Shang Lu (Poke Root or Phytolaccae Radix)

What Is Shang Lu

Shang Lu commonly known as Poke Root or Phytolaccae Radix is the root of Phytolacca acinosa or Phytolacca americana, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Phytolaecaceae. It first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (about 100 BC).

There are 35 species of Phytolacca, including herbs, shrubs, and trees. They are mostly distributed in tropical and subtropical regions. Some of them are used as ornamental plants, and only a small part of them are used in food and folk medicine.

Phytolacca acinosa is commonly known as Indian Poke. It often grows in valleys, hillsides, forest edges, or roadsides 500-3,400 meters above sea level. It is distributed in China, North Korea, Japan, and India.

Phytolacca acinosa

Phytolacca americana is also known as American pokeweed, pokeweed, and poke sallet. It is native to eastern North America, the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast, and has now been introduced into parts of Europe and Asia.

Both Phytolacca acinosa and Phytolacca americana are poisonous. Their tender leaves are edible after processing. But as the plant grows, the toxins contained in the young leaves will increase. Their fruits are not edible and can be made into tannin extract.

From the autumn to the next spring, people gather the roots of Phytolacca acinosa or Phytolacca americana, wash them with water, remove their impurities and fibrous roots, cut them into thick slices, dry them in the sun or shade, use them directly, or stir-fry them with vinegar, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Shang Lu contains phytolaccagenin, 2-hydroxyl esculentic acid, esculentic acid, esculentoside, phytolaccoside, mannose, glucose, galactose, rhamnose, glucuronic acid, galacturonic acid, kaempferol, quercetin, americanol A, Isoamericanol A, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, sinapic acid, coumaric acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, oleanolic acid, β-sitosterol, β-carotene, stigmasterenol, α-spinachsterol, ergosterol, volatile oils, alkaloids, palmitic acid, linoleic acid, amino acids, γ-aminobutyric acid, histamine, and some trace elements.

Generally, the grayish-yellow or gray-brown solid Shang Lu with a light-yellow-brown or yellow-white cross-section is preferred. Chewing a good quality Shang Lu for a long time may cause tongue numbness.

According to <Compendium of Materia Medica>, the medicinal property of Shang Lu is relatively cold, with toxicity and a bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the lung, spleen, kidney, and large intestine meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Shang Lu is used to remove water retention, alleviate swelling and dissipate nodulation, treat renal edema, kidney stones, acute nephritis, chronic nephritis, hepatitis B, hyperplasia of mammary glands, leukorrheal diseases, gastrointestinal bleeding, thrombocytopenic purpura, chronic bronchitis, psoriasis, and snake bites. It is an important component of Shu Zao Yin Zi.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting xylene-induced swelling of the mouse ear.
  • Inhibiting gastric juice secretion and preventing gastric ulcers.
  • Promoting the proliferation of splenic lymphocytes, stimulating spleen cells to secrete cytokines IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, and IFN-γ, and enhancing immunity.
  • Stimulating the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract, promoting the secretion of respiratory mucus and the movement of tracheal cilia, and eliminating phlegm.
  • Inducing diuresis and treating constipation, dysuria, edema, and tympanites.
  • Alleviating swelling and dissipating nodulation, treating skin sores and abscesses.
  • Inhibiting the proliferation of human gastric cancer cells and human promyelocytic cells.
  • Inhibiting the replication of poliovirus, influenza virus, herpes simplex virus type I, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus.
  • Inhibiting Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella,
  • Influenza bacillus, Pneumococcus, and some fungi.
  • Studies have found that injecting its extract into a cat’s vein will cause the cat’s blood pressure to drop, but the duration of action is not long.


  • It can be used in combination with She Xiang (Moschus) to induce diuresis and treat edema.
  • It can be used in combination with Ze Xie (Rhizoma Alismatis) and Fu Ling (Poria) to treat edema, tympanites, and constipation.
  • It can be used in combination with Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis), Ling Xiao Hua (Flos Campsis), and Pu Huang (Cattail Pollen) to treat postpartum blood stasis syndrome.
  • It can be used in combination with Fu Hai Shi (Pumice), Hai Jin Sha (Spora Lygodii), Huang Qin (Radix Scutellariae), Shi Jian Chuan (Salvia Chinensis), Jin Qian Cao (Lysimachia), Ji Nei Jin (Endothelium Corneum Gigeriae Galli), and Hu Po (Succinum) to treat kidney stones.
    The topical application of the powders composed of Shang Lu and salt can treat skin ulcers and abscesses.

Side Effects

Shang Lu is poisonous. Its toxic component is esculentoside. The first poisoning reaction that appears after taking it is mostly gastrointestinal discomfort. The incubation period of poisoning is 20 to 60 minutes.

Overdose of it may cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, alalia, dysphoria, and convulsions.

In severe cases, it may cause a drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, trance, chest tightness, palpitations, coma, dilated pupils, and even death from respiratory central nerve paralysis or myocardial paralysis.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Shang Lu should be controlled at 5-10g.
  • It can be made into decoctions or mashed for external use.
  • Stir-frying it with vinegar can weaken its toxicity.
  • People who are allergic to Shang Lu should not take it.
  • Weak patients with edema should not take it.
  • Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children should not take it.