catharsis were long of duration and painful in nature. The conclusion was that there were better emeto-cathartics available.

“In doses of from ten to thirty grains(.65-1.95 gm) it acts both as an emetic and cathartic, but is seldom used for these purposes on account of the slowness of its action, which, when established, continues for a long time.” (6)

However, the Ecletics used it extensively in small doses. They felt that it was perfectly safe when used in therapeutic dosages and when side effects were monitored carefully. King describes the following amounts of the drug being used, the therapeutic dose being quite small.

Alterative: powdered root.065-.325 gm, once a day

tincture: 3.70 ml three or four times per day
Article
Phytolaccaceae

A family of herbs, shrubs, and trees, native to America , Asia, and Africa . The family includes the genera Agdestis, Phytolacca, Rivinia, and Trichostigma. (1)

The genus Phytolacca includes P.acinosa, P.americana, P.dioica, P.esculenta, and P.octander. (1) Native to the tropics, this is an odd group of plants. Firstly, they glow in the dark. “E. Preston calls attention to the peculiar and little known property of Phytolacca leaves to emit, in autumn, a phosphorescent light in the dark. Prof. E. Schar found the phenomenon to be due to an oxidising enzyme, which he succeeded in isolating. ” (2)

Secondly, the plants are toxic, potentially dangerously so, and yet are commonly used as food and medicine.

Despite being severely toxic for much of their life cycle, people have learned ways to moderate this toxicity and use the Phytolacca species as food. As an example, P. americana shoots are collected in the spring, before they turn green, boiled in two changes of water, and eaten without ill effect. Locals say that as shoots “go green” they become poisonous. In China , P. acinosa and P.esculenta are used as green vegetables. (5, 35) Phytolacca octandra, callaloo, is a common garden vegetable eaten throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.(4) Most Caribbean restaurants serve “callaloo” in one form or another.

Medicinally speaking, local people use this group of plants to treat chronic inflammatory conditions of the joints, skin, and mucous membrane. Many members of this genus are used to “alter” the usual course of chronic inflammatory disease and could thus be described as being “alterative”. The Chinese use P.acinosa to treat chronic inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract.(5) P.esculenta is used specifically to treat nephritis.(36) In Latin and Caribbean America, P.octandra is used to treat chronic skin and joint disease.(34) The North American tribes used P. Americana as a poultice to treat inflammation.

The Eclectics had access to P. americana and it was the species they used in their practise of medicine.

Phytolacca americana L. (formerly P.decandra L.)

Common name: Pokeweed

Botany

Phytolacca americana is native to the eastern seaboard of the United States and Mexico . The plant is perennial, producing large tuberous roots weighing as much as 5 kilos. It spreads readily due to birds’ fondness for the plants purple fruits. Any cleared land in the South Eastern United States is quickly colonised by this hardy perennial.

Native American Use

Throughout its range, P.americana factored into domestic medicine. The Virginia tribes called it “Pokan” which lead to its English common name, pokeweed. It was called chou-gras by Louisiana Creoles, jucato in Jamaica , and cuechiliz in Mexico . The Pamunkey Tribe used the berries in decoction to treat rheumatism.(35) Other tribes made the root into a pulp and used this as a poultice in inflammation.(3)

Colonial Use

In the North American colonies P. americana was used as a food, a dye, and a medicine. The Colonials ate the young spring shoots as a substitute for asparagus and the tender leaves as a green. Barton states that pokeweed shoots were brought to the Philadelphia market and sold in great quantity. Raffinesque mentions that in Louisiana , the fresh leaves were boiled in soup. (4) The berries were used as a source of ink and combined with urine a source of blue dye. (3)

Initially the Colonials used the root of P. americana to treat inflammatory conditions of the cow udder, specifically in the condition known as garget. Hence its early common name, “garget plant”. In time, this practice extended to women suffering from mastitis. As the colonial period progressed, P. americana root was used to treat all manner of inflammation, especially inflamed joints, applied topically and taken internally. (3) The berry, macerated in alcohol, was a common domestic remedy for “rheumatism”.

General Medical Use

In the 19 th century the medical profession was fond of “purging” disease out of patients. P.americana, taken in large quantities, is both purgative and emetic and thus found favour in early American medical circles.

Beyond being used as a purgative, it was used as an alterative in chronic disease, administered in minute doses. The 1814 “American Dispensatory” recommended it for the treatment of chronic skin disease and rheumatism. (26) In 1820 the root was added to the Primary List of “The Pharmacopia United States”. (2) In the same year, the berries were added to the Secondary List of “The Pharmacopia of the United States ”. (2) In the 1833 edition of “The Dispensatory of the United States ” it was listed as being useful in chronic inflammatory skin and joint disease when used topically and internally.(33)

Eclectic Medical Use

Wooster Beach , the founder of the Eclectic movement, published his “Medical and Botanical Dictionary” in 1848. In it we find the first “Eclectic” reference to P. americana . Beach stated the plant was alterative, cathartic, discutient, escharotic, and vulnerary and recommended its use in r heumatic conditions and chronic skin disease. (3) Beach’s uses are identical to those found in “The American Dispensatory” written 34 years earlier.

However, there was a difference. The Eclectics’ did not believe in bleeding, and purging patients. They abhorred all such deleterious medical procedures. Thus they quickly did away with large purgative doses of P. americana and focused on small alterative doses.

Ultimately the Eclectics studied, explored, and championed the use of P. americana as an alterative in a host of acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. Between 1848-1932 Eclectic knowledge of P. americana grew and their list of clinical applications lengthened enormously. The conditions the Eclectic physicians reported to be effectively treated with P.americana included the following. (2,3,6-18)
Digestive System

General

haemorrhoids, parasites, inactive liver, constipation, poor digestion, poor absorption, and poor excretion of waste.

Digestive Mucous Membranes

ulceration of the mucous membrane, stomatitis, sore lips, infantile sore mouth, nursing sore mouth, adult sore mouth, chancre, aphthae, ulceration of the mouth, pallid tongue with slick coat, sore tongue, coating on tongue from tip to base, diphtheria, formation of false membranes in diptheria, tonsillitis, chronically enlarged tonsils, tonsillitis attended by musculo-skeletal pain, syphilitic faucial ulceration, sore throat, acute inflammation of the throat cough, irritated or inflamed throat, fungal infection of the throat, dry throat, throat covered with patches of tenacious secretions or ash coloured exudation, pharyngitis, follicular pharyngitis, ulcerated pharynx; ulceration of mucous crypts, ulceration of Peyer’s patches, ulceration of stomach, bowels, or rectum
Digestive Glands

atony of the glands, maxillary gland dysfunction, mumps, parotitis.
Endocrine System

Mammae

threatened mammary inflammation, inflammation of mammae, mastitis, mammary suppuration, abscesses of mammae, morbid sensitiveness of mammae during menstruation, swelling of breast in the new born, sore nipples, cracked nipples.

Testes

orchitis, metastasis of mumps to testicles.

Thyroid

enlargement of the thyroid gland, goitre.

Ovaries

ovaritis.
Lymphatic System

lymphatic node enlargement, acute inflammation of lymph nodes, cervical node enlargement due to scarlet fever, painful lymph nodes, tubercular lymph nodes, hardened enlarged lymph nodes, suppurating lymph nodes, lymphoma.

Musculoskeletal System
Joints

chronic syphilitic rheumatism, chronic rheumatism, mercurial rheumatism, rheumatism of joints, rheumatic “deep pains”, rheumatism associated with irritation, ulceration, and inflammation of the mucous membranes, rheumatism associated with chronic skin conditions including ulcers, psoriasis, and eczema, rheumatic pains associated with deficient excretion of waste, rheumatic pain associated with sore throat, rheumatism associated with glandular enlargement.
Muscles

muscular pain, muscular pain attending tonsillitis or pharyngitis, pectoral pain, syphilitic muscular pain, rheumatic muscular pain.
Bones

rheumatism of the periosteum
Connective Tissues

rheumatism of connective tissues(white fibres)

Nervous System

pain, pain of late syphilis, headache from nervous, syphilitic, rheumatic, or sympathetic digestive causes, neuralgia, dizziness.

Ocular Mucous Membranes

blepharitis, conjunctival inflammations, conjunctivitis, gonorrhoeal and syphilitic sore eyes, granular conjunctivitis, rheumatic iritis.
Respiratory System
Lower Respiratory Tract Mucous Membranes

ulceration of the mucous membranes, difficult respiration due to bronchiocele, congestion.
Upper Respiratory Tract Mucous Membranes

ulcerations of the mucous membranes, cephalgia, influenzal catarrh, nasal catarrh, hay fever, catarrhal affections, polyps, ozena, tracheitis.
Genito-Urinary System

Water retention, Bright’s disease(nephrotic syndrome), albumen in the urine, abnormal deposits in the urine, irritation of the urinary tract, gonorrhoea, copious nocturnal emission, uterine or vaginal leucorrhea, ulceration of the os uteri, ulceration of the meatus.
Skin

Cancerous and malignant ulcers, old and indolent ulcers, varicose ulcers, ulceration of the outlets of the body, ulcerating skin disease, sycosis, fissures, fistulae, boils, carbuncles, dermal abscesses, psoriasis, tinea capitis, felons, tumours, suppurative skin conditions, vesicular, pustular and tubercular eruptions, scabies, indolent action of skin, irritation and burning of skin, chronic eczema, dry eczema with cracks and fissures, syphilitic eruptions, favus, squamous skin diseases, skin diseases common to childhood, inflamed skin with no itchiness due to laxity of tissue.

Summary of Eclectic Use of Phytolacca americana

The Eclectics’ treated acute and chronic inflammatory conditions of the mucous membranes, joints, and skin with Phytolacca americana .

Viewing their lists of uses with an understanding of modern patho-physiology brings home an interesting point. The Eclectics used P.americana to treat conditions now known to be caused by immune dysfunction, hypo-immunity, hyper- immunity, and auto-immune activity included.
hypo-immune disease

P. americana was used to treat acute bacterial infection. (i.e. tonsillitis, diphtheria, mastitis). It was used to treat chronic bacterial infection (i.e. tuberculosis, syphilis). Eclectic texts’ state P.americana was useful when the body failed to clear a bacterial infection. They go onto to say it was useful in persons with a predisposition to infection. When the body was unable to fight off infection, the Eclectics’ used P.americana.
hyper- immune disease

P. americana was used to treat allergic responses or hyper-immunity. (i.e. eczema and hay fever) In this instance the immune system over- reacts to a harmless antigen and causes unnecessary tissue inflammation. The Eclectics’ used P.americana to reduce hyper-sensitivity reactions.

auto-immune disease of unknown etiology

P.americana was used to treat idiopathic auto-immune disease. (i.e. blepharitis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative collitis). In these conditions the immune system looses the ability to distinguish between self and non-self and begins to attack the bodies’ own tissues. The drug was used to reduce inflammation when caused by the body attacking itself.
auto-immune disease of known etiology

P.americana was used in auto-immune disease when it followed on from a bacterial infection. It was used to treat inflamed joints, ulcerated mucous membranes, and kidney failure following streptococcal infection. It was used to treat ulceration of the eyes and joint inflammation following gonoccocal infection.(Reiters’ Syndrome). Again, the drug was used to dampen inflammation caused by auto-immune activity.

multiple system auto-immune disease

P.americana was used to treat multi-system auto-immune disease. (i.e. psoriasis with joint involvement; mucous membrane ulceration with joint involvement; iritis with joint involvement; digestive tract ulceration with joint involvement.) The drug was used to dampen inflammation when the immune system was attacking multiple systems.

The Eclectics’ used of P.americana in a range of immune system dysfunction. It was used when the immune system failed (i.e. bacterial infection). It was used when the immune system over-reacted( i.e. hay fever). It was used when the immune system lost the ability to distinguish between self and non-self and attacked itself (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis). The Eclectics’ used P.americana to treat an immune system behaving in a perverted manner.

Pharmacy of Phytolacca americana

In order for the Eclectic uses of P. americana to be of relevance, one must know what drug and dose they used.

Initially Eclectic physicians used the leaf, berry, and root of P.americana in their medical practise. As time passed, a preference for a fluid extract made from the fresh root developed. (7,8) In reality, most of the Eclectics used “Specific Phytolacca” a fluid extract produced by the Lloyd Brothers Company. (10, 18)
Root Preparations

The root was dug in November or December once the stalks were entirely dead and easily fell away from the roots. (19) The root was then sliced and dried at a moderate heat. The root was not kept for more than a year. (20)

Crude Root (PUS official preparation)

Dose: 65mg-325mg dry root (6)

1:2 Tincture of fresh root(76% alcohol)

Dose: 5-30 drops in four ounces of water, one teaspoon of the dilution every three to four hours. (7,8)

Fluid Extract (1000gm dried root/1000cc 67% alcohol menstrum)

( 28,29) (PUS official preparation)

Dose: 5-30 drops. (18)

Lloyd Specific Phytolacca (ounce Phytolacca root/fluid ounce/ 67% alcohol menstrum)

Dose: 5-20 drops added to four ounces water. A teaspoonful of dilution every 3-4 hours. (23, 24)

Ointment

One part powdered dried root to eight parts lard. (6)

Leaf Preparations

The leaves were gathered in late summer as the stalks began to turn red (20) and were dried in the shade and powdered. (25)

Ointment

One part dried powdered leaf to eight parts lard. (6)

Berry Preparations

The berries were gathered in October as they became soft and blackish. (25)
Dried berry (PUS official preparation)

Though an official preparation, no dosage was listed.

Tincture of fresh berry(two ounces berries in one pint holland gin) (12)

Dose: one teaspoon to one tablespoon

In conclusion, most of the Eclectic physicians prescribed a fluid extract(1:1) of Phytolacca americana root. The standard dosage was 5-20 drops added to four ounces water, a teaspoonful of dilution being taken every 3-4 hours.

Concluding Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana was used by the Eclectics’ to bring a badly having immune system back into line. Paradoxically, to regulate hypo, hyper, and auto-immune activity. These uses suggest P.americana may have an immuno-modulatory effect. This potential action warrants attention from the research community.

The Eclectics’ found P. americana effective in the most severe form of immune dysfunction, multi-system auto-immune disease. (i.e. psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis with systemic involvement, etc.) These disease are poorly treated today and indeed are termed incurable by the medical establishment. As such, it seems logical that this remedy be reviewed for potential efficacy in this group of diseases specifically.

Concluding Phytolaccaceae

The genus Phytolaccaceae contains plants long used to treat chronic inflammatory conditions of the skin, joints, and mucous membranes. This suggests members of the group may contain compounds active on the immune system. They may contain compounds capable of regulating immune function. Research aimed at establishing the nature and activity of these compounds seems warranted.

Further review of the plant group as a whole could yield another positive result. Some have hesitations about the use of Phytolacca americana due to its potential toxicity. Not all members of the group are equally toxic. Some are less toxic. Research could reveal that one of the less toxic members of the group acts as an effective medicine.

References

•  Bailey, Liberty Hyde. “Hortus Third”. A concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada . MacMillan Publishing Company. 1976. P.870

•  Lloyd, Uri. “Origin and History of all the Pharmacopeial Vegetable Drugs, Chemicals and Preparations.” Volume 1: Vegetable Drugs. The Caxton Press. Cincinnati . 1922. P.240-242

•  Wooster Beach . “Medical and Botanical Dictionary giving a definition of the terms used in the various branches of Medical Science.” Baker and Scribner. New York . 1848. P.178

•  “Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World.” Edited by U.P.Hedrick. Dover Publications Inc. New York . 1972. P.434.

•  Duke, James. “Medicinal Plants of China .” CRC Press. Ann Arbor . P.477-478

•  King, John MD. “The American Eclectic Dispensatory.” Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . 1854. P.725

•  Scudder, John M. MD. “Specific Medication and Specific Medicines.” Revised. Fifth Edition. 1874. P.200-201

•  Scudder, John M. MD. “The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics”. Published by the Author. Cincinnati . 1883. P.423, 476, 663.

•  Watkins, Lyman. MD. “An Eclectic Compendium of the Practice of Medicine.” John M. Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati . 1895. P.444

•  Felter, Harvery Wickes. MD. “Kings’ American Dispensatory”. Volume one and Volume two. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati . 1898. P.1471-1475

•  Webster, H.T. “Dynamical Therapeutics-A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies.” Second Edition. Webster Medical Publishing Company. San Francisco . 1898. P.91,279,312,319,372,491,527,553,593,631.

•  Felter, Harvey. MD. “Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics”. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J. Locke. Edited with pharmacological additions by H.W. Felter. Second edition, with appendix. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati.1901. P.341

•  Peterson, FJ. MD. “Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics”. Published by the Author. Los Olivos , California . 1905. P.122-123

•  Neiderkorn, J.S. MD. “A Handy Reference Book.” Published for the Author. Cincinnati . 1905. P.131

•  Ellingwood, Finley. MD. “A Systematic Treatise on Materia Medica and Therapeutics” with reference to the most direct action of drugs. Fifth Edition, thoroughly revised and greatly enlarged. Chicago Medical Times Publishing Company. 1905. P.458

•  Lloyd, J.U.. “History of the Vegetable Drugs of the Pharmacopia of the United States .” Bulletin number 18: pharmacy number 4. 1911. P.64

•  Fyfe, John William. MD. “Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics.” The Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati . 1911. P.210-211

•  Finley Ellingwood. MD. “American Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy.” Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Chicago . 1919. P.373

•  Coxe, John Redman. “The American Dispensatory.” 3 rd Edition. Published by Thomas Dobson, Philadelphia . 1814. P.477-478

•  “The Dispensatory of the United States .” George B. Wood, Md. Franklin Bache, Md. 14 th Edition. Published by JP Lippincot and Company. Philadelphia . 1880. P. 703

•  Pharmacopia of the United States 1890. United States Pharmacopial Convention. Blakiston’s son and Company. Philadelphia . 1890. P.158

•  Pharmacopia of the United States 1905. United States Pharmacopial Convention. Blakiston’s son and Company. Philadelphia . 1905.P. 198

•  Dose Book of Specific Medicines 1907 Written and Published by Lloyd Brothers. Cincinnati . 1907.P. 186

•  Dose Book of Specific Medicines 1930. Written and Published by Lloyd Brothers. Cincinnati . 1930

•  “The American Dispensatory.” John Redman Coxe. 3 rd . edition. Published by Thomas Dobson. Philadelphia. 1814. P. 477-478.

