Shang Lu – Poke Root – Radix Phytolaccae

Shang Lu

English Name: phytolacca, (Indian) poke root

Pharmaceutical Name: Radix Phytolaccae

Medica Category: Downward Draining Herbs—Harsh Expellants (Cathartics)

Properties: Shang Lu enters the Lung, Kidney, and Large Intestine channels; it is bitter in nature, cold in temperature, and considered toxic according to TCM theory.

What is Shang Lu?:

The Chinese herb Shang Lu is the dried roots of a plant commonly known as Indian poke (Phytolacca acinose Roxb.; P. esculenta Van Hout. Is also considered medicinal). Indian poke grows in moist, fertile soil in valleys, fields, and farmland throughout India, China, and large parts of Southeast Asia. The white roots are used medicinally (as the red roots are twice as toxic and considered poisonous). These white roots are harvested in the fall after the foliage has withered or in the early spring before it starts growing back and then cleaned and dried for use as medicine.

Unprocessed Shang Lu is a harsh and toxic herb which induces the body to powerfully expel accumulations of water through the urethra and anus. It is also very irritating to the stomach and can easily cause nausea and vomiting; processing this herb with vinegar, then, mitigates these very harsh effects.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Shang Lu:

Shang Lu drives out water through the urethra and anus to address ascites and edema (w/the symptoms of constipation and severe urinary difficulty). The fresh herb is also used topically for hot sores and lesions and to dissolve nodules.

–safety/clinical notes:

Contraindicated during pregnancy.

Shang Lu is a very harsh and cathartic herb which should only be used in cases of extreme excess and under the supervision of trained TCM healthcare practitioners. Adverse effects from overdose can be quite severe and include fever, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with abdominal pain (which can progress to headache, delirium, and coma in severe cases). The folk remedy for overdose of Shang Lu is Gan Cao (licorice root) and Lu Dou (mung beans).