Side Effects of Phytolacca Berry

The berries of Phytolacca Americana, more commonly known as American nightshade or pokeweed, are toxic unless thoroughly cooked by boiling in several changes of water. Severe side effects can occur when people eat them raw, add them to juice or do not cook them properly. People can even become poisoned by phytolacca berries if the substance enters the bloodstream through cuts or scrapes on the skin. notes that people historically used phytolacca berries and other parts of the plant to treat rheumatism and to boost the immune system, but no evidence supports these uses.

Deep indigo cones of phytolacca berries hang from a purple stem with long, pointy green leaves.
Credit: Charles Brutlag/Hemera/Getty Images

Gastrointestinal Effects

A doctor examines a child's stomach.
Credit: JackF/iStock/Getty Images

Eating uncooked phytolacca berries can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Prolonged vomiting, vomiting blood and passing bloody diarrhea can occur when the amount of berries consumed reaches toxic levels, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, or MSKCC.


A close-up of phytolacca berries.
Credit: smontgom65/iStock/Getty Images

Phytolacca berry toxicity can have many symptoms. As listed by the MSKCC, these effects include slow and difficult breathing, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, weakness, muscle spasms and seizures. The American Cancer Society, or ACS, notes that blurred vision, confusion, dermatitis, dizziness and headaches can occur, as well as heart block, a blockage of the electrical impulses that stimulate heart contractions. Consuming phytolacca berries can be fatal.

Considerations for Women

A pregnant woman makes a heart shape with her hands outdoors.
Credit: Natalia Belotelova/iStock/Getty Images

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should never consume phytolacca berries or other parts of the plant. Phytolacca is a uterine stimulant, according to the ACS, and can cause miscarriage or premature labor. Additionally, toxic components of the berries can have negative effects on a developing baby. Eating phytolacca berries also can cause menstrual irregularities.

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.