•  The Dispensatory of the United States. George B. Wood, Md. Franklin Bache, Md. Published by Grigg and Elliot, Philadelphia.1833. P. 482-484

•  “Medicinal Plants of Middle America. Julia Morton.” Charles. C. Thomas Publisher.

Springfield. P.198-203

28. “Handbook of Medicinal Herbs.” James Duke. P.367-368

•  “Herbal Pharmacology in the People’s Republic of China.” A trip report of the American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation. National Academy of Sciences. Washington,DC.,1975. P.182.
Historical Notes

Phytolacca americana

1806: The American Dispensatory. John Redman Coxe. Published by A. Bartram, Philadelphia . P. 529-530.

Tincture of brandy or alcohol a popular remedy for rheumatism. “It is a valuable remedy in chronic rheumatism and similar affections, and it may be given safely in all cases where guiacum is proper. In rheumatic affections succeeding syphilis, it seems more valuable than guiacum, especially when combined with mercury. See Schultz’s Inaugural Dissertation on this plant found in Bartrams’ Collection, Part II, page 27.

1810: The American Dispensatory. John Redman Coxe. 2 nd Edition. Published by Thomas Dobson, Philadelphia .

Same as 1806.

1814: The American Dispensatory. John Redman Coxe. 3 rd Edition. Published by Thomas Dobson, Philadelpha. P.477-478

Leaves: gathered about July when the stalks have begun to turn red. Dried in the shade and powdered for use. An extract is made by dehydrating leaf juice. A tincture is made from green and dried leaves, in common brandy or from the spirit distilled from the berries.

Ointment: powdered dried leaves mixed well with hogs lard or simple cereate, or by boiling some hogs lard and beeswax with fresh leaves and straining the mass.

Berries: The proper time to collect them is October or when soft and ripe.

Root: Gathered in November or December when the stalks are perfectly dead. The root should be dried in pieces. Extract can be made the same as the leaves.

1833: The Dispensatory of the United States . George B. Wood, Md. Franklin Bache, Md. Published by Grigg and Elliot, Philadelphia . P. 482-484

emetic: powdered root, 10-30 grains. Alterative: 1-5 grains. Saturated tincture of berries prepared with dilute alcohol may be given in rheumatic cases, in the dose of a fluid dram three times a day. A strong infusion in used in piles. Roots and leaves are used in psora, tinea capitis, and other chronic skin conditions. A dram of powdered root is mixed with one ounce lard.

1834: The Dispensatory of the United States . George B. Wood, Md. Franklin Bache, Md. Published by Grigg and Elliot, Philadelphia . P.500

Same as 1833.

1836: The Dispensatory of the United States . George B. Wood, Md. Franklin Bache, Md. Published by Grigg and Elliot, Philadelphia . P.488-489
Ointment

Dram of powdered leaves or root with an ounce of lard. For “psora, tinea capitis, and some other forms of cutaneous disease. It occasions at first a sense of heat and smarting in the part to which it is applied. An extract made by evaporating the expressed juice of the recent leaves has been used for the same purpose and acquired at the same time considerable repute in cancer.”

1840: Pharmacopia of the United States .

Phytolacca americana root and berries listed as official remedies.

1848: W. Beach. Medical and Botanical Dictionary giving a definition of the terms used in the various branches of Medical Science. Baker and Scribner. New York . P.178

“Phytolacca decandra. Poke. Pokan of the Virginia tribes, coakum of northern tribes, garget or piregon berries in New England, Chougras in Louisiana , Jucato in Jamaica , cuechiliz in Mexico . Valuable active active plant; root emetic and cathartic without spasms, dose ten to thirty grains of dry powder, safe and powerful. Young shoots and leaves eaten like asparagus and spinach, also in calalous, merely laxative. Old leaves acrid purgative. Stems and leaves contain more potash than any plant, 67 per cent by burning, and 42% percent of pure caustic potash by lixiviation. Has a peculiar acid phytolacic, near malic. Fresh roots and leaves escharotic, discutient, specific in poultice for cancerous or malignant ulcers, psora, tinea capitis, & C. or extract as a plaster, a wash or rumex at the same time. Berries juice alterative, specific for chronic and syphilitic rheumatism, fresh or kept by adding one-third alcohol, a tablespoonful each four hours. The extract less certain, one pound is made by four pounds: doses five grains. Berries sweetish, nauseous, sub-acrid, eaten by birds and fowl, give bad taste to their flesh; furnish a purple evanescent stain and ink, and a fixed blue dye with urine for mordant. Leaves used by farriers for ulcers of horses &C.”

Pharmacy Notes

Cathartic/emetic: 650 mg-1950 mg dry powdered root

Cancer, psora, tinea capitis: fresh roots and leaves applied

Rheumatism: 2/3 berry juice 1/3 alcohol mixture: 1 tablespoon every four hours

1850: Pharmacopia of the United States . P.53

Phytolacca americana root and berry listed as official remedies.

1854. John King MD. The American Eclectic Dispensatory. Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . P.725

“Properties and Uses . – Poke is emetic, cathartic, alterative, antiherpetic, and somewhat narcotic. In doses of from ten to thirty grains it acts both as an emetic and cathartic, but is seldom used for these purposes on account of the slowness of its action, which, when established, continues for a long time. Narcotic effects as drowsiness, dimness of vision, vertigo, etc,. frequently attend its action, but very rarely any pain or spasm. Overdoses cause excessive vomiting or purging, great nervous prostration, occasionally convulsions, and sometimes a tingling or prickling sensation over the whole surface. In doses of from one to five grains it acts as an alterative. The root excites the whole glandular system, and has been highly extolled in syphilitic, scrofulous, rheumatic, and cutaneous diseases. The extract of the root is an excellent remedy for the removal of these severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections (osteocopus), in which it is more beneficial than opium. The root roasted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, is unrivalled in felons and tumors of various kinds. It discusses them rapidly, or it too far advance, hastens their suppuration. Care must be had in powdering the root, as it sometimes occasions headache, purging, prostration of strength, and all the symptoms of severe coryza. A drachm of the pulverized root or leaves, mixed with one ounce of lard has proved beneficial in psora, tinea-capitis, and some other forms of cutaneous disease; when first applied it occasions a sense of heat and smarting.

The leaves are somewhat purgative, and are used, in some parts of the country, as a dressing to ulcers. A strong decoction of the leaves is of much benefit to haemorrhoids; injected into the rectum two or three times a day, and a fomentation of the leaves applied to the part, will almost always give relief, and eventually effect a cure. A fluid drachm or two may be taken internally at the same time, and repeated two or three times a day; should any narcotic effects be produced, its use may be omitted for a day or two, and then commenced in smaller doses. The inspissated juice of the leaves has been recommended in indolent ulcers, and as a remedy in cancer; in this last disease, Dr. Bone combined it with gun powder.

A saturated tincture of the berries has been successfully employed in chronic rheumatism. It is also recommended in the same diseases as the root. Dose of the powdered root, as an alterative, from one to five grains; of the tincture, one fluid drachm, three or four times a day; as an emetic, twenty to thirty grains of the powder.

The Franklin Institute of the city of New York advertise the active principle of poke root under the name of Phytolaccin; said to be a light-brown powder, with a pleasant, mucilaginous taste, soluble in water, and insoluble in alcohol or ether. I am not advised of its mode of preparation. Said likewise to be a most powerful alterative, aperient, and slightly narcotic. Dose from one-fourth of a grain to a grain, three times a day.”
Pharmacy Notes

Root:

Emetic/cathartic: 650-1950 mg root

Alterative: 65mg-325mg root

Skin ointment : 4gm pulverized root in 30 gm lard

Poultice: root roasted in hot ashes until soft, mashed and applied

Leaf:

Haemorrhoids: Internally: 60-120 drops(3-6ml) leaf decoction, repeated two or three times a day. Externally: the same applied.

Skin ointment : 4gm pulverized leaves in 30 gm lard

Berries:

Chronic rheumatism: 60 drops(3ml) saturated tincture of the berries three or four times a day

1860: Pharmacopia of the United States . P.61

Phytolacca americana root and berry listed as official remedies.

1870: Pharmacopia of the United States. P.60

Phytolacca americana root and berry listed as official remedies.

1874: John M. Scudder MD. Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. Revised. Fifth Edition. P.200-201

“Preparation – We prepare a tincture from the fresh root, 8 ounces to Alcohol 76 degree one pint. Dose two drops to half a dram.

This is one of those remedies that loses its medical properties by drying, and the crude article furnished from drug stores is wholly worthless, as are the preparations from it.

The tincture of the fresh root is one of my favourite remedies. It exerts a direct influence upon the processes of waste and nutrition, and therefore possesses those properties called alterative in a high degree. I have used it in secondary syphilis, in chronic skin disease, and in scrofula, with excellent results.

It has a direct influence upon the mammary glands, and will generally arrest inflammation if given in the early stage. I also employ it in cases of sore nipples, both internally and locally, with good results.

It has been considerably employed in diphtheria, and many believe it will be found a specific to the sore throat. In this disease it is given internally, and employed as a local application.

It will be found a very valuable remedy, and as it is so common, I would advise every one to prepare them a tincture in the fall and rest it in practice.”
Pharmacy Notes

Preparation: 8 ounces fresh root in one pint hydro-alcoholic mixture(alcohol 76%). Dose: 2-30 drops.

1879: The National Dispensatory. Alfred Stille and John Maisch. Published by Henry C. Lea. Philadelphia. P. 1058.

There is an analogy between Phytolacca and Dulcamara on one hand, and to Hellebore on the other. The dose of the root as an emetic is 10-30 grains, of a saturated tincture, a fluid dram may be given three times a day. An ointment may be made by mixing it with an ounce of lard with an extract made by evaporating an ounce of tincture. Or an ointment may be made by mixing two ounces root or leaf to one pound lard.

1880: Pharmacopia of the United States. P.250

Phytolacca americana root and berry listed as official remedies.

1880: The Dispensatory of the United States. George B. Wood, Md. Franklin Bache, Md. 14 th Edition. Published by JP Lippincot and Company. Philadelphia. P. 703

The leaves, berries, and fruits are used. The berries and roots being official in the Pharmacopia of the United States. “The root is the most active. It should be dug up in late November, cut in thin transverse slices, and dried with moderate heat. As its virtues are diminished by keeping, a new supply should be procured every year. The berries should be collected when perfectly ripe, and the leaves about the middle of the summer, when the foot stalks begin to redden.”

The text references several deaths due to overdoses and its use as an alterative in small doses. The use of a fluid extract is mentioned. The doses are the same as those found in the Dispensatory of the United States of earlier years.

1883: John M. Scudder. MD. The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Cincinnati. P.423,476,663.

“The root of Phytolacca decandra. Preparation: Tincture of Phytolacca (the fresh root). Dose: From the fraction of a drop to twenty drops. Usually we add five drops to half a dram to water four ounces, the dose being one teaspoonful.

Specific indications: The mucous membranes are pale, and the epithelium gives way, showing vesicles, erosions, ulceration. Deposits in and upon the mucous epithelium, of an ashen grey colour, enlargement of the lumphatic glands with pallor, mammary pain or inflammaion, irritaion of the salicary glands, or of the testes.

Therapeutic Action: The Phytolacca is emetic, cathartic, alterative, and discutient. It acts an emeto‑cathartic, and exhibits some acro‑narcotic powers, such as impaired vision, vertigo and drowsiness. In over‑doses, it is said to cause excessive vomiting and purging, with great prostration, and occasionally convulsions. The dust inhaled, while pulverizing the root, produces severe coryza, with headache and prostration. Phytolacca is a prominent remedy in stomatitis. Infantile sore mouths yield readily to it, and for the ordinary sore mouths of adults, we rarely think of another remedy. It is not so certain in nursing sore mouth, but yet it will cure some cases better than any other single remedy.

As an alterative, in chronic rheumatism, mercurial rheumatism, secondary syphilis, etc. but few agents are known to the profession which are so searching or more truly alterative. For this purpose the root, extract of the root, berries, , or inspissated juice of the berries, or the tincture, may be prescribed alone, or combined with other agents; while the root may be roasted and applied to the part affected in the form of a poultice, or the saturated tincture or extract may be used as a local application.

The first and most important use of phytolacca is its specific action in diptheria. The name here indicates a special pathological condition, and we might expect to find a remedy which would meet the large number of cases. Unless there is a strong indication for other remedies, I prescribe this as follows. Tincture of aconite, gtt.v., tincture of phytolacca gtt.x.to gtt.xx. water 3iv. a teaspoonful every hour. Hundreds of cases have been treated with a success almost marvellous. Of course, the treatment must be commenced early. If a patients blood is saturated with the poison, and the tissues of the throat are dying, we could not expect success.

Phytolacca is a prominent remedy in stomatitis. Infantile sore mouths, yield readily to it, and for ordinary sore mouths of adults, we rarely think of another remedy. It is not so certain in nursing sore mouth, but yet it will cure some cases better than any other single remedy.

It is the remedy for threatened mammary inflammation. It should be given early in the disease, with the commencement of engorgement, heat, pain, and redness. It is so positive in its action, that in the larger number of cases the inflammation can be aborted. This use of phytolacca should be widely known, as it will prevent the severe suffering that attends the usual course of mammary inflammation, terminating in suppuration. As an application to the inflamed breast, nothing is better than the powdered root, wetted with warm water, or even the tincture with water.

Phytolacca is a valuable remedy in many cases of sore nipples, and when the child has a sore mouth, both mother and child should take the remedy. It is the remedy of parotitis or mumps, when a remedy is needed, and I rarely think of giving anything but this and aconite. It is also a good internal remedy for orchitis, and may be combined with canabis, veratrum, belladona, or gelsemium, according to the indications.

An infusion of the leaves has been found useful in haemorrhoids, taken in doses of a wineglassful five or six times daily and at the same time used as a lotion to the piles, or as an injection. An ointment of the leaves or root will be found serviceable in the same disease, and may also be used with much advantage in scabies, psoriasis, tinea capitis, etc. The root ahs been used to keep open fistulous pipes, and as a gentle escharotic and excitant to old and indolent ulcers. The root may also be roasted and applied to scirrhous and scrofulous tumors, bronchocele, indurated and enlarged glands, and as an application to felons, as a discutient, with much advantage. In febrile affections, the root may be roasted and applied to the feet as a revulsive.

(also listed as errhine.)”
Pharmacy Notes

1:2 tincture of fresh Phytolacca americana root.

Dose: From the fraction of a drop to twenty drops. Usually 5-30 drops to four ounces of water; one teaspoonful every one to three hours depending on the case.

1890: Pharmacopia of the United States. P.300

Phytolacca americana root and berry listed as official remedies. Fluid Extract of dried root has been added. (1000 gm powdered root to a fineness of #60, 1000cc menstrum (600cc pure alcohol/300cc pure water).

1895: Lyman Watkins. MD. An Eclectic Compendium of the Practice of Medicine. John M. Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati. P.444

“Phytolacca specific medication: Pallid mucous membrane, pallid tongue with slick coat, soreness of mouth, dribbling of saliva, irritation and burning in skin, enlarged lymphatics, sore nipples, mastitis. Five to twenty drops in four ounces water; teaspoonful every two hours.”
Pharmacy Notes

Five to twenty drops in four ounces water; teaspoonful every two hours.

1895: A Treatise on Pharmacy for Students and Pharmacists. Charles Caspari. Lea Brothers and Company. Philadelphia. 1895.

Tincture: page 241

As a rule they were made by percolation. The texts refers to 72 official tinctures. Phytolacca americana was not one of them.

Fluid extract: Page 255.

Concentrated hydro-alcoholic solutions of vegetable principles. First introduced in 1832. In 1860, 25 were official, in 1880, 79 were official, and in 1890, 88 were official. The strength of a fluid extract one gram of crude drug was equivalent to one cubic centimetre of fluid extract.

Fluid Extract Phytolacca americana

Powdered Phytolacca americana root ground to fineness number 60.

Pure alcohol 600 cc

Pure water 300 cc

400 cc menstrum used to moisten powdered drug.

1898: Harvery Wickes Felter. Kings Dispensatory. Volume one and Volume two. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati. P.1471-1475

“Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Physiologically, phytolacca acts upon the skin, the glandular structures, especially those of the buccal cavity, throat, sexual system, and very markedly upon the mammary glands. It further acts upon the fibrous and serous tissues, and mucous membranes of the digestive and urinary tracts. The drug is principally eliminated by the kidneys. Applied to the skin, either in the form of juice, strong decoction, or poultice of the root, it produces an erythematous, sometimes pustular, eruption. The powdered root when inhaled is very irritating to the respiratory passages, and often produces a severe coryza, with headache and prostration, pain in chest, back, and abdomen, conjunctival injection and ocular irritation, and occasionally causes violent emeto-catharsis. Phytolacca slows the heart’s action, reduces the force of the pulse, and lessens the respiratory movements. It is a paralyzer of the spinal cord, acting principally on the medulla. In poisoning by this agent tetanic convulsions may ensue. Death results from carbonic acid poisoning, the result of respiratory paralysis. Upon the gastro-intestinal tract doses of from 10 to 30 grains of it act as an emetic an drastic cathartic, producing nausea which comes on slowly, amounting almost to anguish, finally after an hour or so, resulting in emesis. It then continues to act upon the bowels, the purging being prolonged for a considerable length of time. It is seldom used for emeto-cathartic purposes, on account of its tardy action, which, when established, continues for some time. It rarely causes cramps or pain. Large doses produce powerful emeto-catharsis, with loss of muscular power – occasionally spasmodic action takes place, and frequently a tingling or prickling sensation over the whole surface. Dimness of vision, diplopia, vertigo, and drowsiness are occasioned by large doses not sufficient to produce death.

