Pleurisy root has been used more extensively for health purposes than any other milkweed. Plains Indians ate the raw root for bronchial and pulmonary afflictions. The root was also chewed and put on wounds, or dried and powdered, then blown into wounds. The root has diuretic, tonic, diaphoretic, expectorant, and antispasmodic properties. Doses as small as a tablespoon of chopped root boiled in water may have emetic and laxative effects.
This plant is effective as an expectorant and diaphoretic in pleurisy, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other lung inflammations. Flu, asthma, stomach problems, colic, and rheumatic pains have been improved with this plant. A teaspoon of the dried root can be boiled in a cup of water and taken one or two times a day.
A glycoside-asclepiadine-is contained in the root, along with asciepione, a bitter principle, an essential oil and resin.
General Herb Information
Of the 200 or so species of Asclepias, A. tuberosa is one of the showiest. Butterfly weed or pleurisy root is, in fact, one of the most glorious flowering roadside weeds of America. It well earns both common names. It is one of the best herbal supportives for pleurisy, and it attracts hordes of butterflies. It is a perennial growing from two to three feet tall native to dry gravelly soils from Maine to Florida, west to Arizona, and north to Minnesota.
Unlike other milkweeds, it doesn't produce a milky juice and its leaves are alternate rather than opposite or whorled. The plant is hairy and rough. The lance-shaped to oblong leaves, two to six inches long, are entire, sessile or with short leaf stalks, dark green above and paler beneath. The one-fourth inch hooded and horned orange flowers are borne on showy, erect umbels, appearing in late May in the southern part of its range, lasting through September in the north. Occasionally flowers may be reddish or yellow. The slender furry seed pods are three to four inches long.
Pleurisy root is propagated from root cuttings made in the spring or fall or by seeds sown in late autumn to germinate the following spring. The thick, fleshy, horizontal roots break easily when dug, but if you're careful to excavate as much root and surrounding soil as possible, the plant transplants well. It is always best to purchase wild plants from nurseries specializing in such stock, rather than deplete wild populations. Plants grown from seed may take two to three years to flower.
A dry sandy, well-drained, slightly acid soil is best. Full sun is essential. Harvest roots in the fall. Older woody roots may have to be split with a small axe.
The young seed pods of this and other milkweeds can be cooked as a vegetable. The Sioux made a crude sugar from its flowers.
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Take 1 capsule, 3 times daily, with meals.
Not recommended if you are pregnant or lactating.
Excessive use may cause vomiting or diarrhea.
Do not use if you are taking heart medication, diuretics or hormonal medication.
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