Phytolacca decandra 200c

Phytolacca decandra
I need not fear my enemies because the most they can do is attack me.
I need not fear my friends because the most they can do is betray me.
But I have much to fear from people who are indifferent.
[Russian proverb]
Phytolacca decandra. Phytolacca americana. Pokeweed. Inkberry. N.O. Phytolaccaceae.
CLASSIFICATION The Phytolaccaceae is a family of 22 genera and about 125 species of trees, shrubs, woody climbers and herbs, including some medicinal plants and medicinals. Most of its members are native to tropical America and the West Indies. The family is divided into four subfamilies. Both species used in homoeopathy - Phytolacca and Petiveria - belong to the subfamily Phytolaccoideae.
GENUS The genus Phytolacca contains 25 species of herbs, shrubs, and trees with simple leaves and spike-like racemes of small flowers that are followed by fleshy berries. The berries yield a red dye. Phytolaccas are native to the warmer parts of America, Africa and Asia but several are hardy in West Europe and warmer zones of the United States. A remarkable member of this genus is Phytolacca dioica, the ombu tree of the Argentine pampas. It is a quick growing evergreen with white flowers and grows up to 18 metres high and wide. Multiple trunks often develop from an enormous base, resembling a giant pedestal, which may be 30 m. in circumference. Usually widely spaced and the only trees for miles, they are called 'lighthouses of the pampas' and used for shelters by gauchos. The massive trunk contains water storage tissue and is resistant to the raging grass fires sweeping across the pampas.
POKEWEED Phytolacca americana, known as pokeweed, red ink plant, and pigeonberry, is native to eastern North America, but is now naturalized in the Mediterranean region. It is a perennial herb up to 3 metres high with oval leaves and large, fleshy, poisonous roots. It thrives in damp woodland and on wasteground. The white-purple flowers are borne on leafless stems and are succeeded by dark purple berries which contain a crimson dye / juice. In the past this dye was added to confectionery and alcoholic drinks, including port wine. An invasive weed once it is established, pokeweed is nearly impossible to get rid of. This is due to its very thick, long, branching taproots and to the fact that new shoots emerge from the root system if the plant is chopped down. In addition, by eating the berries birds spread the seeds.
NAME The name Phytolacca means 'red plant'. It comes from Gr phyton, plant, and L lacca, red pigment; the latter refers to the lac insect Laccifer lacca from which a scarlet dye used in making shellac is obtained. The specific name decandra refers to the plant having 10 stamens. [The plant has 10 stamens, 10 styles, a ovary of 10 carpels [united into a 10-celled pistil], developing into a 10-celled fleshy berry containing 10 seeds.] Poke is derived from the Algonquian Indian word 'pakon' or 'puccoon', referring to a dye plant used for staining.
CONSTITUENTS Triterpenoid saponins; resins; tannin; caryophyllene and betanin [pigments]; phytolacca acid and formic acid; phytolaccine [alkaloid]; lectins [mixture known as 'pokeweed mitogens', consisting of a series of glycoproteins]. Pokeweed mitogens are toxic to many disease-causing organisms, including the parasitic worms infesting water snails and causing schistosomiasis [bilharzia] in humans Phytolaccas have anti-rheumatic [due to the presence of triterpenoid saponins], stimulant, anti-catarrhal, purgative, and emetic actions. The most toxic principle of Phytolacca species are the lectins. Lectins can cause red blood cells to agglutinate and may stimulate abnormal cell division in B and T-lymphocytes. Plants with lectinic or mitogenic properties include Iberis spp., Phytolacca spp., Gaultheria procumbens [wintergreen], Ricinus communis [castor bean], Abrus precatorius [rosary pea], Arachis [peanut], Cytisus spp. [broom], Glycine max [soybean], Lathyrus odoratus [sweet pea], Phaseolus vulgaris [kidney bean], Juglans nigra [black walnut], Euonymus europaeus [spindle tree], Viscum album [mistletoe], Datura stramonium [jimsonweed], Solanum tuberosum [potato], and Salvia sclarea. The majority of lectins are found among members of the pea family [legumes]. "Lectins have also been found in certain invertebrate species, viruses, and