Therapeutically, phytolacca is emetic, cathartic, narcotic, and alterative. In certain conditions of the system which might come under the head of dycrasia, it proves a most valuable alterative. Scrofulous, syphilitic, and rheumatic conditions are invariably benefited by it. It is best suited to chronic rheumatism, and syphilitic and rheumatic joint affections. As an antirheumatic quite large doses are necessary. The specific phytolacca may be used, or a saturated gin tincture of the berries. Preparations of the root are excellent for the removal of those severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections (osteocopus), often being more beneficial than opium.

Phytolacca plays an important part in dermatological practice. It destroys the “itch” insect, consequently it is of value in scabies. The condition which calls for it is one of indolent action of the skin, usually associated with vitiated blood. There is a glandular difficulty – a scrofulous condition. There may be scaly, vesicular, pustular, or tuberculous eruptions, and lymphatic enlargements with pain. The skin may be inflamed, but does not itch because there is not activity enough in the part. It is often indicated in chronic eczema, syphilitic eruptions, psoriasis, tinea capitis, favus, and varicose and other ulcers of the leg. Associated with iris, it is a valuable agent in acute sycosis, fissures, fistulae, boils, carbuncles, dermal abscesses, and all ulcerations of the outlets of the body. It relieves the pain of burns and promotes rapid healing. For skin diseases it should be employed internally and locally. Rx Specific phytolacca half a dram, aqua four ounces, Sig. Teaspoonful every 3 hours. Locally: Rx Specific phytolacca 2 drams, glycerin one ounce. Mix. Apply.

In diseases of the mouth and throat it is highly esteemed. It is useful in acute and chronic mucous affections, as, in tracheitis, laryngitis, influenza, catarrh, and especially in those affections where there is a tendency to the formation of false membrane, as diphtheria. There is a pallid, somewhat leaden-colored tongue, with but little coating, being a slick, glutinous coat, if covered at all. The mucous membranes present whitish erosions, or vesicular patches. With these conditions it may be employed in tonsillitis, follicular pharyngitis, stomatitis, aphthae, nursing sore mouth, or ordinary sore mouth, and syphilitic faucial ulcerations. It should be taken internally and used locally as a gargle. It is one of our most valuable agents in non-malignant diphtheria. It is indicated by diphtheritic deposits. It stimulates the mucous surfaces, promotes glandular activity, and removes the diphtheritic membrane. It is a good remedy in chronic tonsilar hypertrophy. It is beneficial in difficult respiration produced by bronchocele (iris is useful here also) and associated with baptisia, does good service as a local wash in ozena and other forms of nasal catarrh. Cough resulting from inflamed or irritated sore throat is cured by it when the other indications for the drug are present.

In diseases of the glandular apparatus phytolacca and iris are our best drugs. Unlike iris, through, the former is best-suited to hard, lymphatic enlargements. It is not the remedy for suppurative conditions of the glands. In such cases iris with baptisia renders the best service. No other remedy equals phytolacca in acute mastitis. If employed early it prevents suppuration, yet it acts kindly even when the abscess has to be opened, and the diluted specific phytolacca may be injected into the cavity. The remedy should be administered internally, alternated with specific aconite. Locally, specific phytolacca and glycerin may be applied when suppuration has not begun. Or the powdered root may be employed, moistened with water. Parotitis is almost always cured with phytolacca and aconite. Metastasis of mumps to the testes, as well as orchitis, from other causes, indicate this drug. Sore nipples and mammary tenderness, or morbid sensitiveness of the breasts during the menstrual period call for phytolacca. It is a good remedy for ovaritis. Lymphoma has been cured by it. Subinvolution of the uterus, uterine and vaginal leucorrhoea, and some cases of membranous dysmenorrhoea are cured by this agent. Applied as a poultice it has been greatly beneficial in the treatment of felons, and internally administered has cured bronchocele when iodine has failed.

Ulceration of the mucous crypts of the stomach and of Peyer’s patches call for phytolacca. Nasal catarrh, ozena, and other ulcerated conditions of the nasal membranes are benefited by phytolacca associated with specific baptisia. It has been used with success in gonorrhoea and copious nocturnal urination. It relieves conjunctival inflammations, and gonorrhoeal and syphilitic sore eyes. In granular conjunctivitis I have derived much advantage by bathing the eyes daily with a decoction of the root, applying it to the affected conjunctiva by means of a camel’s hair pencil, at the same time administering the tincture of the recent root internally (J. King). It has been used for the cure of piles, hydrophobia, and angina pectoris, but we possess better agents for these conditions. Headache, whether rheumatic, nervous, syphilitic, or sympathetic (as, sick headache from gastric acidity and debility), is much benefited by it. It is also one of our most useful remedies in asthenic hyperemia of the uterus, spleen, liver, and other organs. Good results have followed its internal administration in albuminuria, and in those dropsies attended with albumen in the urine. The root, roasted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, is unrivaled in felons and tumors of various kinds. It discusses them rapidly, or, if too far advanced, hastens their suppuration. Associated with iris it may be employed in mesenteric and splenic tuberculosis. Several years ago it was noticed that birds lost their adipose tissue when feeding upon poke-berries. Recently, this agent, in the form of an extract of the berries, has been employed to reduce obesity. Reports for and against its virtues in this line are now appearing in journals, but its action is still doubtful. Some, believing that it does act in this way, have suggested its use in fatty degeneration of the heart. Probably it would be more clearly indicated if associated with a rheumatic diathesis. The root or leaves finely powdered, and added to lard to form an ointment, in the proportion of 60 grains to 1 ounce of lard, is very efficient in scald head, and many other obstinate skin diseases, occasionally causing a slight degree of irritation when applied.

An infusion of the leaves taken internally is slightly cathartic; when bruised and applied locally, they are beneficial in indolent ulcers. A strong decoction of the leaves is of much benefit in haemorrhoids; if injected into the rectum 2 or 3 times a day, and a fomentation of the leaves applied to the part, it will almost always give relief, and eventually effect a cure. A fluid drachm or two may be taken internally at the same time, and repeated 2 or 3 times a day; should any narcotic effects be produced, its use may be omitted for 1 or 2 days, and then commenced in smaller doses. The inspissated juice of the leaves has been recommended in indolent ulcers, and as a remedy in cancer; in this last disease, Dr. Bone combined it with gunpowder. Quite recently, the inspissated juice of the leaves has been lauded as a new local remedy for the removal of carcinoma. The treatment, however, is not new, having been referred to by American medical writers early in the present century (see Felter, Ec. Med. Jour., 1896, p. 335). The usual prescription for specific uses is: Rx Specific phytolacca gtt. x to xxx, aqua dram iv. Mix. Sig. Teaspoonful every 1, 2, or 3 hours. As a glycerole: Rx Specific phytolacca dram ij. , glycerine one ounce. Mix. Apply in chronic skin diseases. The dose of specific phytolacca ranges from 1 to 10 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses – Pallid mucous membranes with ulceration; sore mouth with small blisters on tongue and mucous membrane of cheeks; sore lips, blanched with separation of the epidermis; hard, painful, enlarged glands; mastitis; orchitis; parotitis; aphthae; soreness of mammary glands, with impaired respiration; faucial, tonsillar, or pharyngeal ulceration; pallid sore throat, with cough or respiratory difficulty; secretions of mouth give a white glaze to surface of mouth, especially in children, white pultaceous sloughs at corners of mouth or in the cheek; and diphtheritic deposits.”

Pharmacy Notes

Skin diseases

Internally : Specific phytolacca 30 drops in four ounces water. Teaspoonful every three hours. Locally: specific phytolacca 120 drops in one ounce glycerin. Apply.

Chronic skin disease ointment: 4 gm root or leaf mixed with one ounce lard.

The usual prescription: Specific phytolacca 10-30 drops in four ounces of water. Teaspoonful every 1, 2, or 3 hours. The dose of specific phytolacca ranges from 1 to 10 drops.

1898: Dynamical Therapeutics-A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies. H.T. Webster. Second Edition.

“Phytolacca decandra is as positive a specific in its influence upon the circulation in the pharynx and fauces as any we have in medicine. In acute inflammation here that depends on vaso-motor causes and not on diphtheria – which depends upon a local fungus in the start – it is very positive.

In the slight congestions which follow colds phytolacca cures in a few hours. In acute pharyngitis, attended by difficulty in swallowing, aching in the throat with a sensation of fullness, it is prompt in relieving the symptoms in a day. In follicular tonsillitis attended by painful soreness in the throat with aching pains in the muscles generally, stiffness in the muscles of the throat and neck and marked febrile action, it is the most reliable remedy in the materia medica.

Though it usually acts effectively alone it is best to combine it with aconite, as the combination is liable to produce better results (see Principles, The Single Remedy Versus Combinations).

Another very positive property is the action of phytolacca on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity. In the sore mouth so common in infants it will cure speedily if property attention to cleanliness and diet is observed. In ulceration of the mouth, not mercurial, it proves promptly curative, and in simple stomatitis it has no superior. In stomatitis attended by profuse ptyalism it is a good idea to combine jaborandi with phytolacca, in appropriate doses. It is equally effective in stomatitis affecting adults.

The juice of the berries is an admirable remedy for ascarides, as I have discovered while administering it for anti-fat purposes. It reaches the rectum in a few days after its administration is begun, and if then assisted by copious injections of warm carbolated water, it will expel the parasites effectually.

Form for Administration- The specific medicine is always reliable, where preparation of the root is required, as in aphthae, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, etc. The inspissated juice is easily prepared from the berried, by the process of expression and exposure to the sun on earthen trays.

Dose- Of the specific medicine, add half a drachm to four ounces of water, and order a teaspoonful every hour. Two or four grains of the inspissated juice may be taken three times a day.”
Antiseptics, Antizymotics, Correctives

“This remedy deserves notice as a corrector of the suppurative tendency. While it manifests a partiality for the lymphatic system and is often excellent to arrest inflammation of the lymphatic glands, it has been extolled in suppuration of other soft tissues. However, it is far inferior to calcium sulphide, and will seldom be found to replace it to any advantage. It is mentioned here more as a matter of record than for therapeutic profit.

The extract of poke berries has been recommended as an agent to correct obesity. Dr. Standlee ( Chicago Medicinal Times , 1890) observes, respecting this property: -

“We find a remedy in the fruit of the phytolacca decandra, which clinical observation has taught us possesses all the valuable characteristics that we desire. It was discovered by noticing birds that feast on these berries in the fall of the year. Their bodies become very destitute of adipose tissue, though they seem to be otherwise in a normal condition. The fruit does not possess the acro-narcotic properties of the root. Small children, being attracted by their beautiful color, have been known to eat large quantities of these berries with no alarming symptoms following. Take the berries (best after frost) and compress the juice from them. Strain this juice through a cheese-cloth to remove any seeds that may have escaped into it, after which place it in large, flat dishes and evaporate to a waxy mass by a gentle heat, or in the sun’s rays. Take the mass and make into pills of two or three grains each, or if beauty and exactness are desired the mass can be sent to a manufacturer, that they may be more evenly divided, and sugar or gelatine coated.

“Three of these pills taken daily will often diminish the weight of the body at the rate of from five to ten pounds per week. The evacuations from the bowels are more copious than usual, but in all other respects are perfectly natural. The muscles become firm, their action more free than before, and the power is increased. The patient soon experiences a feeling of lightness, renewed energy, and ability to endure greater muscular exertion than before. No bad effects will result.”

The Lymphatic System

“This agent is one of the most reliable ones we have in the treatment of acute adenitis.I is especially valuable in the inflammatory action liable to occur in the cervical lymphatics due to absorption from the fauces in the late stage of scarlatina. However, in all forms of acute inflammation of the lymphatic glands, it will be found a very useful remedy.

This remedy influences other glandular organs besides the lympathics, as, for instance the mammae, the testes, the thyroid, etc.

Extract of phytolacca berries(juice)seems to lessen the amount of fluids in the body, or, perhaps I better say, the amount of fat. But I am inclined to the belief that the value of the agent in obesity does not assist so much in its power to remove fat as to stimulate the absorption of superfluous fluids in persons of lymphatic temperament. In those who are stout on account of the deposition of fat the remedy produces a marked effect so far as the reduction of the weight is concerned, though it may improve general elasticity. On this subject a writer in the homeopathic News remarks:

I have used the phytolacca as an anti-fat remedy for several years, and know that it is good, having proved it on myself. My grandfather was a great ale and beer drinker, and of course had a very large corporation, big belly. He used to tell me that grandfather would never be dead as long as I lived, meaning that I would grow like him. This used to scare me as a child, but udge of my annoyance, as I grew to manhood, and found the prediction becoming true, and in late years I was very much troubled about it. In studying phytolacca, I saw the statement about birds, and began trying it, and always with great benefit. My own corporation is entirely gone. I can stand upright, look down on my body, and see everything. I used one drop of tincture made from berries picked from a tree in my garden. Equal berries to their weight of alcohol. The berry juice, with only enough alcohol to prevent their fermentation is the best, then one drop doses night and morning are enough.

“While I was taking these drops I felt as light and springing as a bouncing ball; could run and jump with any boy. I am now fifty-eight years old, and take my Saturday half holidays in the cricket field, playing that manly and scientific game. I have used it on others, and all with benefit. Some very fat women have been made comfortable. I have used it in the solid extract prepared by Professor Waterhouse’s formula. By actual measurement their adipose tissue has been reduce by inches. It was easier to keep track by measure than by weight. In a few cases they have said they gained weight, while they grew less in bulk, but all confessed to the elasticity they felt”.

From of administration: The specific medicine, when an action on the lymphatics in adenitis is desirable. In obesity, the inspissaed juice of the ripe berries only, should be employed. This is prepared by crushing the ripe fruit, and after straining through a fine sieve or coarse cloth, to remove the seeds, allowing the product to evaporate to a waxy consistency in the sun. This is administered in doses of three or four grains, repeated three or four times daily. The dose of the specific medicine, in adenitis, should be a dram to four ounces of water, from which a teaspoonful may be taken every two hours.”

The Ductless Glands

“I wish to call attention here to the value of phytolacca in enlargement of the thyroid gland. From reports which I consider reliable I believe it to be one of the best remedies we have for bronchocele. Dr.H.H.Webster, formerly of North Jackson, Ohio, used it successfully, for years, for this purpose, and always with satisfactory results. He considers it superior iris, calcarea car.,spongia, or any other remedy in this class.”

Muscles

“Phytolacca exerts a positive influence upon the muscles, relieving muscular pain, in some cases, promptly. It was a favourite remedy in rheumatism with our old Eclectics, and it is not to be despised for this purpose, though I think that we have better ones.

For the muscular pains attending acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis it is promptly curative, while it also relieves the inflammation of the mucous membrane.

It is also of value in the treatment of pectoral pains, when these are confined to the pectoral muscles – not shifting. The value of phytolacca in mammitis and sore nipples attending the puerperal state has already been referred to.

In chronic rheumatism phytolacca should be awarded a fair trial, as it will sometimes excel more highly accredited remedies. It is always worthy a trial in stubborn cases. Syphilitic muscular pains will demand phytolacca after berberis aquifolium has failed. The former remedy, however, is worthy of first notice.

Form for Administration . – The specific medicine.

Dose . – From the fraction of a drop to five drops.”

Periosteum

“This remedy is very highly commended by Hale as a cure for rheumatism involving the periosteum. Deep seated pain, situated apparently upon the surface of the bone, with tendency to shifting of its location and other evidences of rheumatic dyscrasia, would call for its exhibition. In this case there is not likely to be much swelling but simply a deep seated pain, not much affected by pressure, of dull, aching character.

Dr. Hale, in his New Remedies , cites a number of such cases promptly cured by phytolacca, after all the most reputed remedies for rheumatism had failed. Apparently in these cases the tissue involved had not been taken into consideration enough in making the therapeutic adaptation – the tissue affinity of drugs had not been sufficiently kept in sight, in the therapeutic application.

Form for Administration . – The tincture made from the fresh root, by macerating the crushed article in pure alcohol, fulfils the best purpose. The only reliable substitute for this known to me is the specific medicine. This usually fulfils the requirements of the case. Dose . – One or two drops three or four times daily.”
Pharmacy Notes

General Alterative

Of the specific medicine, add 30 drops to four ounces of water, and order a teaspoonful every hour. Two or four grains of the inspissated juice may be taken three times a day.

Lymph enlargement:

From of administration. specific medicine, a dram to four ounces of water, from which a teaspoonful may be taken every two hours.

Obesity

Juice of the ripe berries only, should be employed. Crush the ripe fruit, after strain through a fine sieve or coarse cloth, to remove the seeds, allow the product to evaporate to a waxy consistency in the sun. This is administered in doses of three or four grains, repeated three or four times daily.

Muscular Rheumatism

The specific medicine, from the fraction of a drop to five drops.

Periosteal Rheumatism

The tincture made from the fresh root, by macerating the crushed article in pure alcohol, fulfils the best purpose. The only reliable substitute for this known to me is the specific medicine. One or two drops three or four times daily.

