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  #1  
Old 09-06-2006, 07:48 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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How 'poisonous' are polk (or poke) berries?

I've always heard that they're not edible, and various sources agree that they're poisonous. How poisonous? Belly ache? Death? What is so poisonous about them?
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  #2  
Old 09-06-2006, 08:03 AM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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Wikipedia says thus.

I can personally tell you that I ate a batch of pokeweed berries when I was too young to know better, and I suffered no ill effects other than having my urine dyed red for a day or so. (Well, that, and I got a good tanning on my backside, but that would be considered an indirect effect).
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Old 09-06-2006, 08:15 AM
Squink Squink is offline
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I looked this up a few years back, so no cite, but it's said that the saponins in a dozen or so berries are enough to give an adult a nasty stomach ache, or perhaps kill a child. Being pretty, it's fortunate that the fruits are basically tasteless and seedy. -That info's from a personal taste test, not wild internet rumor.
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Old 09-06-2006, 08:39 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Not much, actually. Its toxicity is usually described as "low". (example, from a vet site.)

And from here.
Quote:
As part of my research for a large monograph on Phytolacca, I have extensively reviewed the scientific literature regarding Poke toxicology and poisoning. Although many general plant books indulge in what I call "Pokeweed Paranoia," and repeat that Pokeweed can be fatal, the truth is that Poke, when properly used, is both safe and effective. It can also be a serious poison when ingested improperly, but is far less poisonous than some other plants and many pharmaceutical drugs. A study published in 1995 by Krenzelok and Provost in the Journal of Natural Toxins analyzed information from American Poison Information Centers over a recent ten-year period. They found that Poke was the seventh most frequently ingested poisonous plant, but that 65.3 % of these exposures resulted in "no effect," 5.8 % in a "minor effect," and 0.4 % in a "moderate effect"; there were no fatalities reported. Contrast this to the recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Lazarou, 1998) which informs us that more than 100,000 hospitalized patients die and more than 2 million are seriously injured every year in the U. S. from adverse reactions to properly administered drugs. When considered in context, Poke's toxicity becomes less of a scary boogey-man and more of a reminder to "proceed with caution." For an extensive review of Pokeweed toxicology, see the website at http://www.unca.edu/~lnleivan/toolkit.html.
The berries aren't very toxic at all, but the seeds in them are:
Quote:
Poke seeds are poisonous and should not be eaten! However, some Appalachian old-timers will swallow one or two dried berries whole, not crunching up the seeds, as a tonic for "rheumatism." They say that the seeds won't hurt you if you don't break them open. I personally spit out the seeds whenever I use Poke berries, just to be safe. Each berry contains 8 - 13 tiny black seeds, making it an exercise in attention to eat them. As an experiment last year, I ate 25 berries at once, carefully spitting out each little seed and swallowing the juice, flesh, and skins. After 10 berries the tip of my toungue had a moderately burnt feeling; but other than that, I was fine. Reports of Pokeberry toxicity in the scientific literature often do not distinguish between the berries and the seeds, which is why you will find assertions that Pokeberries are poisonous and possibly fatal. The only well-documented report of a fatality from Poke that I have yet found - after 6 months of research - is a case of a child dying after the ingestion of "grape juice" made from large amounts of crushed berries - ones with the seeds broken open.
Young shoots and leaves are fine to eat in poke sallet (cooked! "Sallet" is not a misspelling of "salad!"). Older leaves have more toxins in them. I wouldn't eat a poke shoot longer than my hand.
Quote:
Sallet is an old English word that means "cooked greens," and should not be mistanken for "salad"; in fact, a great many cases of Pokeweed poisoning result from this linguistic mistake. When Poke leaves are eaten raw, they cause a characteristically severe but self-limiting gastroenteritis with repeated vomiting and diarrhea. The chemicals responsible for this reaction are known as triterpene saponins, and they are both broken down by the heat of cooking, and leached out into the cooking water. It is also important to pick the Poke sprouts when they are no more than 6 - 8 inches tall; if too mature, they contain a greater amount of toxins and can be unsafe.
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  #5  
Old 09-06-2006, 08:52 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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The Indians used the root as medicine.
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  #6  
Old 09-06-2006, 08:55 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna
The Indians used the root as medicine.
(I use the root as medicine. Best damn lymphatic out there. )
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  #7  
Old 09-06-2006, 09:55 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Mitakuye oyasin, Medicine Woman.
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