Asclepias Tuberosa

Pleurisy Root, Butterfly Weed, Orange Root, Orange Milkweed


Pleurisy Root is a member of the milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae (Hutchens, 221.) With a hairy stem that reaches up to two to three feet, this plant has hairy lanceolate leaves that are dark green on top and a pale color on the bottom. This plant’s flowers are brightly colored with an orange-yellow color and they tend to be erect in shape (Hutchens, 221.) The flowers blossom in months of June and August, though it may take two to three years for the blossoms to produce. The roots of this plant are yellowish brown in color and tuberous in shape. When the roots are fresh they have a bitter, nauseous taste; however when they are dried the bitter taste is lessened (Hutchens, 221.) These roots prefer to grow in dry soil, in rocky conditions, and even in sandy soils. Their roots help to decrease the effects of the erosion which make them good as border plants within gardens. They grow throughout the eastern part of the United States and up into Canada. 


The constituents found within this plant include cardenolides (asclepiadin), flavonoids (rutin, kaempferol, quercetin, and isorhamnetin), friedalin, alpha and beta amyrin, lupeol, viburnitol, and choline sugars (Hoffman, 531.) 

Fun Fact:

Ascplepias tuberosa received its name from Asklepios the Greek god of medicine. The most profound result of growing this type of herb is what its orange flowers attract. Monarch butterflies rely on the flowers as a place for them to lay their larvae. Laying their larvae there allows them to feast on the flower’s nectar for sustenance. When the larvae are eaten by birds, it immediately causes the birds to begin to vomit and experience pleurisy, deterring birds from continuing to eat the larvae. 


 Ascplepias tuberosa  received its’ name from the Greek god of medicine Asklepios, and since its naming this plant has been used throughout the centuries medicinally to cure many kind of ailments. The Native Americans throughout the Southeastern part of the country have used this plant to treat bronchitis and fevers and produce perspiration by chewing the boiled or dried root (Garrett, 235.) The boiling of the root would cause the bronchioles to dilate and it stimulates the lymph drainage from the lungs (Elpel, 137.)  In the medical field this herb was a part of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820-1905. Physicians would use this plant to help a person expel phlegm from both nasal and bronchial passageways, to treat asthma, bronchitis, chicken pox, colic, measles, and pleurisy (Mars, 2007.)


The parts of the plant that can be used medicinally are the root, though in its raw state the root is the poisonous part of the plant (Elpel, 137.) In order to inhance the roots actions, it is suggested that you immerse the roots in rapidly boiling water. It is safe to use the plant when all of the bitterness is gone (Elpel, 137.)

The actions of this herb are mainly concentrated on anti-flammatory outcomes but it can also act as a diaphoretic, an expectorant, an antispasmodic, and as a carminative (Hoffman, 531.) It lessens the pain and relieves the difficult of breathing when it comes to certain respiratory conditions. The actions of the pregnune glycosides have been shown to help proliferate skin fibroblasts in humans’ epithelium. These glycosides were extracted from the root of the plant and set into diethyl ether to help it take action (Warashuna et. al.) It has been seen in different experiments that low doses of the root could stimulate uterine contractions and can exhibit estrogenic effects (Hoffman, 531.)


There are many types of recipes that can be used in regard to this herb. For tinctures it is recommended that you use one to two milliliters three times a day depending on the age and condition of the individual (Hoffman, 532.) In order to make an effective infusion it is recommended that you pour one cup of boiling water over one half to one teaspoon of the herb. The root can be in powdered form or just cut into fine pieces (Hutchens, 222.) The root should be infused for ten to fifteen minutes. To see the best results, it is suggested to drink this infusion three times a day (Hoffman, 532.)

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

If taken with drugs that contain similar constituents, Asclepias increases the risk of cardiac glycoside toxicity (Hoffman, 531.)

References Cited:

Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. 5th. Pony: Hops Press, 2008. 137. Print.

Garrett, J.T. The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine From the Four Directions. Rochester: Bear and Company, 2003. 235. Print.

Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 2003. 532-32. Print.

Hutchens, Alma. Indian Herbology of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plant and Their Uses. Boston: Shambhula Publications Inc., 1973. 221-22. Print.

Mars, Brigette. The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine: The Ultimate Multidisciplinary Reference to the Amazing Realm of Healing Plants, in a Quick-Study, One-Stop Guide. Laguna Beach: Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2007. Web. <

Warashuna, Tsutomu.Umehara Kaone. Miyase, Toshio. Nuro Tadataka. "8, 12; 8, 20-Diepoxy-8,4-sewpregnane glycoside from roots of Asclepias tuberosa and their effects on proliferation of human skin fibroblasts." Phytochemistry. 72.14-15 (2011):1865-75. Web. 19 Mar 2012