1901 : Harvey Felter. MD. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J. Locke. edited with pharmacological additions by H.W. Felter. Second edition, with appendix. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati.1901 P.341

“ (Alteratives)

PHYTOLACCA – POKE ROOT

SYNONYMS – Scoke, Garget , Pigeon Berry

BOTANICAL ORIGIN – The fresh or recent root and fruit of Phytolacca decandra, Linne; Nat. Ord., Phytolacaceae, Europe and America.

SPECIFIC PHYTOLACCA has a light-reddish color and the flavor of the recent root. It is liable to alteration by age, casting down a light, nearly white precipitate. This does not interfere, however, with the medicinal value of the remedy.

This is a common native plant, flowering in July and ripening its berries in August. It has a greenish flower and a light-coloured root, having a taste at first sweetish, but afterwards acrid. Alcohol and boiling water extract its virtues. Use the tincture, and, if convenient, prepare your own tincture from the fresh root (preferably dug in September), cut fine and fill with alcohol. Let this stand until needed, when it may be filtered and is ready to use. A tincture of the berries is also useful in obstinate cases of chronic rheumatism. In dropsy it is one of our best alternatives.

In large doses phytolacca is cathartic and emetic and in very large doses it influences the kidney as a diuretic. it is not a desirable emetic, being very slow in its action, though when emesis results it persists for a long time, producing great discomfort and also purgation. As an alterative it is very valuable to increase waste and improve nutrition. It acts specifically upon the glands and mucous membranes. it may be employed when there is a languid condition of the blood vessels and absorbents. The following is a good preparation for chronic rheumatism. Take of poke berries two ounces an macerate them in one pint of holland gin. Give this from a teaspoonful to a tablespoon dose.

Phytolacca is very valuable in the treatment of mammary inflammation with threatened abscess, or when the abscess has already formed. Give the remedy internally and apply it locally. In case of cold in the mammae with threatened mammary abscess give it in alternation with Aconite. If the swelling be great the breasts may be supported by an adhesive strip. Administer a teaspoonful each of the following solutions alternately every hour:

R. Specific Aconite, gtt.x.

Aqua, fuid ounce iv. M.

R. Specific Phytolacca, dramj. or ij.

Aqua, fl ounce iv. M.

If abscess results and it has not opened of its own accord, lance it and then syringe the cavity with Phytolacca diluted and continue internally the prescriptions as above directed. Take of the tincture one-half ounce, and warm water nine ounces. and syringe the part; this relieves the pain and promotes healing. If is possible and desirable to check the formation of abscess apply the following:

R. Specific Phytolacca

Glycerin, aa. M.

It is a valuable drug for females who have morbid sensitiveness and tenderness of the breast at the menstrual period. In cases like this give

R. Specific Phytolacca, gtt. x. to xxx.

Aqua, fl ounce iv. M.

Sig. – Dose, a teaspoonful every three hours.

It is also a good remedy for cracked nipples. Apply it locally and give in internally. It is a good agent in swelling of the breast of new-born infants. Use a few drops of Phytolacca in four ounces of water and give a teaspoonful of the mixture several times a day.

In general, Phytolacca is a stimulant of the mucous surfaces and absorbents, acting much like iodide of potassium. Use it where the mucous membranes are blanched, pallid, or ulcerated. It is a very good drug in simple diptheria when the disease is diffused. In the early stage Aconite and Belladonna are better, but if the disease is not arrested by these, then give Phytolacca in alternation with them. It is of much value in ulceration of the mucous surfaces, as of the tonsils, fauces, etc. Many times it reduces a chronically enlarged tonsil.

As a constitutional remedy it may be employed for ulceration of the os uteri, and also in leucorrhoea. Use is in all the manifestations of syphilis, generally with potassium iodide. Employ it in all ulcerations of the outlets of the body. In rheumatism , scrofulous affections, etc, it is a very excellent drug. Rheumatic iritis is greatly benefited by it. It has cured bronchocele when iodine has failed. Use the following in all of the preceding disorders:

R. Specific Phytolacca, fl dram j.

Aqua, fl ounce iv. M.

Sig. – Dose, a teaspoonful every one, two, three or four hours, as required.”
Pharmacy Notes

Usual prescription as an alterative:

One dram specific phytolacca in four ounces water, dose: a teaspoonful every one, two, or three hours.

1905: J.S. Neiderkorn MD. A Handy Reference Book. Published for the Author. Cincinnati. P. 131

“Sp.Med.Phytolacca: Pale skin, lymphatic enlargements, indolent action of skin.

Dose: one drop every three hours.”
Pharmacy Notes

Dose: one Specific Phytolacca every three hours.

1905: F.J. Peterson MD. Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Los Olivos, California. P.122-123

“Syn – Phytolacca; Poke

P. E. – Plant and berries

N. O. – Phytolaccaceae

N. H. – North America

Properties: In small doses, alterative. In large doses cathartic, emetic, narcotic.

Physiological action: In large doses it acts as a gastro-intestinal irritant, producing vomiting, purging, dizziness, drowsiness, feeble pulse, general prostration, cool and sometimes clammy skin and even convulsions, coma and death. Generally a tingling or prickling sensation is felt over the whole body.

Indications: Pallid tongue and mucous membrane, tongue slightly coated, looking as though it was covered with a glutinous substance; sometimes tongue has a leaden appearance. In inflammation and various affections of the lymphatic glands, especially if swollen and hard.

Use: Phytolacca has a specific influence on the glandular structures, increasing waste and improving nutrition. A good remedy in inflammation of the glandular system, especially of the lymphatic glands. In rheumatism in which the white fibres are involved it may be used to advantage. Irritants in the blood, the result of deficient ketabolism, producing pains of rheumatic nature will be corrected by the use of phytolacca. It will relieve irritation, inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membrane in any part of the body. Our best remedy in mastitis and to abort mammary abscesses, in these cases we combine it to advantage with echinacea. We think of it in stomatitis, tonsillitis, sore nipples, pain in the breasts with fullness, inflammation of the mammae. We also think of it with other remedies indicated, in diphtheria, sore mouth of nursing child, chancre, buboe, syphilis and skin disease, especially if of the squamous variety. We should never forget that in the affections of the lymphatic glands, especially where they are hard and swollen phytolacca is our best remedy.”

1905: Finley Ellingwood MD. A Systematic Treatise on Materia Medica and Therapeutics with reference to the most direct action of drugs. Fifth Edition, thoroughly revised and greatly enlarged. Chicago Medical Times Publishing Company. P.458

“Synonym: Poke

Part employed: the root, leaves, and berries.

Natural order: Phytolaccacea

Locality: North America

Dose of root: one to ten grains. The dried root is nearly devoid of medicinal properties, and only a tincture from the fresh root should be employed. The berries possess essentially the same medicinal properties as the root.

Preparations-

Fluid extract of Phytolacca root: dose, from five to thirty minims.

Ointment of Phytolacca.

Specific Phytolacca. Dose from one to ten minims.

Specific symptomatology-

The most direct action of this agent is in inflammation of glandular structures, especially of the lymphatic glands. Pains of a rheumatic character from deficient catabolism are relieved by it. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation and ulceration if mucous membranes in rheumatic subjects, sanious ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, sycosis, psoriasis, favus, noli me tangere, and all skin diseases.

Therapy-

Inflammation of the breasts in nursing women, pain in the breasts, sore nipples, diptheria or tonsillitis, and inflammation of the throat, with pain in the nape and sides of the neck and root of the tongue, the sore throat of scarlet fever, are relieved by this agent. It is beneficial in the treatment of pain in the abdomen, increased by pressure, from irritation or inflammation of the gastric or intestinal mucous membrane, or of the glandular structures of these membranes, obstinate constipation, or irritation of the bowels resembling cholera, with vomiting, purging, and cramps, hemorrhoids, fissure, fistula, ulcer, or induration of the rectum, influenza, catarrh, and cough from irritation of the respiratory mucous membrane, lupus, epithelioma, and all ulcers of the nose and throat, granular conjunctivitis with circum orbital pain, bubo, chancre, mercurio-syphilis(osteocarpic pain), syphilitic skin diseases, syphilitic nodes in the skull, syphilitic ozena, with sanious discharge from disease of the nasal bones, prosopalgia in syphilitic and rheumatic subjects, pain in the bones of the face at night, membraneous dysmenorrhea, uterine and vaginal leucorrhea, albuminuria, with dropsy, Brights’ Disease, albuminuria after scarlet fever and diptheria, pain in the region of the bladder, with dark red urine, periostitis, and orchitis of rheumatic origin, nervous irritation from teething, headache from gastric irritation, asthenic hyperemia of the liver, spleen or uterus pain in the region of the liver, with enlargement and inudration when the patient cannot lie on the right side because of pain in the right hypochondrium, soreness and pain in the region of the liver in pregnant women, chronic hepatitis.

The action of phytolacca is on the processes of waste and nutrition.

In tonsillitis with rheumatic pains over the body it is curative.

An ointment made from the fresh leaves or berries, has cured obstinate ulcers on the face supposed to be cancerous.

In the treatment of inflammation of the breasts of nursing women it is specific as has been stated.

In non-malignant diptheria, and in other diseases where a false membrane forms, it removes the cause and the disease subsides. Ten drops of equal parts of the juice of ripe poke berries and alcohol may be given every thirty minutes in membranous and spasmodic croup with great success, with other remedies as indicated.

In irritation of the urinary tract, even in conditions resembling Brights’ disease, with albumen, and abnormal deposits in the urine, it tends to relieve the irritation, and effect a cure. Skin disease of constitutional origin, and scrofulous skin diseases, are cured by it.

Its action in relieving irritation, inflammation, and ulceration of mucous membranes in all parts of the body, throat, larynx, lungs, stomach, bowels, and rectum, suggests it as a remedy in inflammation of the lining membrane of the heart; and it is said to have cured cases of this kind.

In conjunctivitis, the local and internal use of the remedy is efficient; and also in the treatment of chancre and bubo.

In the treatment of conjunctivitis, a saturated tincture of the fresh root should be given in sufficient quantity to produce fullness of the temples and head, while the eyes should be bathed frequently with the decoction.

In the treatment of ulcers and ulcerating skin diseases, the local application of a concentrated preparation of the root or berries should be made, so as to exert something of a caustic effect, while full doses are given internally at the same time.

The presence in the blood of an irritant which causes rheumatic pains, as in fibrous or sciatic rheumatism, and irritation of mucous membranes, or inflammation of the throat associated with rheumatic pains, and enlargement and ulceration of lymphatic glands from scrofula or syphilis, is an indication for the remedial action of phytolacca.

It has been thought to stimulate the liver, by those who hold the theory that rheumatism, peritonitis, and tonsillitis, and the many diseases assigned to the uric acid diathesis depend upon abnormal protoplasmic change in the blood, as it circulates through the liver, but whether this be true or not, there is no doubt it improves nutrition.

Phytolacca is somewhat narcotic, and also a nerve stimulant in moderate doses., and this will explain its action in curing rheumatism, for those who take the ground that this obscure disease is a neurosis; and also explains its action in neuralgia.
Pharmacy Notes

Fluid extract of Phytolacca root: dose, from five to thirty minims.

Ointment of Phytolacca.

Specific Phytolacca. Dose from one to ten minims.”

1905: Pharmacopia of the United States.

Berries have been dropped. Root and Fluid extract of root remain official.

Dose: root: emetic: 1gm

alterative: 125 mg

Fluid Extract: emetic 1cc

alterative: .1cc

1907: Dose Book of Specific Medicines. Written and Published by Lloyd Brothers. Cincinnati.

480 grains to Fluid Ounce.

Dose: specific medicine phytolacca: 5-20 drops in four ounces of water. A teaspoonful of the dilution every 3-4 hours.

1911: John William Fyfe. MD. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics. The Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati.

“Enlargement, inflammation or pain in glands; mucous surface of the fauces full and of dark color, the tonsils swollen, throat dry or covered with patches of tenacious secretion or ash colored exudation, depressed function or imperfect secretion;fatty degeneration of the heart. Locally, threatened abscesses in glands.

This is one of our most valuable remedies in tonsillitis , diphtheria, parotitis, threatened abscess of mammary, parotid, and submaxillary glands, fatty degeneration of the heat and rheumatism. all diseases of the glandular organs , periosteal, fibrous, and cutaneous tissues come within the range of its curative power. in fatty degeneration of the heart the extract of the berries is said to be the most efficient preparation of the drug. six grains is the dose usually employed.

Phytolacca is alterative, diuretic, laxative, resolvent, antiscorbutic,and antisyphilitic. In large doses emetic, cathartic, and narcotic.”

1911: J.U. Lloyd. History of the Vegetable Drugs of the Pharmacopia of the United States. Bulletin number 18: pharmacy number 4. P.64

“Poke root, Phytolacca decandra, is a handsome plant found throughout the temperate regions of North America, east of the Mississippi River, thriving in rich bottom lands, fence corners, and woody pastures. The American Indians used it, powdered to a pulp, as a poultice. The early American settlers applied it in like manner as a poultice to inflammatory conditions of the cow’s udder, in the disease known as garget, a circumstance which has given to the plant one of its common names, garget plant. Phytolacca crept thence into more extensive use in domestic medicine, a tincture of the same being next employed. Following this came its introduction into the “licensed” profession. In domestic medication the drug was employed from the date of the early settlers, and in the practice of Eclecticism it has ever been a valued remedy. To cite American references to this drug would be to name all the publications of the liberal authors connected with medicines.”

1916: Pharmacopia of the United States.

Root and fluid extract of root dropped.

1919: Finley Ellingwood MD. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy. Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Chicago. P.373

“Synonym – Poke.

Constituents – Phytolaccic acid, phytolaccine, calcium malate, resin, starch, wax, gum, tannin, mucilage. The ashes contain over fifty per cent of caustic potash.

Preparations – Extractum Phytolaccae Radicis Fluidum.

Fluid Extract of Phytolacca Root. Dose, from five to thirty minims.

Unguentum Phytolaccae, Ointment of Phytolacca.

Specific Phytolacca. Dose, from one to ten minims.

Physiological Action – Though the young shoots of Phytolacca are used as greens the mature plant is poisonous when taken in large doses. Death has followed an overdose (one-half ounce) of the berries or root, preceded by excessive vomiting and purging; drowsiness, prickling and tingling over the whole body; vertigo, dimness of vision, cold skin, feeble pulse, great prostration, convulsions and coma.

While is is specific in its influence upon all glandular structures, of whatever character, it also is a blood-making remedy of great power, and it acts directly also upon the skin. It influences the mammary glands and the testicles directly. The remedy acts also upon the spinal cord. It inhibits the influence of the medulla, to final paralysis. It slows the action of the heart, reduces the force of the pulse, and lessens respiratory movements. In poisonous doses it will induce convulsions of a tetanic character. It is a drastic cathartic and emetic producing nausea of an extreme character. Its influences upon the bowels is greatly prolonged, and very irritating. It causes great pain in the bowels, which is slow of relief. It reduces muscular power and co-ordination. It produces dimness of vision, vertigo and drowsiness, prolonged in some cases to coma.

Specific Symptomatology – The most direct action of this agent is in inflammation of glandular structures, especially of the lymphatic glands. Pains of a rheumatic character from deficient catabolism are relieved by it. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in rheumatic subjects, sanious ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, sycosis, psoriasis, favus, noli me tangere, and all skin diseases. It is especially valuable in the squamous variety of skin diseases.

Therapy – This agent must now have especial attention in its influence in the treatment of acute inflammations of the throat. it makes but little difference what forms of throat disease we have, from the simplest forms of pharyngitis, through all the variations of tonsillitis, to the extreme forms of diphtheria, this remedy may be given in conjunction with other indicated agents. But few of our physicians neglect its administration in these cases, and they are unitedly profuse in their praises of its influence. If there be an infection of the local glands of the neck, from the throat disease, the agent should be applied externally, as well as administered internally.

In the treatment of goitre there is a consensus of opinion concerning the value of this remedy, but it is almost universally administered in these cases, with other more direct remedies. Dr. J. V. Stevens is enthusiastic in his opinion that adenitis needs no other remedy than phytolacca decandra. Whatever the cause of the disease or of however long standing, he saturates the system with this remedy, and persists in it, applies it externally and claims to cure his cases. He has used it for many years with success. Others combine other active alteratives as general conditions demand.

Too much cannot be said of its very positive and invariable influence in the treatment of acute inflammations of the breast during or preceding lactation. It should be given every two hours at least in doses of perhaps ten drops in extreme cases, or five drops in the incipiency of the disease, or mild cases. Conjoined with aconite and applied also externally, we will find in many cases no use for any other remedy. I have, however, found my results to be more quickly obtained when an active eliminant is given in conjunction with the remedy, in mastitis. Two or three fifteen-grain doses of the accate of potassium will be found efficient.

The write has, through a long experience, gotten into the habit of adding this remedy to alterative compounds. This is especially true of those prescribed for children’s glandular and skin disorders. It is an efficacious remedy in any of the forms of skin disease, common to childhood. Given in the incipiency of eczema and in some forms of chronic eczema, especially that of a dry character, where there are cracks or fissures in the skin, these promptly yield to the internal administration of this remedy.

It should be administered in the treatment of syphilitic disorders resulting in ulceration, and in the ulceration of the outlets of the body. In varicose and other long-standing ulcers, in psoriasis, dermal abscesses, fissures, boils and carbuncles it will be often found that a combination of phytolacca, echinacea, berberis, and stillingia will prove signally effective.

Ten drops of equal parts of the juice of ripe poke berries and alcohol may be given every thirty minutes in membranous and spasmodic croup with great success, with other remedies as indicated.

In irritation of the urinary tract, even in conditions resembling Bright’s disease, with albumin, and abnormal deposits in the urine, it tends to relieve the irritation, and effect a cure.