bacteria, and they are used experimentally to define the composition of cell surface carbohydrates. Such studies involve the microanalysis of cell surface components used to understand the differences between normal and malignant cells, to evaluate ontogenic changes taking place during development, and to study immunochemical interactions at cell surfaces. ... Lectins, particularly mitogenic lectins, can also modify a variety of physiological processes of lymphocytes in such a way that cytotoxicity is induced. ... The first clues of mitogenic induction by plants occurred during a routine pathological examination of tissue from a child who had died of poke berry ingestion. Death had occurred after a stormy and unresponsive course characterized by gastrointestinal and progressive neurologic dysfunction. Sections of the brain revealed periovascular infiltrates of cerebral vessels in which many atypical mononuclear cells, plasma cells, and dividing cells were encountered. Subsequent studies of other cases relating to exposure to poke juice by ingestion or absorption through fresh cuts and abrasions also showed that a wide range of haematological aberrations could be induced. In these cases the immune system was triggered, and plasmacytosis and non-specific elevation of IgC levels and eosinophilia were observed. Also, abnormal properties in blood platelets occur through platelet phagocytosis and thrombocytopenia."1 Modern research2 does not support the assumption that high amounts of [caustic] potassium are present in Phytolacca. Hale remarks that "many of its symptoms and pathological effects resemble those of Causticum and the caustic alkalies", but these are more likely to come from the high saponin content of the plant than from its potassium levels. Present in all plants as an essential nutrient element, the amount of potassium in Phytolacca is about average.
TRITERPENOID SAPONINS The major plant constituents termed saponins can be divided into two categories: steroidal saponins and triterpenoid saponins. The former are found to a large extent in members of the monocotyledons, such as lilies and grasses, and to a lesser degree in such dicotyledons as foxglove, fenugreek, and some nightshades. Steroidal saponins have a close structural relationship with steroid hormones, cardioactive glycosides and vitamin D. Conversely, triterpenoid saponins are rare in the monocotyledons but widely present in the dicotyledons, sometimes in considerable amounts. Triterpenoid saponins have a notable effect on the respiratory system; they stimulate expectoration by inducing a reflex stimulation of the stomach wall. [Excessive doses cause emesis.] In addition, these saponins act as anti-inflammatory and diuretic agents. Generally they help the body to withstand stresses better.
HISTORY "Phytolacca is known by many common names, as Poke, Poke-weed, Poke-root, Virginian poke, Garget, Garget-weed, Scoke, Scokeweed, Coacum, Coakum, Cocum, Mechoacan, Pigeon-berry, Cancer-root, Jalap cancer-root, Red nightshade, American nightshade, Redweed, and Scoke jalap. ... Poke is common in the United States, growing in hedges, and along the borders of fields and clearings, along roadsides and in uncultivated fields and moist grounds. Its root is very tenacious of life. In this country it is regarded only as a weed, but in Europe is valued as an ornamental garden plant. The plant flowers from July to September, and the berries ripen in autumn. The young, green shoots, as they start in the spring and before the leaves have developed, are used as a table vegetable, being considered the best substitute for asparagus. They become cathartic as they advance to maturity. E. Preston [1884] calls attention to the peculiar and little-known property of phytolacca leaves to emit, in autumn, a phosphorescent light in the dark. ... The official parts of this plant are the root and berries. The root, which is more commonly employed, should be gathered in the latter weeks of autumn, cleansed from dirt and impurities, sliced transversely, and carefully dried. The leaves, if they are to be used medicinally, should be gathered just previous to the ripening of the berries. The berries must be gathered when they are fully matured; they have a disagreeable, mawkish taste with a faint degree of acrimony, and are nearly inodorous. They contain an abundance of a