Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Butterfly Milkweed is indigenous to North America and often graces perennial gardens, thanks to its attractive orange flowers. While there is insufficient evidence of its medicinal effectiveness, it has been used to treat pleurisy and bronchitis in contemporary medicine, and has been known as pleurisy root (1, 2). More commonly in the United Kingdom, the dried roots of the plant are used to treat not only pleurisy and bronchitis, but pneumonia and influenza. Excessive doses of the plant can be toxic (3).
Uses for this plant are not often indicated in historical medicinal texts, with a mention in American Medical Botany, published in 1817–1820, being a rare example. The author, Jacob Bigelow, writes, “This fine vegetable is eminently entitled to the attention of physicians as an expectorant and diaphoretic.” He adds his own assessment: “I am satisfied of its utility as an expectorant medicine, and have seen no inconsiderable benefit arise from its use as a palliative in phthisis pulmonalis.”
- Phyto-constituents of Asclepias tuberosa L. (Asclepiadaceae)by F Pagani on August 1, 1975 at 10:00 am
- On the cardenolides of roots of Asclepias tuberosa Lby J Petricic on December 1, 1966 at 11:00 am
Warashina, T., Umehara, K., Miyase, T., & Noro, T. 8,12;8,20-Diepoxy-8,14-secopregnane glycosides from roots of Asclepias tuberosa and their effect on proliferation of human skin fibroblasts. Phytochemistry. 2011 Oct 1;72(14):1865–75.
Pleurisy (Asclepias tuberosa) | Plant Profiler [Internet]. Sigma-Aldrich. [cited 2020 Mar 28]. Available from: https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/life-science/nutrition-research/learning-center/plant-profiler/asclepias-tuberosa.html
Wyk, B-E. van, & Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. CABI; 2018. 521 p.