Dr. Waska of Chicago is a strong advocate of the use of phytolacca and echinacea in the treatment of any form of albuminuria. He believes with proper auxiliary treatment, these two remedies will be of great service in overcoming the excretion of albumin and in restoring a normal condition of the kidneys. Skin disease of constitutional origin, and scrofulous skin diseases, are cured by it.

Its action in relieving irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in all parts of the body – throat, larynx, lungs, stomach, bowels and rectum – suggests it as a remedy in inflammation of the lining membrane of the heart; and it is said to have cured cases of this kind.

In conjunctivitis, the local and internal use of the remedy is efficient; and also in the treatment of chancre and bubo.

In the treatment of conjunctivitis, a saturated tincture of the fresh root should be given in sufficient quantity to produce fullness of the temples and head, while the eyes should be bathed frequently with the decoction.

In the treatment of ulcers and ulcerating skin diseases, the local application of a concentrated preparation of the root or berries should be made, so as to exert something of a caustic effect, while full doses are given internally at the same time.

The presence in the blood of an infectious irritant, which causes rheumatic pains, as in sciatic rheumatism, and irritation of mucous membranes, or inflammation of the throat associated with rheumatic pains, and enlargement and ulceration of lymphatic glands from scrofula or syphilis, is an indication for the remedial action of phytolacca.

It has been thought to stimulate the liver, by those who hold the theory that rheumatism, peritonitis, tonsillitis, and the many diseases assigned to the uric acid diathesis depend upon abnormal protoplasmic change in the blood, as it circulates through the liver; but whether this be true or not, there is no doubt that it improves nutrition.

Phytolacca is somewhat narcotic, and also a nerve stimulant in moderate doses, and this will explain its action in curing rheumatism, for those who take the ground that this obscure disease is a neurosis; and also explains its action in neuralgia.”

Pharmacy Notes

Fluid Extract of Phytolacca Root: five to thirty minims.

Unguentum Phytolaccae, Ointment of Phytolacca.

Specific Phytolacca: one to ten minims.

1922: Origin and History of all the Pharmacopeial Vegetable Drugs, Chemicals and Preparations. Volume 1: Vegetable Drugs.

The Caxton Press. Cincinnati. P.240-242

“PHYTOLACCA (Phytolacca, Poke Root)

Phytolacca Root is mentioned in the Primary List of the first edition of the U.S.P., in 1820 (2d edition, 1828), Phytolacca Berries being relegated to the Secondary List. Both the root and the berries were official in the New York edition of 1830, but in the Philadelphia edition, 1830, both were demoted to the Secondary List, a position they occupied in all succeeding Pharmacopeias until 1880, when they were wholly official, so remaining until 1910, when both were dropped.

“Poke Root,” Phytolacca decandra, is a handsome plant found throughout the temperate regions of North America east of the Mississippi River, thriving in rich bottom lands, fence corners and woody pastures. The American Indians used it, pounded to a pulp, as a poultice. The early American settlers applied it in like manner as a poultice to inflammatory conditions of the cow’s udder, in the disease known as garget, a circumstance which has given to the plant one of its common names, Garget Plant. Phytolacca crept thence into more extensive use in domestic medicine, a tincture of the plant being next employed. Following this came its introduction into professional practice. In Eclecticism it has ever been a valued remedy. To cite American Materia Medica references to phytolacca would be to name the publications of all the representative authors since the middle of the last century connected with American medicine. The first edition, 1852, of the American Dispensatory (356) is the best published authority for the use of phytolacca at that date. Let us quote from this:

“PROPERTIES AND USES. – Emetic, cathartic, alterative, antiherpetic, and somewhat narcotic. The leaves are somewhat purgative, and are used, in some parts of the country, as a dressing to ulcers. A strong decoction of the leaves is of much benefit in haemorrhoids; injected into the rectum two or three times a day, and a fomentation of the leaves applied to the part, it will almost always give relief, and eventually effect a cure. Three or four drachms of the decoction may also be taken internally. Should it produce any narcotic effects, omit its use for a day or two, and commence again with smaller doses. The root excites the whole glandular system, and has been highly extolled in syphilitic, scrofulous, rheumatic, and cutaneous diseases. The extract of the root is an excellent remedy for the removal of those severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections, (osteocopus). Roasted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, the root is unrivalled in felons and tumors of various kinds. It discusses them rapidly, or, if too far advanced, hastens their suppuration. A saturated tincture of the berries has been successfully employed in chronic rheumatism. It is also recommended in the same diseases as the root. Dose of the powdered root, as an alterative, one to five grains; of the tincture, one drachm, three or four times a day; as an emetic, twenty to thirty grains of the powder.”

Buchan’s Every Man His Own Doctor, 1816, indicates that phytolacca was then in high repute s a domestic remedy. From this we extract as follows (110):

“The young stems of phytolacca, when boiled, are as good as asparagus, but when old they are to be used with caution, being a plant of great activity, operating both as an emetic and cathartic. A tincture of the ripe berries in brandy or wine, is a popular remedy for rheumatism and similar affections; and it may be given with safety and advantage in all cases where guaiacum is proper. The extract of the juice of the ripe berries has been employed in some cases of scrofula; and cancerous ulcers have been greatly benefited by its application. The juice of the leaves, however, is said to be more effectual.”

The amount of potassium nitrate in phytolacca root is exceptionally great. This may crystallise from alcoholic tincture in quantities. Possibly this fact accounts for the superiority of fresh root preparations in which natural water-sap serves as a diluent. In this connection we might refer to the fact that the writer of this historical review of drugs does not confine his opinion of therapeutic values to laboratory products and products that are of an exclusively “organic” origin. Just what form many of the so-called “inorganic” materials take in natural plant structures is a question. See the author’s contributions to the Eclectic Medical Journal, Cincinnati, on various phases of “the inorganic side of organic life.”
Pharmacy Notes

powdered root: as an alterative, one to five grains, tincture of root, 60 drops, three or four times a day.

1930: Dose Book of Specific Medicines. Written and Published by Lloyd Brothers. Cincinnati.

Specific phytolacca: menstrum contains 67% alcohol.

Lecture

Phytolacca americana L.

(formerly P.decandra L.)

Common name: Pokeweed

Botany

Phytolacca americana is native to the eastern seaboard of the United States and Mexico. The plant is perennial and produces large tuberous roots weighing as much as 5 kilos. Any cleared land in the South Eastern United States is quickly colonized by this hardy perennial due to birds fondness for its fruit and the veracity of the plants growth habit. Like may adaptogenic plants, it appears invulnerable to plant disease and insect damage. Indeed, so impervious that Phytolacca americana gene’s have been spliced into field crops in an effort to create disease resistance. (63)
Chemical constituents

3-ACETYLALEURITOLIC-ACID Seed:

3-ACETYLOLEANOLIC-ACID Seed:

3-OXO-3-CARBOMETHOXY-24-NOROLEAN-12-EN-29-OIC-ACID Plant:

ALKALOIDS Fruit 22,000 ppm;

ALPHA-SPINASTEROL Fruit:

AMERICANIN Seed:

ANTHOCYANIN Fruit 93,000 ppm;

ASCORBIC-ACID Shoot 1,360 – 16,184 ppm

ASTRAGALIN Leaf:

BETA-CAROTENE Shoot 52 – 621 ppm

BETANIN Shoot:

CAFFEIC-ALDEHYDE Plant:

CALCIUM Shoot 530 – 6,307 ppm

CALCIUM-OXALATE Plant:

CARBOHYDRATES Shoot 37,000 – 441,000 ppm

CARYOPHYLLENE Fruit:

ESCULENTIC-ACID Fruit:

FAT Shoot 4,000 – 48,000 ppm

FRUCTOSE Fruit 14,000 ppm;

GLUCOSE Fruit 46,000 ppm;

GUM Root:

HEMICELLULOSE Root:

IRON Shoot 17 – 202 ppm

ISOBETANINE Fruit:

ISOPREBETANINE Fruit:

ISOQUERCITRIN Leaf:

JALIGONIC-ACID Root:

NIACIN Shoot 12 – 143 ppm

OLEANOLIC-ACID Root:

OXYMYRISTIC-ACID Root:

PAP(=POKEWEED-ANTIVIRAL-PROTEIN) Plant:

PHOSPHORUS Shoot 440 – 5,238 ppm

PHYTOLACCAGENIC-ACID Root:

PHYTOLACCAGENIN Root:

PHYTOLACCANIN Plant:

PHYTOLACCASAPONINS Plant:

PHYTOLACCASIDE Plant:

PHYTOLACCATOXIN Plant:

PHYTOLACCIN Plant:

PHYTOLACCINIC-ACID Plant:

PHYTOLACCOGENIC-ACID Plant:

POKEBERRYGENIN Plant:

POKEWEED-ANTIVIRAL-PROTEIN Plant:

PREBETANINE Fruit:

PROTEIN Shoot 26,000 – 311,000 ppm

QUERCETIN-3-L-ARABINO-7-D-GLUCOSIDE Fruit:

RESIN Root:

RIBOFLAVIN Shoot 3 – 39 ppm

STARCH Root:

TANNIN Root:

THIAMIN Shoot 1 – 10 ppm

WATER Shoot 916,000 ppm;

XYLOSE Root: (29)

Native American Use

Throughout its range, P. factored into domestic medicine. The Virginia tribes called it “Pokan” which lead to its English common name, poke-weed. It was called chou-gras by Louisiana Creoles, jucato in Jamaica, and cuechiliz in Mexico. The Pamunkey Tribe used the berries in decoction to treat rheumatism.(3-5) Other tribes treated all instances of inflammation with a root pulp poultice. (3)

Colonial Use

In the North American colonies P. americana was used as a food, a dye, and a medicine. The Colonials ate the young spring shoots as a substitute for asparagus and the tender leaves as a green. Barton states that pokeweed shoots were brought to the Philadelphia market and sold in great quantity. Raffinesque mentions that in Louisiana the fresh leaves were boiled in soup. (4) The berries were used as a source of ink and combined with urine a source of blue dye. (3)

Initially the Colonials used the root of P. americana to treat inflammatory conditions of the cow udder, specifically in the condition known as garget. Hence its’ early common name, “garget plant”. In time, this practice extended to women suffering from mastitis. As the colonial period progressed the root was used to treat all manner of inflammation, especially inflamed joints, applied topically and taken internally. (3) The berry, macerated in alcohol, was a common domestic remedy for “rheumatism”.

Medical Use

In the 19 th century the medical profession “purged” disease out of patients. P.americana, taken in large quantities, is both purgative and emetic and thus found favor amongst medical men of the day. It was used whenever a disease needed to be whipped out of a sick person.

More specifically, it was used when chronic diseases of the skin and joints presented themselves. The 1814 “American Dispensatory” recommended it for the treatment of chronic skin disease and rheumatism. (26) In 1820 the root was added to the Primary List of “The Pharmacopia United States”. (2) In the same year, the berries were added to the Secondary List of “The Pharmacopia of the United States”. (2) In the 1833 edition of “The Dispensatory of the United States” it was listed as being useful in chronic inflammatory skin and joint disease when used topically and internally.(33)

Eclectic Use

Wooster Beach, the founder of the Eclectic movement, published his “Medical and Botanical Dictionary” in 1848. In it we find the first “Eclectic” reference to P. americana. Beach stated the plant was alterative, cathartic, discutient, escharotic, and vulnerary and recommended its use in r heumatic conditions and chronic skin disease. (3) Beach’s uses appear to be identical to those found in “The American Dispensatory” written 34 years earlier with one notable innovation.

The Eclectics’ did not believe in purging patients and abhorred any and all deleterious medical practices. As such, they did away with large purgative doses of P. americana and instead used small, innocuous doses of the drug. Between 1848 and 1932 Eclectic knowledge of clinical applications of P. americana grew enormously. A survey of Eclectic medical texts between these years resulted in the following composite list of uses. (2,3,6-18)
Digestive System

General

haemorrhoids, parasites, inactive liver, constipation, poor digestion, poor absorption, and poor excretion of waste.

Digestive Mucous Membranes

ulceration of the mucous membrane, stomatitis, sore lips, infantile sore mouth, nursing sore mouth, adult sore mouth, chancre, aphthae, ulceration of the mouth, pallid tongue with slick coat, sore tongue, coating on tongue from tip to base, diphtheria, formation of false membranes in diptheria, tonsillitis, chronically enlarged tonsils, tonsillitis attended by musculo-skeletal pain, syphilitic faucial ulceration, sore throat, acute inflammation of the throat cough, irritated or inflamed throat, fungal infection of the throat, dry throat, throat covered with patches of tenacious secretions or ash coloured exudation, pharyngitis, follicular pharyngitis, ulcerated pharynx; ulceration of mucous crypts, ulceration of Peyer’s patches, ulceration of stomach, bowels, or rectum
Digestive Glands

atony of the glands, maxillary gland dysfunction, mumps, parotitis.
Endocrine System

Mammae

threatened mammary inflammation, inflammation of mammae, mastitis, mammary suppuration, abscesses of mammae, morbid sensitiveness of mammae during menstruation, swelling of breast in the new born, sore nipples, cracked nipples.

Testes

orchitis, metastasis of mumps to testicles.

Thyroid

enlargement of the thyroid gland, goitre.

Ovaries

ovaritis.
Lymphatic System

lymphatic node enlargement, acute inflammation of lymph nodes, cervical node enlargement due to scarlet fever, painful lymph nodes, tubercular lymph nodes, hardened enlarged lymph nodes, suppurating lymph nodes, lymphoma.
Musculoskeletal System
Joints

chronic syphilitic rheumatism, chronic rheumatism, mercurial rheumatism, rheumatism of joints, rheumatic “deep pains”, rheumatism associated with irritation, ulceration, and inflammation of the mucous membranes, rheumatism associated with chronic skin conditions including ulcers, psoriasis, and eczema, rheumatic pains associated with deficient excretion of waste, rheumatic pain associated with sore throat, rheumatism associated with glandular enlargement.
Muscles

muscular pain, muscular pain attending tonsillitis or pharyngitis, pectoral pain, syphilitic muscular pain, rheumatic muscular pain.
Bones
rheumatism of the periosteum, bone pain associated with chronic infection.
Connective Tissues

rheumatism of connective tissues(white fibres)
Nervous System
General

pain, pain of late syphilis, headache from nervous, syphilitic, rheumatic, or sympathetic digestive causes, neuralgia, dizziness.

Ocular Mucous Membranes

blepharitis, conjunctival inflammations, conjunctivitis, gonorrhoeal and syphilitic sore eyes, granular conjunctivitis, rheumatic iritis.
Respiratory System
Lower Tract Mucous Membranes

ulceration of the mucous membranes, difficult respiration due to bronchiocele, congestion.
Upper Tract Mucous Membranes

ulcerations of the mucous membranes, cephalgia, influenzal catarrh, nasal catarrh, hay fever, catarrhal affections, polyps, ozena, tracheitis.

Genito-Urinary System

Water and waste retention, Bright’s disease(nephrotic syndrome), albumen in the urine, abnormal deposits in the urine, irritation of the urinary tract, gonorrhoea, copious nocturnal emission, uterine or vaginal leucorrhea, ulceration of the os uteri, ulceration of the meatus.
Skin

Cancerous and malignant ulcers, old and indolent ulcers, varicose ulcers, ulceration of the outlets of the body, ulcerating skin disease, sycosis, fissures, fistulae, boils, carbuncles, dermal abscesses, psoriasis, tinea capitis, felons, tumours, suppurative skin conditions, vesicular, pustular and tubercular eruptions, scabies, indolent action of skin, irritation and burning of skin, chronic eczema, dry eczema with cracks and fissures, syphilitic eruptions, favus, squamous skin diseases, skin diseases common to childhood, inflamed skin with no itchiness due to laxity of tissue.

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The Eclectics’ used P. americana to treat acute and chronic inflammatory conditions of the mucous membranes, joints, and skin. Reviewing their uses from a contemporary patho-physiological perspective, the Eclectics used P.americana to treat conditions caused by immune system abnormalities including hypo-immunity, hyper- immunity, and auto-immunity).
hypo-immune function

It was used to treat acute bacterial infection. (i.e. tonsillitis, diphtheria, mastitis) and chronic bacterial infection (i.e. tuberculosis, syphilis). Eclectic texts’ it was useful when the body failed to clear a bacterial infection, acute or chronic. More to the point, it was used when a person had an inability to fight off infection.
hyper- immune function

P. americana was used to treat allergic responses or hyper-immunity(i.e. eczema and hay fever). When the immune system over- reacted to a harmless antigen and caused unnecessary tissue inflammation, the Eclectics used P.americana. Hyper-sensitivity reactions were effectively treated with this drug.

auto-immune function of unknown etiology

P.americana was used to treat idiopathic auto-immune disease. (i.e. blepharitis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis). When the immune system had lost the ability to distinguish between self and non-self, and had begun attacking itself this drug was used.
auto-immune function of known etiology

P.americana was used to treat auto-immune disease when it was the sequelae of a bacterial infection. It was used to treat inflamed joints, ulcerated mucous membranes, and kidney failure following streptococcal infection. It was used to treat ulceration of the eyes and joint inflammation following gonoccocal infection(Reiters’ Syndrome). It was used to treat the chronic inflammation with syphilis infection.

multiple system auto-immune function

P.americana was used to treat multi-system auto-immune disease. (i.e. psoriasis with joint involvement, rheumatoid arthritis with mucous membrane ulceration, digestive tract ulceration with joint involvement.)

In summary, it can be said the Eclectics found P.americana effective in combating a range of conditions now known to be or immune origin. As it was used to treat hypo, hyper, and auto immune diseases, it can be concluded P.americana acts as an immune modulator.

