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Asclepias tuberosa


Asclepias tuberosa


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Pleurisy Root, Butterfly Weed, Canada Root, Chigger Flower, Chiggerflower, Fluxroot, Indian Paintbrush, Indian Posy, Orange Milkweed, Orange Swallow-wort, Pleurisy Root, Silky Swallow-wort, Tuber Root, Yellow Milkweed, White-root, Windroot.


Asclepias tuberosa grows to a height of 1 m, yielding narrow, lance-shaped, glabrous leaves, purplish, pubescent stems and crowns of brilliant orange flower clusters. The flower clusters, located at the apex of the stem, range from 5-15 cm across and can consist of dozens of tiny flowers.

Origin / Habitat

A. tuberosa, or Pleurisy Root, is a flowering perennial herb of the milkweed family found native to North America. Flourishing in the southeast quadrant of the continent, A. tuberosa grows best in sandy soils with low to moderate moisture.

Chemical Constituents

A. tuberosa contains cardenolide glycosides, pregnane glycosides and lineolon glycosides.  Other glycosides include ikemagenin, pleurogenin, ascandroside.(2),(3)

Plant Part Used

Root (5)

Traditional Use

As the common name “Pleurisy Root” suggests, the root of A. tuberosa has been used by Native American herbalists to treat inflammation of the pleura in the lung, also known as pleurisy.(4) Additionally, tribes such as the Navajo and Omaha used A. tuberosa to treat associated pulmonary or bronchial disorders.(5) Typically, the root of this herb is eaten whole, either dried or raw, to achieve the desired effect.(5) Infusions or decoctions of the root were also commonly used with the intention of having a diaphoretic and expectorant effect in order to relieve respiratory ailments.(4) Historical uses indicate that A. tuberosa acts as a diaphoretic, expectorant and antispasmodic.(6)


Native American tribes also used A. tuberose in the form of poultices and decoctions as dermatological aides. In instances of sores, bites, rheumatism and bruises, Native American practitioners applied poultices made from the root, or decoctions made of the root as a wash to alleviate symptoms.(5) Pulverized roots were macerated by chewing and then placed on wounds and sores by the Omahas. Root poultices were also used for cuts and wounds by the Menominee tribe.(7)


Infusion – 1 teaspoon in 1 cup of boiling water, every three to four hours.

This herb in traditional use as noted in this document was either eaten dried or raw, or used in decoction or infusion. A. tuberosa is no longer recommended due to the uterine and cardiac stimulating properties. A. tuberosa is not allowed in any products in Canada.(1) It is included here due to its use in Native American medicine.



As noted above, historical use indicates that A. tuberosa acts as a diaphoretic, expectorant and antispasmodic.(6) However none of these uses has been evaluated in a clinical setting and no laboratory analysis are available to provide verification.

A. tuberosa contains cardiac glycosides, a limited group that has a narrow margin of safety, but which may also provide sufficient benefits such as increased functional ability and a decrease in functional limitations.(8)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Since there is limited information on the pharmacology of this herb, other than that which is identified in traditional use, the use of A. tuberosa is not recommended unless under the guidance of a trained professional.

Not to be used by those with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or at a risk for stroke and not to be used in combination with medications for these conditions.


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Age limitation

Not to be used by children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1) Western Herbs


  1. McGuffin M, et al. Botanical Safety Handbook. CRC Press; 2003.
  2. Abe F, Yamauchi T. An androstane bioside and 3'-thiazolidinone derivatives of doubly-linked cardenolide glycosides from the roots of Asclepias tuberosa. Tokyo: Chem Pharm Bull. Jul. 2000;48(7):991-993.
  3. Abe F, Yamauchi T. Pregnane glycosides from the roots of Asclepias tuberosa. Tokyo: Chem Pharm Bull. Jul. 2000;48(7):1017-1022.
  4. Hutchens, A. Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston, MA. Shambala; 1991.
  5. Moerman DE. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.
  6. Ebadi M. Pharmacodynamics of Herbal Medicines. NY: CRC Press; 2001:43.
  7. Lewis WF, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man’s Health. NY: Wiley Interscience; 1977.
  8. Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy: Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed. Lavoisier Publishing; 1992:722.

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