The Use of Poke Root in the Treatment of Lactational Mastitis: Practice Patterns among Midwives in British Columbia



Zoë G. Hodgson, BSc (Hons.), PhD, BMW, RM
Patrice Latka, BHSc, MScCH, RM, Rachelle Fulford, BSc,
MA, BMW, RM, and Allison Campbell, MA, BA, BMW, RM


Introduction: The prevalence of mastitis has been reported as high as 33%. Effective milk removal, pain medication, and antibiotics are the mainstays of treatment. Midwives support the use of complementary and alternative medicines, but few studies have examined their use.
This paper explores practice patterns of midwives in British Columbia with respect to the use of poke root, Phytolacca decandra, in the treatment of mastitis.
Methodology: A questionnaire was distributed to all registered midwives in British Columbia asking about their familiarity with poke root, whether they recommend it for treatment of mastitis, how they recommend that it be used, and whether they perceive it as effective in treating mastitis.
Results: A total of 106 questionnaires were returned. Fifty midwives (47.2%) reported using poke root. Over sixty-nine percent of respondents used it as a tincture, 22.4% used it as a homeopathic,
and 8.2% used it topically. The dose, route, timing, and duration of use varied; however, there were few perceived side effects, and the satisfaction among midwives was high.
Conclusion: The questionnaire responses demonstrate that a large number of midwives in British Columbia perceive poke root to be effective in treating lactational mastitis. Reported rates of satisfaction with the therapy among midwives were high. The tremendous variability in administration and the lack of known side effects highlight the need for a future study that will examine the effectiveness of poke root to facilitate informed choice discussion. 

breast or chest feeding, lactational mastitis, midwives, poke root, Phytolacca decandra, complementary and alternative medicines


This article has been peer-reviewed.


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