Contemporary Research

Phytolacca americana is constituent rich and complex in nature. Known key compound groups include saponins/triterpene glycosides(29,35), proteins, proteinases, and lectins, flavonoids and free phenolics(34)

Pharmacology of Phytolacca americana
Anti-bacterial activity

A small cysteine rich protein was isolated from Phytolacca americana which was found to inhibit gram positive bacteria. (41) A group of 107 tonsillitis patients were effectively treated with a homeopathic dose of P. americana. (44)
Anticancer activity

PAP(pokeweed antiviral protein) has been shown to have an anticancer/anti-tumor activity via ribosome inactivation. Cells were unable to replicate in the presence of PAP. (40).

Antifungal

P.americana contains an antifungal peptide(PAFP) exhibiting a broad spectrum of antifungal activity, including inhibiting certain saprophytic fungi and other plant pathogens. (36) Its chemical structure is amphiphilic making it a powerful antifungal. (37) A cysteine rich protein was isolated which inhibited the growth of filamentous fungi. (41) PAP inhibited fungal translation of rRNA by catalytically removing a specific adenine reside from the large rRNA of the eukaryotic ribosome. (47)
Anti-viral

PAP is a ribosome inactivating protein isolated from Phytolacca americana. It is characterized by its ability to depurinate the sarcin/ricin loop of the large rRNA of prokaryotic and eukaryotic ribosomes. (39) When Hep-2 cells were infected with Herpes simplex 1 or with the poliovirus, PAP reduced viral yield, decreased HSV-1 plaque forming efficiency, and inhibited protein synthesis more in infected cells than in uninfected cells. (62) PAP is a protein that prevents replication of several viruses and inactivates ribosomes, thus inhibiting protein synthesis(herpes simplex virus type 1) (61) . PAP including isoforms PAP-I-III depurinate RNA of human immunodeficiency virus-1. (42)

PAP was found to denature the HIV virus and not to alter either sperm or female genital tract epithelial cells. The implication being that PAP could be used by HIV positive men to conceive children without transmitting HIV infection to their partner or child.(38)

Cardiovascular activity

Astragalin acts as a hypotensive.(32) Phytolaccatoxin acts as a hypertensive. (30)
Digestive Activity

Americanin acts as an hepatotrophic (31)
DNA and rRNA inactivation

PAP disables DNA and rRNA. PAP cleaves double stranded super-coiled DNA using the same active site required to depurinate rRNA. (45)
Hemagglutinating and mitogenic activity

The drug contains Phytolacca lectins. PL A-C have hemagluglutinating and mitogenic activity. (48) Though PL A-C all have mitogenic activity, they have varying hematogglutinating activity. PL-B displays the most potent hemagglutinating activity and PL-C has almost none at all. (50) The drug contains PL-D1 and PL-D2 which do not agglutinate rabbit erythrocytes. (49) One PL inhibited the release of histamine and is thought to be a histamine antagonist. (52) Three PLlectins specific for mucin type oligosacharides inhibited histamine release in rat peritoneal mast cells. (54)

Immune System Activity

PL’s increase activity in mononuclear white blood cells. (50) and stain secretory granules in epithelial paneth cells and migratory lymphycytes. (53) P. americana caused proliferative responses in the spleen and lymphoproliferative response in immunocompromised rats. (55) Astragalin acts as an immunostimulant.(32)

PAP has a potent immunotoxin effect against B-lineage leukemia and lymphoma cells. (56)

PAP is highly cytotoxic to the human T-leukemic cell line CEM. (58) Astragalin acts as an anti-leukemic. (32). Phytolaccoside acts an anti-inflammatory (30). Jaligonic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory. (33)

The PL Pa-2 altered the antibody response to Type III pneumococcal polysacharide. If the PL was given at the time of the inoculation, the response was suppressed. If it was given two days after the inoculation, the antibody response was enhanced. (59) Phytolacca americana induces interferon production. (60)
Nervous activity

Two lignans, isoamericanol A(1-2) enhanced choline acetyltransferase activity of cultured neuronal cell system derived from fetal rat hemispheres. (55) There is some evidence that the cardioactive effects of PA is due to increased vagal tone. (51) Phytolaccatoxin as a convulsant. (30)

Respiratory activity

Astragalin acts as an expectorant.(32) Phytolaccatoxin as a respirostimulant. (30)
Concluding Phytolacca americana

Leaders in the field of phytotherapy have branded P.americana a dangerous drug without merit. Both Duke and Tyler have gone on record as saying the drug is entirely worthless. (28, 65) This is not the case.

In the first place, practitioners, the world over, use this drug safely. It must be said that in the hands of untrained consumers it is potentially dangerous. However, no more so than a long list of prescription drugs which when used wrongly threaten life and limb. P.americana can be used safely.

Bearing in mind the drug effectively treats immune based disease, and we are in the middle of an epidemic of disease rooted in immune dysfunction, P.americana is an important drug to know.

The Eclectics’ found P. americana effective in the most severe form of immune dysfunction, multi-system auto-immune disease. (i.e. psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis with systemic involvement, etc.) On this merit alone, P.americana warrants attention from the phytotherapeutic community.
Appropriate clinical uses

P.americana, used in minute doses, is a defensible remedy in diseases rooted in immune dysfunction. There is substantial history of these uses, clinical confirmation from the entirety of the Eclectic physicians, and substantiation for these uses by the contemporary research community. Hyper, Hypo, and auto immune disease are all candidates for treatment with P.americana.

Key areas of future research

•  The effect of Phytolacca americana on the General Adaptation Syndrome.( GAS)

•  Phytolacca americana as an immune modulater.

•  Toxicity of Phytolacca americana

Pharmacy for clinical use or research

Initially Eclectic physicians used the leaf, berry, and root of P.americana in their medical practice. As time passed, a preference for a fluid extract made from the fresh root developed. (7,8) Most Eclectics used “Specific Phytolacca” a fluid extract produced by the Lloyd Brothers Company. This preparation was prepared using one ounce dried Phytolacca root extracted with one fluid ounce/ 67% alcohol menstrum . (10, 18) The standard dosage was 5-20 drops added to four ounces water, a teaspoonful of dilution being taken every 3-4 hours. In addition, an ointment made from the powdered dried root was topically applied.
Root Preparations

The root is dug in November or December once the stalks were entirely dead and easily fall away from the roots. (19) The root is then sliced and dried at a moderate heat. The root was not kept for more than a year. (20)

Crude Root (PUS official preparation)

Dose: 65mg-325mg dry root (6)

1:2 Tincture of fresh root(76% alcohol)

Dose: 5-30 drops in four ounces of water, one teaspoon of the dilution every three to four hours. (7,8)

Fluid Extract (1000gm dried root/1000cc 67% alcohol menstrum)

( 28,29) (PUS official preparation)

Dose: 5-30 drops. (18)

Lloyd Specific Phytolacca (ounce Phytolacca root/fluid ounce/ 67% alcohol menstrum)

Dose: 5-20 drops added to four ounces water. A teaspoonful of dilution every 3-4 hours. (23, 24)
Ointment

One part powdered dried root to eight parts lard. (6)

Leaf Preparations

The leaves were gathered in late summer as the stalks began to turn red (20) and were dried in the shade and powdered. (25)
Ointment

One part dried powdered leaf to eight parts lard. (6)

Berry Preparations

The berries were gathered in October as they became soft and blackish. (25)
Dried berry (PUS official preparation)

Though an official preparation, no dosage was listed.

Tincture of fresh berry(two ounces berries in one pint holland gin) (12)

Dose: one teaspoon to one tablespoon

References

1. Bailey, Liberty Hyde. “Hortus Third”. A concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada. MacMillan Publishing Company. 1976. P.870

2. Lloyd, Uri. “Origin and History of all the Pharmacopeial Vegetable Drugs, Chemicals and Preparations.” Volume 1: Vegetable Drugs. The Caxton Press. Cincinnati. 1922. P.240-242

3. Wooster Beach. “Medical and Botanical Dictionary giving a definition of the terms used in the various branches of Medical Science.” Baker and Scribner. New York. 1848. P.178

4. “Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World.” Edited by U.P.Hedrick. Dover Publications Inc. New York. 1972. P.434.

5. Duke, James. “Medicinal Plants of China.” CRC Press. Ann Arbor. P.477-478

6. King, John MD. “The American Eclectic Dispensatory.” Moore, Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati. 1854. P.725

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33. Duke, James. Handbook of Biologically active Phytochemicals and their activities. CRC Press. Boca Raton. 1992. P.91

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42. Rajamohan F et al. Pokeweed antiviral protein isoforms PAP-I, PAP-II, and PAP III, depurinate RNA of human immunodeficiency virus(HIV)-1. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1999 Jul 5; 260(2):453-8.

43. Yonezawa H et al. Amino acid sequence and some properties of phytolacain R, a cystein protease from full growth fruits of pokeweed, Phytolacca americana. J Biochem(Tokyo) 1999 Jul; 126(1):26-33.

44. Wiesenauer M. Comparison of solid and liquid forms of homeopathic remedies for tonsilitis. Adv Ther 1998 Nove-dec; 15(6):362-71.

45. Wang P et al. Pokeweed antivrial protein cleaves double stranded supercoiled DNA using the same active site required to depurinate rRNA. Nucleic acid res 1999 Apri 15; 27(8): 1900-5

46.Uchikoba T et al. Comparison of phytolacain G, a cysteine protease from fruit of Phytolacca americana, with phytolacain R. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 1998 Oct; 62(10):2058-61.

47. Zoubenko O et al. Plant Resistance to fungal infection induced by nontoxic pokeweed antiviral protein mutants. Nat Biotechnol 1997 Oct; 15(10):992-6.

48. Yamaguchi K et al. The amino acid sequence of mitogenic lectin b from the roots of pokeweed. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 1997 Apr; 61(4):690-8.

49. Yamaguchi et al. Amino acid sequence and some properties of lectin D from the roots of pokeweed. . Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 1996 Aug ; 60(8):1380-2.

50. Kino M et al. Purification and characterization of three mitogenic lectins from the roots of pokeweed. . Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 1995 Apr; 59(4):683-8.

51. Hamilton RJ et al. Mobitz type I heart block after pokeweed ingestion. Vet Hum Toxicol 1995 Feb; 37(1):66-7.

52. Matsuda K et al. Datura stromonium agglutin released histamine from rat peritoneal mast cells that was inhibited by pertusis toxin , haptenic sugar and N-acetylglucosamine specific lectins: involvement of glycoproteins with N-acetylglucosamine residues. Jpn J Pharmacol 1994 Oct; 66(2): 195-204.

53. Evans GS et al. Expression of pokeweed lectin binding in murine intestinal paneth cells. Epithelial cell biol 1994 Jan ; 3(1):7-15.

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Eclectic Notes

PHYTOLACCA DECANDRA

POKE WEED

1854. John King. Materia Medica. -PHYTOLACCA DECANDRA

Properties and Uses . – Poke is emetic, cathartic, alterative, antiherpetic, and somewhat narcotic. In doses of from ten to thirty grains it acts both as an emetic and cathartic, but is selcom used for these purposes on account of the slowness of its action, which, when established, continues for a long time. Narcotic effects as drowsiness, dimness of vision, vertigo, etc,. frequently attend its action, but very rarely any pain or spasm. Overdoses cause excessive vomiting or purging, great nervous prostration, occasionally convulsions, and sometimes a tingling or prickling sensation over the whole surface. In doses of from one to five grains it acts as an alterative. The root excites the whole glandular system, and has been highly extolled in syphilitic, scrofulous, rheumatic, and cutaneous diseases. The extract of the root is an excellent remedy for the removal of these severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections (osteocopus), in which it is more beneficial than opium. the root roatsted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, is unrivaled in felons and tumors of various kinds. It discusses them rapidly, or it too far advance, hastens their suppuration. Care must be had in powdering the root, as it sometimes occasions headache, purging, prostration of strength, and all the symptoms of severe coryza. A drachm of the pulverized root or leaves, mixed with one ounce of lard has proved beneficial in psora, tinea-capitis, and some other forms of cutaneous disease; when first applied it occasions a sense of heat and smarting.

The leaves are somewhat purgative, and are used, in some parts of the country, as a dressing to ulcers. A strong decoction of the leaves is of much benefit to hemorrhoids; injected into the rectum two or three times a day, and a fomentation of the leaves applied to the part, will almost always give relief, and eventually effect a cure. A fluidrachm or two may be taken internally at the same time, and repeated two or three times a day; should any narcotic erffects be produced, its use may be omitted for a day or two, and then commenced in smaller doses. The inspissated juice of the leaves has been recommende in indolent ulcers, and as a remedy in cancer; in this last disease, Dr. Bone combined it with gun powder.

A saturated tincture of the berries has been successfully employed in chronic rheumatism. It is also recommended in the same diseases as the root. Dose of the powdered root, as an alterative, from one to five grains; of the tincture, one fluidrachm, three or four times a day; as an emetic, twenty to thirty grains of the powder.

The Franklin Institute of the city of New York advertise the active principle of poke root under the name of Phytolaccin; said to be a light-brown powder, with a pleasant, mucilaginous taste, soluble in water, and insoluble in alcohol or ether. I am not advised of its mode of preparation. Said likewise to be a most powerful alterative, aperient, and slightly narcotic. Dose from one-fourth of a grain to a grain, three times a day.

1874: Scudder

Preparation – We prepare a tincture from the fresh root, 3viij. to Alcohol 76degree Oj. Dose gtts. ij. to 3ss.

This is one of those remedies that loses its medical properties by drying, and the crude article furnished from drug stores is wholly worthless, as are the preparations from it.

The tincture of the fresh root is one of my favourite remedies. It exerts a direct influence upon the processes of waste and nutrition, and therefore possesses those properties called alterative in a high degree. I have used it in secondary syphilis, in chronic skin disease, and in crrofula, with excellent results.

It has a direct influence upon the mammary glands, and will generally arrest inflammation if given in the early stage. I also employ it in cases of sore nipples, both internally and locally, with good results.

It has been considerably employed in diphtheria, and many believe it will be found a specific to the sore throat. In this disease it is given internally, and employed as a local application.

It will be found a very valuable remedy, and as it is so common, I would advise every one to prepare them a tincture in the fall and rest it in practice.

1883: Scudder: (alterative)

The root of phytolacca decandra. Preparation: Tincture of Phytolacca (the fresh root). Dose: From the fraction of a drop to twenty drops. Usually we add gtt. v. to 3ss. to water 3iv.; the dose being one teaspoonful.

Specific indications: The mucous membranes are pale, and the epithelium gives way, showing vesicles, erosions, ulceration. Deposits in and upon the mucous epithelium, of an ahsen gray color, enlargement of the lumphatic glands with pallor, mammary pain or inflammaion, irritaion of the salicary glands, or of the testes.

Therapeutic Action: The Phytolacca is emetic, cathartic, alterative, and discutient. It acts an emeto‑cathartic, and exhibits some acro‑narcotic powers, such as impaired vision, vertigo and drowsiness. In over‑doses, it is said to cause excessive vomiting and purging, with great prostration, and occasionally convulsions. The dust inhaled, while pulverizing the root, produces severe coryza, with headache and prostration. Phytolacca is a prominent remedy in stomatitis. Infantile sore mouths yield readily to it, and for the ordinary sore mouths of adults, we rarely think of another remedy. It is not so certain in nursing sore mouth, but yet it will cure some cases better than any other single remedy.

As an alterative , in chronic rheumatism, mercurial rheumatism, secondary syphilis, etc. but few agents are known to the profession which are so searching or more truly alterative. For this purpose the root, extract of the root, berries, , or inspissated juice of the berries, or the tincture, may be prescribed alone, or combined with other agents;while the root may be roasted and applied to the part affected in the form of a poultice, or the saturated tincture or extract may be used as a local application.

The first and most important use of phytolacca is its specific action in diptheria. The name here indicates a special pathological condition, and we might expect to find a remedy which would meet the large number of cases. Unless there is a strong indication for other remedies, I prescribe this as follows. Tincture of aconite, gtt.v., tincture of phytolacca ftt.x.to gtt.xx. water 3iv. a teaspoonful every hour. Hundreds of cases have been treated with a success almost marvelous. Of course, the treatment must be commenced early. If a patients blood is saturated with the poison, and the tissues of the throat are dying, we could not expect success.

Phytolacca is a prominent remedy in stomatitis. Infantile sore mouths, yield readily to it, and for ordinary sore mouths of adults, we rarely think of another remedy. It is not so certain in nursing sore mouth, but yet it will cure some cases better than any other single remedy.

It is the remedy for threatened mammary inflammation. It should be given early in the disease, with the commencement of engorgement, heat, pain, and redness. It is so positive in its action, that in the larger number of cases the inflammation can be aborted. This use of phytolacca should be widely known, as it will prevent the severe suffering that attends the usual course of mammary inflammation, terminating in suppuration. As an application to the inflammed breast, nothing is better than the powdered root, wetted with warm water, or even the tincture with water.

Phytolacca is a valuable remedy in many cases of sore nipples, and when the child has a sore mouth, both mother and child should take the remedy.

It is the remedy of parotitis or mumps, when a remedy is needed, and I rarely think of giving anything but this and aconite.

It is also a good internal remedy for orchitis, and may be combined with canabis, veratrum, belladona, or gelsemium, according to the indications.

An infusion of the leaves has been found useful in hemorrhoids, taken in doses of a wineglassful five or six times daily. and at the same time used as a lotion to the piles, or as an injection. AN ointment of the leaves or root will be found serviceable in the same disease, and may also be used with much advantage in scabies, psoriasis, tinea capitis, etc. The root ahs been used to keep open fistulous pipes, and as a gentle escharotic and excitant to old and indolent ulcers. The root may also be roasted and applied to scirrhous and scrofulous tumors, bronchocele, indurated and enlarged glands, and as an application to felons, as a discutient, with much advantage. In febrile affections, the root may be roasted and applied to the feet as a revulsive.

