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Pleurisy Root

  • Asclepias tuberosa L.
  • Asclepiadaceae
  • Milkweed family

Common Names

herbsButterfly weed
herbsCanada root
herbsFlux root
herbsOrange swallow-wort
herbsSwallow wort
herbsTuber root
herbsWhite root
herbsWind root

Parts Usually Used

The root, dried

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Pleurisy root is a native North American perennial plant; The fleshy, white, tuber-like, root produces several stout, erect, round, hairy stems (without milky juice) from 1-3 feet high. The alternate, sessile, with watery sap, leaves are lanceolate to oblong, a darker green above than beneath. Bright orange flowers, stamens forming a structure like a crown, grow in terminal, flat-topped, 2-inch, umbels from June to September, later producing long, edible seed pods that are spindle-shaped. Full sun. Zones 3-10. Heat tolerant.

The plant has a nauseous, bitter taste when fresh, but better when dried.

Where Found

Found in dry fields, woods, meadows, prairies, on roadsides, and sandy soils along the east coast and westward to Minnesota, Arizona, and northern Mexico.

Medicinal Properties

Carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, antispasmodic, relaxant, tonic

Biochemical Information

Ascepin is the active principle, asclepiadine, asclepione, cardeno liedes, traces of essential oil, resin, sterol

Legends, Myths and Stories

One species in the Far East was possibly used as a hallucinogen, which is known in the Hindu religion as "Soma".

As the name suggests, this herb is used for upper respiratory and lung problems.


Widely used as an expectorant in the late 19th century. It is recommended for colds, flu, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, bilious fever, typhus, measles, promotes sweating therefore reducing fever, suppressed menses, headache, and bronchial, pleurisy, asthma, and pulmonary problems. Sometimes it was given with cayenne at the beginning of a cold. Native Americans chewed the dried root or made a tea by boiling the root as a remedy for bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and dysentery. Root poultice used for bruises, swellings, and rheumatism.

Formulas or Dosages

Use the root dried or cooked.

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. of powdered root in 1 cup boiling water for 45 minutes, strain, and take 2 tbsp. every 2 hours; more if necessary.

Decoction: boil 1 tsp. root in 1 cup water. Take 1 to 2 cups per day.

Tincture: take 5 to 40 drops every 3 hours, depending on age and condition. At the beginning of a cold, take 5-15 drops in hot water and 3 grains cayenne every hour until you feel warm throughout. For children, the dose is 1-5 drops.


Animals have been poisoned by feeding on the leaves and stems. The fresh root may also produce undesirable symptoms. For humans, potentially toxic in large doses. The fresh root can be dangerous. Use only commercial preparations.

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