beautiful dark-purple juice, which is turned yellow by an alkali, while an acid reinstates its purple colour; the latter is of a very fugitive nature. The juice is said to have been used by the Turks for tinting sweetmeats. The berries, though poisonous, lose their toxic qualities somewhat when cooked, and some have gone so far as to make pies of the fruit-a practice which, however, should be condemned. Severe purging has followed the eating of the flesh of pigeons which had fed upon the berries. Poke has long been used in domestic practice, principally as a poultice to discuss tumours. The berries steeped in gin have long been popular as a remedy for chronic rheumatism. The American Indians made use of this plant, but it must not be confounded with the plant known as Indian poke, which is the Veratrum viride. It is much used for the inflammatory condition of cow's udders, known as 'garget', hence one of the names for this plant. Phytolacca yields its virtue to water and alcohol. The leaves and berries possess some medicinal activity, but the root is the part principally used. This root loses its medicinal properties with age, consequently only recent material should be used for making the fluid preparations. According to E. H. Cressler [Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1875, p. 196], the inhalation of the powdered root produces soreness of the throat and chest, severe coughing and inflammation of the eyes."3 Civil War soldiers used red pokeberry ink to write letters to home. Freshly cut young leaves and shoots may be cooked and eaten like spinach, as is depicted in the song 'Poke Salad Annie'. Under the name 'poke salet' the greens are sometimes canned and sold in markets.
EFFECTS "Physiologically, phytolacca acts upon the skin, the glandular structures, esp. 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 gastrointestinal tract doses of from 10 to 30 grains of it act as an emetic and 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."4
TOXICOLOGY The leaves of Phytolacca americana, when ingested, produce a severe gastroenteritis characterised by nausea, cramps, intense vomiting, frothy diarrhoea, and sweating. Cardiac effects have been reported. Cattle and sheep are the most susceptible species but poisoning occasionally occurs in horses, goats, and pigs. Clinical signs of poisoning in cattle and pigs include unsteadiness, inability to rise, retching, jerking movements of the legs, subnormal temperature, and a decrease in milk production. Fed in excess to poultry, the berries reportedly cause ataxia, swelling and distortion of the hock joints, ascites, swelling of the gall bladder, and weight loss. When 10% pokeberries [on total diet] were experimentally fed to turkey poults the mortality was 43%.
HERBAL MEDICINE "A slow emetic and purgative with narcotic properties. As an alterative it is used in chronic rheumatism and granular conjunctivitis. As an ointment, in the proportion of a dram to the ounce, it is used in psora, tinea capitis, favus and sycosis, and other skin diseases, causing at first smarting and heat. The slowness of action and the narcotic effects that accompany it render its use as an emetic inadvisable. It is used as a cathartic in paralysis of the bowels. Headaches of many sources are benefited by it, and both lotion and tincture are used in leucorrhoea. As a poultice it causes rapid suppuration in felons. The extract is said to have been used in chronic rheumatism and haemorrhoids. Authorities differ as to its value in cancer. Great relief towards the close of a difficult case of cancer of the uterus was obtained by an external application of 3 oz of Poke Root and 1 oz of Tincture used in the strength of 1 tablespoonful to 3 pints of tepid water for bathing the part. It is also stated to be of undoubted value as an internal remedy in cancer of the breast. Infused in spirits, the fruit is used in chronic rheumatism, being regarded as equal to Guaiacum. It is doubtful if the root will cure syphilis without the help of mercury."5 The eclectics highly regarded pokeweed as an internal remedy in cancer of the breast. It is pre-eminently a glandular remedy when glandular swellings are present with heat and inflammation. It has a powerful effect on fibrous and osseous tissues; fasciae and muscle sheets. It is also reported to act beneficially on scar tissue.