(also listed as errhine.)

1892: Neidkerkorn

Pale skin, lymphatic enlargements, indolent action of skin. dose: one drop every three hours.

1895: WATKINS

Pallid mucous membrane, pallid tongue with thick coat, sore mouth, enlarged lymphatics, irritation and burning in the skin.

1895: Watkins: PHYTOLACCA, SP MED:

Pallid mucous membrane, pallid tongue with slick coat, soreness of mouth, dribbling of saliva, irritation and burning in skin, enlarged lymphatics, sore nipples, mastitis. Five to twenty drops in four ounces water; teaspoonful every two hours.

1898: Felter and Lloyd – PHYTOLACCA – PHYTOLACCA

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Physiologically, phytolacca acts upon the skin, the glandular structures, especially those of the buccal cavity, throat, sexual system, an dvery markedly upon the mammary glands. It further acts upon the fibrous and serous tissues, and mucous membranes of the digestive and urinary tracts. The drug is principally eliminated by the kidneys. Applied to the skin, either in the form of juice, strong decoction, or poultice of the root, it produces an erythematous, sometimes pustular, eruption. The powdered root when inhaled is very irritating to the respiratory passages, and often produces a severe coryza, with headache and prostration, pain in chest, back, and abdomen, conjunctival injection and ocular irritation, and occasionally causes violent emeto-catharsis. Phytolacca slows the heart’s action, reduces the force of the pulse, and lessens the respiratory movements. It is a paralyzer of the spinal cord, acting principally on the medulla. In poisoning by this agent tetanic convulsions may ensue. Death results from carbonic acid poisoning, the result of respiratory paralysis. Upon the gastro-intestinal tract doses of from 10 to 30 grains of it act as an emetic an ddrastic cathartic, producing nausea which comes on slowly, amounting almost to anguish, finally after an hour or so, resulting in emesis. It then continues to act upon the bowels, the purging being prolonged for a considerable length of time. It is seldom used for emeto-cathartic purposes, on account of its tardy action, which, when established, continues for some time. It rarely causes cramps or pain. Large doses produce powerful emeto-catharsis, with loss of muscular power – occasionally spasmodic action takes place, and frequently a tingling or prickling sensation over the whole surface. Dimness of vision, diplopia, vertigo, and drowsiness are occasioned by large doses not sufficient to produce death.

Therapeutically, phytolacca is emetic, cathartic, narcotic, and alterative. In certain conditions of the system which might come under the head of dycrasia, it proves a most valuable alterative. Scrofulous, syphilitic, and rheumatic conditions are invariably benefited by it. It is best suited to chronic rheumatism, and syphilitic and rheumatic joint affections. As an antirheumatic quite large doses are necessary. The specific phytolacca may be used, or a saturated gin tincture of the berries. Preparations of the root are excellent for the removal of those severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections (osteocopus), often being more beneficial than opium.

Phytolacca plays an important part in dermatological practice. It destroys the “itch” insect, consequently it is of value in scabies. The condition which calls for it is one of indolent action of the skin, usually associated with vitiated blood. There is a glandular difficulty – a scrofulous condition. There may be scaly, vesicular, pustular, or tuberculous eruptions, and lymphatic enlargements with pain. The skin may be inflamed, but does not itch because there is not activity enough in the part. It is often indicated in chronic eczema, syphilitic eruptions, psoriasis, tinca capitis, favus, and varicose and other ulcers of the leg. Associated with iris, it is a valuable agent in acute sycosis, fissures, fistulae, boils, carbuncles, dermal abscesses, and all ulcerations of the outlets of the body. It relieves the pain of burns and promotes rapid healing. For skin diseases it should be employed internally and locally. R Specific phytolacca 3ss, aqua 3iv. Sig. Teaspoonful every 3 hours. Locally: R Specific phytolacca 3ij, glycerin 3j. Mix. Apply.

In diseases of the mouth and throat it is highly esteemed. It is useful in acute and chronic mucous affections, as, in tracheitis, laryngitis, influenza, catarrh, and especially in those affections where there is a tendency to the formation of false membrane, as diphtheria. There is a pallid, somewhat leaden-colored tongue, with but little coating, being a slick, glutinous coat, if covered at all. The mucous membranes present whitish erosions, or vesicular patches. With these conditions it may be employed in tonsillitis, follicular pharyngitis, stomatitis, aphthae, nursing sore mouth, or ordinary sore mouth, and syphilitic faucial ulcerations. It should be taken internally and used locally as a gargle. It is one of our most valuable agents in non-malignant diphtheria. It is indicated by diphtheritic deposits. It stimulates the mucous surfaces, promotes glandular activity, and removes the diphthritic membrane. It is a good remedy in chronic tonsillar hypertrophy. It is beneficial in difficult respiration produced by bronchocele (iris is useful here also) and associated with baptisia, does good service as a local wash in ozena and other forms of nasal catarrh. Cough resulting from inflamed or irritated sore throat is cured by it when the other indications for the drug are present.

In diseases of the glandular apparatus phytolacca and iris are our best drugs. Unlike iris, through, the former is best suited to hard, lymphatic enlargements. It is not the remedy for suppurative conditions of the glands. In such cases iris with baptisia renders the best service. No other remedy equals phytolacca in acute mastitis. If employed early it prevents suppuration, yet it acts kindly even when the abscess has to be opened, and the diluted specific phytolacca may be injected into the cavity. The remedy should be administered internally, alternated with specific aconite. Locally, specific phytolacca and glycerin may be applied when suppuration has not begun. Or the powdered root may be employed, moistened with water. Parotitis is almost always cured with phytolacca and aconite. Metastasis of mumps to the testes, as well as orchitis, from other causes, indicate this drug. Sore nipples and mammary tenderness, or morbid sensitiveness of the breasts during the menstrual period call for phytolacca. It is a good remedy for ovaritis. Lymphoma has been cured by it. Subinvolution of the uterus, uterine an dvaginal leucorrhoea, and some cases of membranous dysmenorrhoea are cured by this agent. Applied as a poultice it has been greatly beneficial in the treatment of felons, and internally administered has cured bronchocele when iodine has failed.

Ulceration of the mucous crypts of the stomach and of Peyer’s patches call for phytolacca. Nasal catarrh, ozena, and other ulcerated conditions of the nasal membranes are benefited by phytolacca associated with specific baptisia. It has been used with success in gonorrhoea and copious nocturnal urination. It relieves conjunctival inflammations, and gonorrhoeal and syphilitic sore eyes. In granular conjunctivitis I have derived much advantage by bathing the eyes daily with a decoction of the root, applying it to the affected conjunctiva by means of a camel’s hair pencil, at the same time administering the tincture of the recent root internally (J. King). It has been used for the cure of piles, hydrophobia, and angina pectoris, but we possess better agents for these conditions. Headache, whether rheumatic, nervous, syphilitic, or sympathetic (as, sick headache from gastric acidity and debility), is much benefited by it. It is also one of our most useful remedies in asthenic hyperemia of the uterus, spleen, liver, and other organs. Good results have followed its internal administration in albuminuria, and in those dropsies attended with albumen in the urine. The root, roasted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, is unrivaled in felons and tumors of various kinds. It discusses them rapidly, or, if too far advanced, hastens their suppuration. Associated with iris it may be employed in mesenteric and splenic tuberculosis. Several years ago it was noticed that birds lost their adipose tissue when feeding upon poke-berries. Recently, this agent, in the form of an extract of the berries, has been employed to reduce obesity. Reports for and against its virtues in this line are now appearing in journals, but its action is still doubtful. Some, believing that it does act in this way, have suggested its use in fatty degeneration of the heart. Probably it would be more clearly indicated if associated with a rheumatic diathesis. The root or leaves finely powdered, and added to lard to form an ointment, in the proportion of 60 grains to 1 ounce of lard, is very efficient in scaldhead, and many other obstinate skin diseases, occasionally causing a slight degree of irritation when applied.

An infusion of the leaves taken internally is slightly cathartic; when bruised an dapplied locally, they are beneficial in indolent ulcers. A strong decoction of the leaves is of much benefit in hemorrhoids; if injected into the rectum 2 or 3 times a day, and a fomentation of the leaves applied to the part, it will almost always give relief, and eventually effect a cure. A fluid drachm or two may be taken internally at the same time, and repeated 2 or 3 times a day; should any narcotic effects be produced, its use may be omitted for 1 or 2 days, and then commenced in smaller doses. The inspissated juice of the leaves has been recommended in indolent ulcers, and as a remedy in cancer; in this last disease, Dr. Bone combined it with gunpowder. Quite recently, the inspissated juice of the leaves has been lauded as a new local remedy for the removal of carcinoma. The treatment, however, is not new, having been referred to by American medical writers early in the present century (see Felter, Ec. Med. Jour., 1896, p. 335). The usual prescription for specific uses is: R Specific phytolacca gtt. x to xxx, aqua 3iv. Mix. Sig. Teaspoonful every 1, 2, or 3 hours. As a glycerole: R Specific phytolacca 3ii, glycerin 3i. Mix. Apply in chronic skin diseases. The dose of specific phytolacca ranges from 1 to 10 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses – Pallid mucous membranes with ulceration; sore mouth with small blisters on tongue and mucous membrane of cheeks; sore lips, blanched with separation of the epidermis; hard, painful, enlarged glands; mastitis; orchitis; parotitis; aphthae; soreness of mammary glands, with impaired respiration; faucial, tonsillar, or pharyngeal ulceration; pallid sore throat, with cough or respiratory difficulty; secretions of mouth give a white glaze to surface of mouth, especially in children, white pultaceous sloughs at corners of mouth or in the cheek; and diphtheritic deposits.

1898; Webster; (Antiseptics, Antizymotics, Correctives)

PHYTOLACCA

This remedy deserves notice as a corrector of the suppurative tendency. While it manifests a partiality for the lymphatic system and is often excellent to arrest inflammation of the lymphatic glands, it has been extolled in suppuration of other soft tissues. However, it is far inferior to calcium sulphide, and will seldom be found to replace it to any advantage. It is mentioned here more as a matter of record than for therapeutic profit.

The extract of poke berries has been recommended as an agent to correct obesity. Dr. Standlee ( Chicago Medicinal Times , 1890) observes, respecting this property: -

“We find a remedy in the fruit of the phytolacca decandra, which clinical observation has taught us possesses all the valuable characteristics that we desire. It was discovered by noticing birds that feast on these berries in the fall of the year. Their bodies become very destitute of adipose tissue, though they seem to be otherwise in a normal condition. The fruit does not possess the acro-narcotic properties of the root. Small children, being attracted by their beautiful color, have been known to eat large quantities of these berries with no alarming symptoms following. Take the berries (best after frost) and compress the juice from them. Strain this juice through a cheese-cloth to remove any seeds that may have escaped into it, after which place it in large, flat dishes and evaporate to a waxy mass by a gentle heat, or in the sun’s rays. Take the mass and make into pills of two or three grains each, or if beauty and exactness are desired the mass can be sent to a manufacturer, that they may be more evenly divided, and sugar or gelatine coated.

“Three of these pills taken daily will often diminish the weight of the body at the rate of from five to ten pounds per week. The evacuations from the bowels are more copious than usual, but in all other respects are perfectly natural. The muscles become firm, their action more free than before, and the power is increased. The patient soon experiences a feeling of lightness, renewed energy, and ability to endure greater muscular exertion than before. No bad effects will result.”

1898: Webster: (The Lymphatic System)

This agent is one of the most reliable ones we have in the treatment of acute adenitis.I is especially valuable in the inflammatory action liable to occur in the cervical lymphatics due to absorption from the fauces in the late stage of scarlatina. However, in all forms of acute inflammation of the lymphatic glands, it will be found a very useful remedy.

This remedy influences other glandular organs besides the lympathics, as, for instance the mammae, the testes, the thyroid, etc.

Extract of phytolacca berries(juice)seems to lessen the amount of fluids in the body, or, perhaps I better say, the amount of fat. But I am inclined to the belief that the calue of the agent in abestity does nossist so much in its powe to remove fat as to stimulate the absorption of superflous fluids in persons of lymphatic temperament. In those who are stout on account of the eeposiition of fat the remedy produces o makred effect so far as the redution of the wirght is concerned, though it may imporeove general eslasticity. On this subject a writer in the homeopathic News remarks:

I have used the phytolacca as an anti-fat remedy for several years, and know that it is good, having proved it on myself. My grandfather was a great ale and beer drinker, and of course had a very large corporation, big belly. He used to tell me that grandfather would never be dead as long as I lived, meaning that I would grow like him. This used to scae me as a child, but udge of my annoyance, as I grew to manhooh, and found the prediction becoming true, and in late years I was very much troubled about it. In studying phytolacca, I saw the statement about birds, and began trying it, and always with great benefit. My own corporation is entirely gone. I can stand upright, look down on my body, and see everything. I used one drop of tincture made from berries picked from a tree in my garden. Equal berries to their weight of alcohol. The berry juice, with only enogh alcohol to prevent their fermentation is the best, then one drop doses night and morning are enough.

“While I was taking these drops I felt as light and springing as a bouncing ball;could run and jump with any boy. I am now fifty eight years old, and take my saturday half holidays in the cricket field, playing thtat manly and scientific game. I have use it on others, and all with benefit. Some very fat women have been made comfortable. I have used it in the solid extract prepared by Proffessor Waterhouse’s formula. By actual measurement their adipose tissue has been reduce by inches. It was easier to keep track by measure than by weight. In a few cases they have said they gained weight, while they grew less in bulk, but all confessed to the elasticity they felt”.

From of administration: The specific medicine, when an action on the lymphatics in adenitis is desirable. In obesity, the inspissaed juice of the ripe berries only, should be employed. This is prepared by crushing the ripe fruit, and after straining through a fine sieve or coarse cloth, to remove the seeds, alloing the product to evaporate to a waxy consistency in the sun. This is administered in doses of three or four grains, repeated three or four times daily. Thse dose of the specific medicine, in adenitis, should be a drachmn to four ounces of water, from which a teaspoonful may be taken every two hours.

1898: Webster: (The Ductless Glands)

I wish to call attention here to the value of phytolacca in enlargement of the thyroid gland. From reports which I consider reliable I believe it to be one of the best remedies we have for bronchocele. Dr.H.H.Webster, formerly of North Jackson, Ohio, used it successfully, for years, for this purpose, and always with satisfactory results. He considers it superior iris, calcarea car.,spongia, or any other remdy in this class.

1898; Webster; (Muscles) – Phytolacca Decandra

Phytolacca exerts a positive influence upon the muscles, relieving muscular pain, in some cases, promptly. It was a favorite remedy in rheumatism with our old Eclectics, and it is not to be despised for this purpose, though I think that we have better ones.

For the muscular pains attending acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis it is promptly curative, while it also relieves the inflammation of the mucous membrane.

It is also of value in the treatment of pectoral pains, when these are confined to the pectoral muscles – not shifting. The value of phytolacca in mammitis and sore nipples attending the puerperal state has already been referred to.

In chronic rheumatism phytolacca should be awarded a fair trial, as it will sometimes excel more highly accredited remedies. It is always worthy a trial in stubborn cases. Syphilitic muscular pains will demand phytolacca after berberis aquifolium has failed. The former remedy, however, is worthy of first notice.

Form for Administration . – The specific medicine.

Dose . – From the fraction of a drop to five drops.

1898; Webster; (Periosteum) – PHYTOLACCA

This remedy is very highly commended by Hale as a cure for rheumatism involving the periosteum. Deep seated pain, situated apparently upon the surface of the bone, with tendency to shifting of its location and other evidences of rheumatic dyscrasia, would call for its exhibition. In this case there is not likely to be much swelling but simply a deep seated pain, not much affected by pressure, of dull, aching character.

Dr. Hale, in his New Remedies , cites a number of such cases promptly cured by phytolacca, after all the most reputed remedies for rheumatism had failed. Apparently in these cases the tissue involved had not been taken into consideration enough in making the therapeutic adaptation – the tissue affinity of drugs had not been sufficiently kept in sight, in the therapeutic application.

Form for Administration . – The tincture made from the fresh root, by macerating the crushed article in pure alcohol, fulfils the best purpose. The only reliable substitute for this known to me is the specific medicine. This usually fulfils the requirements of the case.

Dose . – One or two drops three or four times daily.

1898: Webster

Phytolacca decandra is as positive a specific in its influence upon the circulation in the pharynx and fauces as any we have in medicine. In acute inflammation here that depends on vaso-motor causes and not on diphtheria – which depends upon a local fungus in the start – it is very positive.

In the slight congestions which follow colds phytolacca cures in a few hours. In acute pharyngitis, attended by difficulty in swallowing, aching in the throat with a sensation of fullness, it is prompt in relieving the symptoms in a day. In follicular tonsillitis attended by painful soreness in the throat with aching pains in the muscles generally, stiffness in the muscles of the throat and neck and marked febrile action, it is the most reliable remedy in the materia medica.

Though it usually acts effectively alone it is best to combine it with aconite, as the combination is liable to produce better results (see Principles, The Single Remedy Versus Combinations).

Another very positive property is the action of phytolacca on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity. In the sore mouth so common in infants it will cure speedily if property attention to cleanliness and diet is observed. In ulceration of the mouth, not mercurial, it proves promptly curative, and in simple stomatitis it has no superior. In stomatitis attended by profuse ptyalism it is a good idea to combine jaborandi with phytolacca, in appropriate doses. It is equally effective in stomatitis affecting adults.

The juice of the berries is an admirable remedy for ascarides, as I have discovered while administering it for anti-fat purposes. It reaches the rectum in a few days after its administration is begun, and if then assisted by copious injections of warm carbolated water, it will expel the parasites effectually.

