Pleurisy Root

by Daisy on 11/25/2009

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Pleurisy root. Milkweed. Butterfly weed. asclepius tuberosa. The same plant that hosted monarch butterflies and bees this summer is getting uprooted. Not to worry, I have plenty to spare.  I’ve learned that, in addition to being the plant for monarchs, butterfly weed can also be eaten, both leaves and pods, and the root can be dried and used for medicine.

According to herbalists, a tea or tincture made from this plant’s root is used to treat lung conditions like coughs, bronchitis, yes, pleurisy, even asthma, as it is said to relax the bronchioles and liquify mucous secretions.

I’m planning to dry some of the root in its simple, intact form. I may also powder some of the dried root. You can also make a tincture from the pounded root infused in vodka.

In the field:


Dug and ready to be washed:IMG_4636

Peeled, chopped, processed in a blender to a coffee-ground approximation:


To read more about this fascinating and multi-use plant, read here. Pillows stuffed with the silky seed fibers? Insulation? Glue? Wart remover? Rope? I’m getting all tingly.

I’m not an herbalist. Seek the advice of one to determine if and how you should use this plant. Consult a physician before using any medicinal preparation. Not for use in pregnancy or lactation, by seniors, infants, or people with heart conditions or those taking MAOIs. Read that really fast.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Rod Morey, Herbalist November 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm

And the little purple flower clusters can be dipped in batter and deep fried as a tasty fritter. Season to taste

Handful November 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm

You have the most interesting information! I will have to research some more as I am a great “farmer” of milkweed. Had no idea you could do anything useful with it. I will have to wait till next year to make sure I get the right root.

Handful December 9, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Hey, I also found out that burdock can be eaten, both the stalk and the root! The leaves are poisonious though.

Check out Wildman Steve Brill. I don’t know the url but his email is He lives in NYC and does teaching tours through the park. He even got arrested for eating “weeds”! Crazy, huh?

That’s what you get for “Stalking the Wild Dandilion!!” 🙂

Angela May 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm

How can you tell the difference between Milkweed Root and Butterfly Root in whole form?

Tomato Lady May 15, 2010 at 8:43 am

Angela–Do you have a botanical name for the milkweed you wish to compare with asclepius tuberosa?

Katie October 31, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Also anyone know the best time to harvest the root . Usually there is a time when it has it’s best medicinal properties, like before flowering for most herbs . Anyone know?

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