SLIMMING In the 1890s pokeberry extracts were employed to reduce obesity, after it had been observed that birds lost their adipose tissue when feeding upon the berries and that robins, before migrating South, slim down on them. The berries had such "reputed powers over adipose tissue" that Boocock tried them out on himself because he was "much annoyed at his bodily shape." "Having determined to make a proving of the berries, I secured them from my garden, prepared and took them, and in a few months reduced my proportions and again became shapely, having lost my protuberant abdomen. [Report of this will be found in the Homoeopathic Recorder of January, 1893.]." Boocock managed to reduce his girth measure three inches by taking a powder of the 1x trit. of the seeds two or three times daily on an empty stomach for one month. "The first effect is felt in the head, pain or dull feeling, right side over the temporal region, and is most from within, as if there was a fulness under the temporal bone; it then passes across the head to the left side and presses under what is usually spoken of as the 'bump of veneration'; there is a slight feeling of fulness in the ears, and an aching in the atlas, at the base of the skull. It then is felt in the stomach, producing a severe pain [such as I have heard described as arising from a perforating ulcer] going through to the back, but no feeling of fulness or belching of gas, only pain. One fat lady to whom I gave it had to decrease the dose and take it less frequently because of this pain in the stomach and abdomen. ... I could give you many cases that have been greatly reduced in flesh and made to feel comfortable in their actions and breathing, but as it is too early in some cases, perhaps I had better not."6
PROVINGS •• [1] Hering - collection of 9 provings, 1835-1846; method: tincture, 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 10x, manner not stated.
•• [2] Burt - self-experimentation; method: tincture.
•• [3] Fellows - self-experimentation, 1864; method: tincture and 1x.
•• [4] Marshall - self-experimentation, 1869; method: increasing doses of tincture.
•• [5] Cooley - self-experimentation, 1869; method: 5 and 10 grains of powdered root.
•• [6] Schoeler - 12 provers, 1937; method: first week one daily dose of 20 drops of 2x, second week one daily dose of 20 drops of 1x, third week one daily dose of 20 drops of tincture, fourth week one daily dose of 30 drops of tincture.
[1] Lewis and Elvin-Lewis, Medical Botany. [2] Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases; Agricultural Research Service. [3-4] King's American Dispensatory. [5] Grieve, A Modern Herbal. [6] Boocock, Phytolacca: Leaf, Fruit, and Root, the Value of Each; Transactions of the Am. Inst. of Hom., 1893.
Glands [MAMMAE; naso-pharynx; throat; tonsils]. Muscles - Fibrous tissues [NECK; back; joints]. Periosteum. Kidneys. Tongue [root]. Digestive tract. * Right side.
Worse: Rising from bed. Motion. Swallowing, Hot drinks. Cold [damp; night]. Change of weather. From darkness to daylight [pains]. Rainy weather. Nursing the child.
Better: Lying on abdomen. Cold drinks. Supporting breasts. Bathing. Rest. Warmth. Dry weather.
Main symptoms
M Indifferent and shameless.
• "Great loss of personal delicacy; there appeared to be a total disregard of all surrounding objects, and no disposition to adjust their persons under any circumstances." [intoxication in two young women from taking a strong infusion of phytolacca root.]
