You Say Butterflyweed, I Say Pleurisy Root!   Leave a comment

Pleurisy Root, Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, is a species of milkweed; native to eastern North America. It is an erect, hairy, stalked perennial, growing 1 -3 feet tall,

with clustered orange or yellow flowers, blooming from early summer into early fall.

The lance shaped leaves are arranged spirally.

It is commonly known as Butterfly Weed because butterflies are attracted to the plant by its color and its voluminous production of nectar; a favorite food of Monarch Butterflies.

It is medicinally known as Pleurisy Root in Herbalism; and has long been used by Native Americans for its expectorant action. Pleurisy Root/Butterfly Weed’s root actions include being anodyne, anti-spasmodic, carminative, cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, and pectoral (1&2).  A root decoction can be “Used in pleurisy, febrile diseases, flatulency, indigestion, acute rheumatism, dysentery, coughs, inflammation of the lungs, etc.” (1)  “Pleurisy Root is effective against respiratory infections, where it reduces inflammations and assists expectoration.” (2)

I won’t be collecting, or trying Pleurisy Root/Butterfly Weed; at least not for now.  It is posted here as an Unavoidable; for identification purposes, only, as it is listed in edible food guides as poisonous, it is a look-alike for an edible relative, Milkweed, and it does have medicinal applications.

Butterflyweed, not surprisingly, looks similar to Milkweed (3), but is uniquely identified by the larger number of flowers, and stems that are not milky when broken:

  Butterflyweed – Asclepias tuberosa Milkweed – Asclepias lanceolata
stem watery juice, when broken profuse, white, milky juice, when broken
leaf narrow, lance shape wide, lance shape
flower yellow to orange in flat-top clusters greenish to white in domed, drooping clusters

Common names of Asclepias tuberosa include Butterfly Weed, Canada Root, Chigger Flower, Fluxroot, Indian Posy, Orange Milkweed, Orange Swallow-wort, Pleurisy Root, Silky Swallow-wort, Tuber Root, Yellow Milkweed, White-root, and Windroot,

WARNING:  Use of Pleurisy Root/Butterflyweed is contraindicated in pregnancy, during lactation or for children; due to the presence of cardiac glycosides.  DO NOT use like Milkweed; this plant is considered poisonous.

PR/BW is NOT listed as having any drug interactions; in fact, it didn’t make the list! (4)

Just click on any photo to enlarge, for greater detail.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.


(1) SHAKER Medicinal HERBS, Amy Bess Miller. 

      Storey Books.  1998


      Element Books.  1996

(3) Milkweed:

(4) A-Z guide to drug-herb-vitamin interactions, Schuyler W. Lininger, Jr. DC, editor in chief

      Prima Health, 1999


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