Form for Administration- The specific medicine is always reliable, where preparation of the root is required, as in aphthae, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, etc. The inspissated juice is easily prepared from the berried, by the process of expression and exposure to the sun on earthen trays.

Dose- Of the specific medicine, add half a drachm to four ounces of water, and order a teaspoonful every hour. Two or four grains of the inspissated juice may be taken three times a day.

1901 : Harvey W Felter (Alternatives) – PHYTOLACCA – POKE ROOT

SYNONYMS – Scoke, Garget , Pigeon Berry

BOTANICAL ORIGIN – The fresh or recent root and fruit of Phytolacca decandra, Linne; Nat. Ord., Phytolacaceae, Europe and America.

SPECIFIC PHYTOLACCA has a light-reddish color and the flavor of the recent root. It is liable to alteration by age, casting down a light, nearly white precipitate. This does not interfere, however, with the medicinal value of the remedy.

This is a common native plant, flowering in July and ripening its berries in August. It has a greenish flower and a light-coloured root, having a taste at first sweetish, but afterwards acrid. Alcohol and boiling water extract its virtues. Use the tincture, and, if convenient, prepare your own tincture from the fresh root (preferably dug in September), cut fine and fill with alcohol. Let this stand until needed, when it may be filtered and is ready to use. A tincture of the berries is also useful in obstinate cases of chronic rheumatism. In dropsy it is one of our best alternatives.

Phytolacca is very valuable in the treatment of mammary inflammation with threatened abscess, or when the abscess has already formed. Give the remedy internally and apply it locally. In case of cold in the mammae with threatened mammary abscess give it in alternation with Aconite. If the swelling be great the breasts may be supported by an adhesive strip. Administer a teaspoonful each of the following solutions alternately every hour:

R. Specific Aconite, gtt.x.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

R. Specific Phytolacca, 3j. or ij.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

If abscess results and it has not opened of its own accord, lance it and then syringe the cavity with Phytolacca diluted and continue internally the prescriptions as above directed. Take of the tincture one-half ounce, and warm water nine ounces. and syringe the part; this relieves the pain and promotes healing. If is possible and desirable to check the formation of abscess apply the following:

R. Specific Phytolacca

Glycerin, aa. M.

It is a valuable drug for females who have morbid sensitiveness and tenderness of the breast at the menstrual period. In cases like this give

R. Specific Phytolacca, gtt. x. to xxx.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

Sig. – Dose, a teaspoonful every three hours.

It is also a good remedy for cracked nipples. Apply it locally and give in internally. It is a good agent in swelling of the breast of new-born infants. Use a few drops of Phytolacca in four ounces of water and give a teaspoonful of the mixture several times a day.

In general, Phytolacca is a stimulant of the mucous surfaces and absorbents, acting much like iodide of potassium. Use it where the mucous membranes are blanched, pallid, or ulcerated. It is a very good drug in simple diptheria when the disease is diffused. In the early stage Aconite and Belladonna are better, but if the disease is not arrested by these, then give Phytolacca in alternation with them. It is of much value in ulceration of the mucous surfaces, as of the tonsils, fauces, etc. Many time it reduces a chronically enlarged tonsil.

As a constitutional remedy it may be employed for ulceration of the os uteri, and also in leucorrhoea, Use is in all the manifestations of syphilis, generally with potassium iodide. Employ it in all ulcerations of the outlets of the body. In rheumatism , scrofulous affections, etc, it is a very excellent drug. Rheumatic iritis is greatly benefited by it. It has cured bronchocele when iodine has failed. Use the following in all of the preceding disorders:

R. Specific Phytolacca, fl 3 j.

Aqua, fl 3 iv. M.

Sig. – Dose, a teaspoonful every one, two, three or four hours, as required.

1901: Locke

In large doses phytolacca is cathartic and emetic and in very large doses it influences the kidney as a diuretic. it is not a desirable emetic, being very slow in its action, though when emesis results it persists for a long time, producing great discomfort and also purgation. As an alterative it is very valuable to increase waste and improve nutrition. it act specifically upon the glands and mucous membranes. it may be employed when there is a languid condition of the blood vessels and absorbents. The following is a good preparation for chronic rheumatism. Take of poke berries two ouces an macerate them in one pint of holland gin. Give this from a teaspoonful to a tablespoon dose.

1905: Neiderkorn

Chronic skin affections where tissues and veins are full,constipation,inactive liver, dirty yellowish coating on tongue from tip to base, heavy coating on base;dizziness. from two to five or ten drops every three hours.

polygonatum multiflorum

1905: Petersen: PHYTOLACCA DECANDRA:

Syn – Phytolacca; Poke

P. E. – Plant and berries

N. O. – Phytolaccaceae

N. H> – North America

Properties: In small doses, alterative. In large doses cathartic, emetic, narcotic.

Physiological action: In large doses it acts as a gastro-intestinal irritant, producing vomiting, purging, dizziness, drowsiness, feeble pulse, general prostration, cool and sometimes clammy skin and even convulsions, coma and death. Generally a tingling or prickling sensation is felt over the whole body.

Indications: Pallid tongue and mucous membrane, tongue slightly coated, looking as though it was covered with a glutinous substance; sometimes tongue has a leaden appearance. In inflammation and various affections of the lymphatic glands, expecially if swollen and hard.

Use: Phytolacca has a specific influence on the glandular structures, increasing waste and improving nutrition. A good remedy in inflammation of the glandular system, especially of the lymphatic glands. In rheumatism in which the white fibres are involved it may be used to advantage. Irritants in the blood, the result of deficient ketabolism, producing pains of theumatic nature will be corrected by the use of phytolacca. It will relieve irritation, inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membrane in any part of the body. Our best remedy in mastitis and to abort mammary abscesses, in these cases we combine it to advantage with echinacea. We think of it in stomatitis, tonsillitis, sore nipples, pain in the breasts with fullness, inflammation of the mammae. We also think of it with other remedies indicated, in diphtheria, sore mouth of nursing child, chancre, buboe, syphilis and skin disease, especially if of the squamous variety. We should never forget that in the affections of the lymphatic glands, especially where they are hard and swollen phytolacca is our best remedy.

1907: Ellingwood

Inflammation of glandular structures, especially of the lymphatic glands. Pains of rheumatism, characterized by deficient catabolism, are relieved by it. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation, ad ulceration in rheumatic subjects, sanious ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, psoriasis, and all skin diseases. it is especially valuable in the squamous varieties of skin diseases.

1911: Fyfe

Enlargement, inflammation or pain in glands;mucous surface of the fauces full and of dark color, the tonsils swollen, throat dy or covered with patches of tenacious secretion or ash colored exudation, depressed function or imperfect secretion;fatty degeneration of the heart. locally, threatened abscesses in glands.

This is one of our most valuable remedies in tonsillitis , diphtheria, parotitis, threatened abscess of mammary, parotid,and submaxillary glands, fatty degeneration of the heat and rheumatism. all diseases of the glandular organs , periosteal, fibrous, and cutaneous tissues come within the range of its curative power. in fatty degeneration of the heart the extract of the berries is said to be the most efficient preparation of the drug. six grains is the dose usually employed.

Phytolacca is alterative, diuretic, laxative, resolvent, antiscorbutic,and antisyphilitic. In large doses emetic, cathartic, and narcotic.

1911: LLOYD

Poke root, Phytolacca decandra, is a handsome plant found throughout the temperate regions of North America, east of the Mississipi River, thriving in rich bottom lands, fence corners, and woody pastures. The American Indians used it, powdered to a pulp, as a poultice. The early American settlers applied it in like manner as a poultice to inflammatory conditions of the cow’s udder, in the disease known as garget, a circumstance which has given to the plant one of its common names, garget plant. Phyolacca crept thence into more extensive use in domestic medicine, a tincture of the same being next employed. Following this came its introduction into the “licensed” profession. In domestic medication the drug was employed from the date of the early settlers, and in the practice of Eclecticism it has ever been a valued remedy. To cite American references to this drug would be to name all the publications of the liberal authors connected with medicines.

1919: Ellingwood: PHYTOLACCA DECANDRA – PHYTOLACCA

Synonym – Poke.

Constituents – Phytolaccic acid, phytolaccine, calcium malate, resin, starch, wax, gum, tannin, mucilage. The ashes contain over fifty per cent of caustic potassa.

Preparations – Extractum Phytolaccae Radicis Fluidum. Fluid Extract of Phytolacca Root. Dose, from five to thirty minims. Unguentum Phytolaccae, Ointment of Phytolacca. Specific Phytolacca. Dose, from one to ten minims.

Physiological Action – Though the young shoots of Phytolacca are used as greens the mature plant is poisonous when taken in large doses. Death has followed an overdose (one-half ounce) of the berries or root, proceded by excessive vomiting and purging; drowsiness, prickling an dtingling over the whole body; vertigo, dimness of vision, cold skin, feeble pulse, great prostration, convulsions an dcoma.

While is is specific in its influence upon all glandular structures, of whatever character, it also is a blood-making remedy of great power, and it acts directly also upon the skin. It influences the mammary glands and the testicles directly. The remedy acts also upon the spinal cord. It inhibits the influence of the medulla, to final paralysis. It slows the action of the heart, reduces the force of the pulse, and lessens respiratory movements. In poisonous doses it will induce convulsions of a tetanic character. It is a drastic cathartic and emetic producing nausea of an extreme character. Its influences upon the bowels is greatly prolonged, and very irritating. It causes great pain in the bowels, which is slow of relief. It reduces muscular power and co-ordination. It produces dimness of vision, vertigo and drowsiness, prolonged in some cases to coma.

Specific Symptomatology – The most direct action of this agent is in inflammation of glandular structures, especially of the lymphatic glands. Pains of a rheumatic character from deficient catabolism are relieved by it. It is directly indicated in irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in rheumatic subjects, sanious ulcers, scabies, tinea capitis, sycosis, psoriasis, favus, noli me tangere, and all skin diseases. It is especially valuable in the squamous variety of skin diseases.

Therapy – This agent must now have especial attention in its influence in the treatment of acute inflammations of the throat. it makes but little difference what forms of throat disease we have, from the simplest forms of pharyngitis, through all the variations of tonsilitis, to the extrme forms of diphtheria, this remedy may be given in conjunction with other indicated agents. But few of our physicians neglect its administration in these cases, and they are unitedly profuse in their praises of its influence. If there be an infection of the local glands of the neck, from the throat disease, the agent should be applied externally, as well as administered internally.

In the treatment of goitre therei s a concensus of opinion concerning the value of this remedy, but it is almost universally administered in these cases, with other more direct remedies. Dr. J. V. Stevens is enthusiastic in his opinion that adenitis needs no other remedy than phytolacca decandra. Whatever the cause of the disease or of however long standing, he saturates the system with this remedy, an dpersists in it, applies it externally and claims to cure his cases. He has used it for many years with success. Others combine other active alteratives as general conditions demand.

Too much cannot be said of its very positive and invariable influence in the treatment of acute inflammations of the breast during or preceding lactation. It should be given every two hours at least in doses of perhaps ten drops in extreme cases, or five drops in the incipiency of the disease, or mild cases. Conjoined with aconite and applied also externally, we will find in many cases no use for any other remedy. I have, however, found my results to be more quickly obtained when an active eliminant is given in conjunction with the remedy, in mastitis. Two or three fifteen-grain doses of the accate of potassium will be found efficient.

The write has, through a long experience, gotten into the habit of adding this remedy to alterative compounds. This is especially true of those prescribed for children’s glandular and skin disorders. It is an efficacious remedy in any of the forms of skin disease, common to childhood. Given in the incipiency of eczema and in some forms of chronic eczema, especially that of a dry character, where there are cracks or fissures in the skin, these promptly yeidl to the internal administration of this remedy.

It should be administered in the treatment of syphilitic disorders resulting in ulceration, and in the ulceration sof the outlets of the body. In varicose and other long-standing ulcers, in psoriasis, dermal abscesses, fissures, boils an dcarbuncles it will be often found that a combination of phytolacca, echinacea, berberis, and stillingia will prove signally effective.

Ten drops of equal parts of the juice of ripe poke berries and alcohol may be given every thirty minutes in memnranous and spasmodic croup with great success, with other remedies as indicated.

In irritation of the urinary tract, even in conditions resembling Bright’s disease, with albumin, and abnormal deposits in the urine, it tends to relieve the irritation, and effect a cure.

Dr. Waska of Chicago is a strong advocate of the use of phytolacca and echinacea in the treatment of any form of albuminuria. He believes with proper auxiliary treatment, these two remedies will be of great service in overcoming the excretion of albumin and in restoring a normal condition of the kidneys. Skin disease of constitutional origin, an dscrofulous skin diseases, are cured by it.

Its action in relieving irritation, inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes in all parts of the body – throat, larynx, lungs, stomach, bowels and rectum – suggests it as a remedy in inflammation of the lining membrane of the heart; and it is said to have cured cases of this kind.

In conjunctivitis, the local and internal use of the remedy is efficient; and also in the treatment of chancre and budo.

In the treatment of conjunctivitis, a saturated tincture of the fresh root shoul dbe given in sufficient quantity to produce fullness of the temples and head, while the eyes should be bathed frequently with the decoction.

In the treatment of ulcers and ulcerating skin diseases, the local application of a concentrated preparation of the root or berries should be made, so as to exert something of a caustic effect, while full doses are given internally at the same time.

The presence in the blood of an infectuous irritant, which causes rheumatic pains, as in sciatic rheumatism, and irritation of mucous membranes, or inflammation of the throat associated with rheumatic pains, and enlargement and ulceration of lymphatic glands from scrofula or syphilis, is an indication for the remedial action of phytolacca.

It has been thought to stimulate the liver, by those who hold the theory that rheumatism, peritonitis, tonsillitis, and the many diseases assigned to the uric acid diathesis depend upon abnormal protoplasmic change in the blood, as it circulates through the liver; but whether this be true or not, there is no doubt that it improves nutrition.

Phytolacca is somewhat narcotic, and also a nerve stimulant in moderate doses, and this will explain its action in curing rheumatism, for those who take the ground that this obscure disease is a neurosis; and also explains its action in neuralgia.

1921: Lloyd

PHYTOLACCA (Phytolacca, Poke Root)

Phytolacca Root is mentioned in the Primary List of the first edition of the U.S.P., in 1820 (2d edition, 1828), Phytolacca Berries being relegated to the Secondary List. Both the root and the berries were official in the New York edition of 1830, but in the Philadelphia edition, 1830, both were demoted to the Secondary List, a position they occupied in all succeeding Pharmacopeias until 1880, when they were wholly official, so remaining until 1910, when both were dropped.

“Poke Root,” Phytolacca decandra, is a handsome plant found throughout the temperate regions of North America east of the Mississippi River, thriving in rich bottom lands, fence corners and woody pastures. The American Indians used it, pounded to a pulp, as a poultice. The early American settlers applied it in like manner as a poultice to inflammatory conditions of the cow’s udder, in the disease known as garget, a circumstance which has given to the plant one of its common names, Garget Plant. Phytolacca crept thence into more extensive use in domestic medicine, a tincture of the plant being next employed. Following this came its introduction into professional practice. In Eclecticism it has ever been a valued remedy. To cite American Materia Medica references to phytolacca would be to name the publications of all the representative authors since the middle of the last century connected with American medicine. The first edition, 1852, of the American Dispensatory (356) is the best published authority for the use of phytolacca at that date. Let us quote from this:

“PROPERTIES AND USES. – Emetic, cathartic, alterative, antiherpetic, and somewhat narcotic. The leaves are somewhat purgative, and are used, in some parts of the country, as a dressing to ulcers. A strong decoction of the leaves is of much benefit in hemorrhoids; injected into the rectum two or three times a day, and a fomentation of the leaves applied to the part, it will almost always give relief, and eventually effect a cure. Three or four drachms of the decoction may also be taken internally. Should it produce any narcotic effects, omit its use for a day or two, and commence again with smaller doses. The root excites the whole glandular system, and has been highly extolled in syphilitic, scrofulous, rheumatic, and cutaneous diseases. The extract of the root is an excellent remedy for the removal of those severe pains attending mercurio-syphilitic affections, (osteocopus). Roasted in hot ashes until soft, and then mashed and applied as a poultice, the root is unrivalled in felons and tumors of various kinds. It discusses them rapidly, or, if too far advanced, hastens their suppuration. A saturated tincture of the berries has been successfully employed in chronic rheumatism. It is also recommended in the same diseases as the root. Dose of the powdered root, as an alterative, one to five grains; of the tincture, one drachm, three or four times a day; as an emetic, twenty to thirty grains of the powder.”

Buchan’s Every Man His Own Doctor, 1816, indicates that phytolacca was then in high repute s a domestic remedy. From this we extract as follows (110):

“The young stems of phytolacca, when boiled, are as good as asparagus, but when old they are to be used with caution, being a plant of great activity, operating both as an emetic and cathartic. A tincture of the ripe berries in brandy or wine, is a popular remedy for rheumatism an dsimilar affections; and it may be given with safety and advantage in all cases where guaiacum is proper. The extract of the juice of the ripe berries has been employed in some cases of scrofula; and cancerous ulcers have been greatly benefited by its application. The juice of the leaves, however, is said to be more effectual.”

The amount of potassium nitrate in phytolacca root is exceptionally great. This may crystallize from alcoholic tincture in quantities. Possibly this fact accounts for the superiority of fresh root preparations in which natural water-sap serves as a diluent. In this connection we might refer to the fact that the writer of this historical review of drugs does not confine his opinion of therapeutic values tolaboratory products and educts that are of an exclusively “organic” origin. Just what form many of the so-called “inorganic” materials take in natural plant structures is a question. See the author’s contributions to the Eclectic Medical Journal, Cincinnati , on various phases of “the inorganic side of organic life.”



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