• "Sense of entire indifference to life, and disgust for the business of the day, on waking, early in the morning." [proving symptom]
• "There are not many psychological symptoms in Phytolacca, except a complete indifference and extreme egoism. ... He is fatigued, exhausted, and does not care what other people think. He only thinks of himself, of his own comfort, of his money; he is typically syphilitic in his psychology and has his disease as the result of an amoral or anti-moral conduct, either in his ancestors or in himself. You will not be surprised either to hear that Phytolacca has no shame in his make-up and general behaviour. He does not mind exposing himself, and is very similar in that respect to Hyoscyamus, where the patient does not mind exposing herself or himself during the delirium of the feverish phase; and in mental troubles, he thinks nothing of disrobing himself and showing himself naked to all the world."1
G Restlessness with desire for motion, but motion <. [Compare Rhus-t.] G Occupies a position BETWEEN RHUS-T. [< cold damp weather, > warmth]
and BRYONIA [< motion]. • "Phytolacca weakness is associated with extreme stiffness in all the limbs, and there is difficulty in moving easily. Rhus-t. also has this stiffness, which is present when he begins to move, but improves greatly after continued movement. Rhus-t. dislikes humidity and dampness, is worse in wet weather, and the pains are made worse if the patient lives near water or gets a chill through working in water. The stiffness of Phytolacca, on the other hand, is improved after a cold douche or a cold bath. So Phytolacca stiffness, with tired and weak muscles, which are worse on movement, is improved after a cold bath or a cold douche, and again worse on firm pressure. These characteristics put Phytolacca in the category between Bryonia [worse movement, better deep pressure] and Rhus-t."2 G < COLD DAMP weather. Yet desire for cold bathing. G < NIGHT. G SORENESS all over. < Eyeballs, mammae, kidneys, neck, shoulders, back, forearms, below knees. G WANDERING pains. Shooting, lancinating, flying, like electric shocks [FIBROSITIS]. G STITCHING pains upward and downward. G Pains appear and disappear SUDDENLY. G Rheumatic affections after tonsillitis. Rheumatic swellings hard, tender and intensely hot. G Swollen, hard GLANDS. P Tendency to SINUSITIS. [tough, stringy discharge, difficult to detach] And Pressing frontal headache [just above eyebrows]. < Stooping; looking down. [Frontal headache occurred in 7 of Schoeler's provers.] P Increased SENSE of HEARING [esp. right-sided]. During headache [forehead]. P TONSILLITIS, recurrent or acute. Dark red [with white spots on tonsils], < right side. < Warm drinks. > Cold drinks.
Pain extending to ear on swallowing.
P Sensation of a lump in left side of throat.
• "Sense of fulness and as if something had lodged on l. side of throat came on after bending head forward in writing, and was aggravated by turning it to left."
• "Soreness of throat, and sensation when swallowing saliva as if a lump had formed there - same sensation felt on turning head to l. side." [Hughes]
P MASTITIS; breast stony hard, heavy, swollen or tender.
Pain < during nursing. Pain spreads over whole body. Cracked nipples. P Hard nodules in breasts. And Enlarged axillary glands. P Chronic discharge from nipples [remaining long after lactation]. P Angina pectoris; when pain leaves heart and appears in right arm. [Clarke] [1-2] Shepherd, A Physician's Posy. Rubrics Mind Biting [2]. Aversion to business [2]. Confusion, > in open air [1], while sitting [1]. Conviction of death [2], desires death in morning on waking [1]. Wants to be naked in delirium [1]. Indifference to exposure of her person [2].
Pain, forehead above eyes, < looking down [1*], < stooping [1*]. Perspiration, forehead, during headache [2]. Vision Dim, as if full of water [1]. Diplopia, near objects [1]. Nose Discharge, mucus, alternating sides [1*]. Face Upper lip drawn up, exposing teeth [1; Con.; Ant-t.; Camph.]. Mouth Taste, like nuts [1*]. Teeth Desire to bite on something hard, which relieves pains during dentition [3/1]. Constant inclination to clench teeth together [3]. Throat Choking, from mucus in throat [1*]. Emptiness, hollow feeling as if pharynx had disappeared [1; Lach.; X-ray]. Sensation of a lump, on bending head forward [1*], on turning head to left side [1*]. Stomach Appetite unaffected during nausea [1*]. Vomiting > black coffee [1*].
Constriction, as if trachea were strongly grasped [1*].
Feeling as if he were breathing through a sponge [1*].
Pain, heart, alternating with pain in right arm [1*], extending to right arm [1; Lil-t.; Spig.]. Shocks [of pain] in region of heart [1].
As if a cold piece of iron was pressed on left scapula [1*]. Heaviness, sensation of weight on both scapulae, as after carrying heavy loads [1*].
Pain, stitching, downward and upward [1*].
* Repertory additions [Hughes].
Aversion: [1]: Alcohol.
Worse: [1]: Alcohol; hot food; lemonade; milk.
Better: [1]: Coffee [> vomiting]; cold drinks; cold food; lemonade.


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