Asclepias tuberosa (L)
Synonyms: butterfly weed, Canada root, flux root, orange swallow-wort, orange milkweed, tuber root, white root, wind root, colic root
Description: Asclepias is a native North American perennial found in dry fields and sandy soils along the east coast and westwards to Minnesota, Arizona and northern Mexico. The fleshy, white root produces several stout, round, hairy stems up to 1m high. The alternate, sessile leaves are lanceolate to oblong, a darker green above than beneath. Bright orange flowers grow in terminal, flat-topped umbels from June to September, and produce long, edible seed pods.
Parts used: the rhizome
Collection: the rhizome is collected in March or April
Constituents: glycosides (including asclepiadin and possibly cardioactive glycosides), flavonoids (including rutin, kaempferol and quercetin), volatile oil, resins, amino acids, essential oil
Actions: diaphoretic, relaxing expectorant, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, diffusive peripheral vasodilator.
Indications: pleurisy, bronchitis, pneumonitis, influenza.
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Widely used as an expectorant in the late nineteenth century, Asclepias is of value in the treatment of colds, flu, and bronchial and pulmonary conditions. It has a specific action on the lungs, assisting expectoration and soothing inflammation, while its diaphoretic and antispasmodic properties are useful in the treatment of pleurisy and pneumonia, where it eases pain and exerts a mild tonic effect on the system. It has also been used in diarrhoea, dysentery and acute and chronic rheumatism, as well as eczema. It relieves wind and colic and reduces muscle tension and spasm.
Combinations: Asclepias may be combined with Zingiber or Capsicum and Lobelia in pulmonary congestion, or with Capsicum, Lobelia and Grindelia. It is a frequent constituent of a fever management regime when of pulmonary origin. It can be combined with Sassafras and Angelica for encouraging perspiration in fever and pleurisy.
Caution: Excessive quantities cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Animals have been poisoned by feeding on the leaves and stems.
Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)
Regulatory status GSL
Dried root: 1-4g or by infusion
Liquid extract: 1:1 in 45% alcohol, 1-4ml.
Tincture: 1:10 in 45% alcohol, 1-5ml.
Additional Comments: Native Americans boiled the tubers for food, prepared sugar from the flowers, and chewed the dried root or made a tea as a remedy for bronchitis, pneumonia and dysentery. They also used it ceremonially. When American doctors discovered it, they named it after the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios, because of its power to save lives.
BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.
Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.
Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.
Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.
Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.
Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.
Polunin, M. and Robbins, C. 1992 The Natural Pharmacy, Dorling Kindersley, London.
Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.
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Last updated 27th November 2014 ęPurple Sage Botanicals