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Pleurisy root

Botanical name: Asclepias tuberosa

Pleurisy_Root.jpg

© Martin Wall

Parts used and where grown

As its common name indicates, the root of pleurisy root is used as medicine. This brilliant-orange-flowered herb is native to and continues to grow primarily in the southwestern and midwestern United States. Many plants similar to pleurisy root are known as milkweeds because they produce a milky sap—something pleurisy root does not do.

Pleurisy root has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
1Star

Bronchitis

Fever

Pleurisy

Pneumonia

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Pleurisy root was used by Native American tribes both internally as a remedy for pulmonary infections and topically to treat wounds.1 The Eclectic physicians seized upon these ideas and continued to use the plant primarily for lung problems such as pleurisy and pneumonia. It was also used as a diaphoretic (a substance that causes sweating) for all manner of infections.2 Pleurisy root was an official medicine in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1905.3

Active constituents

Insufficient work has been done to identify the active constituents in pleurisy root or its medicinal actions. No human studies have been conducted to determine whether it is effective for any indication. It is still used by herbalists and some physicians trained in herbal medicine as a diaphoretic (promotes sweating), and for lung infections and conditions of the pleura that lines the lungs.4

How much is usually taken?

A pleurisy root tea can be made by lightly simmering one teaspoon of the dried, chopped root in one pint of water for 10 to 15 minutes. One cup of this tea can be drunk twice per day.5 Alternately, 1 to 2 ml of tincture of the fresh root can be used three times per day.6

Are there any side effects or interactions?

At the amounts recommended above, pleurisy root generally has no adverse effects. Excessive intake (1 tablespoon or more of the root at one time) can cause intestinal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.7 Pleurisy root should be avoided by pregnant women as it may stimulate uterine contractions.8

Are there any drug interactions?
Certain medicines may interact with pleurisy root. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.

References:

1. Vogel VJ. American Indian Medicine. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970:287–8.

2. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory, 18th ed, vol 1. Portland, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, 1983:288–1.

3. Vogel VJ. American Indian Medicine. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970:287–8.

4. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1979:130.

5. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1979:130.

6. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory, 18th ed, vol 1. Portland, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, 1983:288–1.

7. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1979:130.

8. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998, 112–3.

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