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Alternative names

Poisoning caused by consumption of plant material from the pokeweed plant.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • phytolacca americana
The highest concentration is found in the rootstock, next in the leaves and stems, and the smallest amount in the fruit. Cooked berries are edible. THOROUGHLY cooked leaves (COOKED TWICE IN SEPARATE WATERS) are edible. Roots should never be eaten.

Where Found

  • various varieties of pokeweed
Note: this plant may have other names.


  • body as a whole
    • weakness
    • muscle spasms
    • convulsions
    • headache
  • respiratory
    • difficulty breathing
    • slowed breathing
  • gastrointestinal
    • stomach or abdominal pain
    • abdominal cramps (severe)
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • foamy diarrhea
    • excessive salivation
  • heart and blood vessels
    • rapid pulse
    • low blood pressure
    • heart block

Home Treatment

Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by Poison Control or by a physician.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:
  • the patient's age, weight, and condition
  • the name of the plant and parts eaten
  • the time it was swallowed
  • the amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

They will instruct you if it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital. See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Bring the plant with you to the emergency room for identification.

What to expect at the emergency room

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed on the patient:
  • Induce vomiting.
  • Use gastric lavage .
  • Activated charcoal.
  • Treat the symptoms.

Expectations (prognosis)

Deaths have been reported. Improper cooking of leaves or eating some of the roots with the leaves can cause serious poisoning. Eating more than 10 uncooked berries can cause serious consequences in children.

Update Date: 2/23/2004

Cherlin Johnson, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT