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Asclepius tuberosa

Latin Name: Asclepius tuberosa

Common namePleurisy root, Butterfly Weed, Milkweed

Family: Asclepiadaceae

Parts used: Root


  • Cardiac glycosides: cardenolide type (afroside, asclepin, asclepiadin, calactin, calotropin, gomphoside, syriogenin, syrioside, uscharidin, uscharin and uzarigenin).
  • Flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin, rutin and isorhamnetin)
  • Amino acids (choline)
  • Phenolic acids (caffeic & chlorogenic acid)
  • Carbohydrates (glucose, fructose and sucrose)
  • Triterpenes (a-amyrin and bamyrin, lupeol, friedelin, viburnitol)
  • Volatile oil
  • Resin

Medicinal actions:

  •      Antispasmodic
  •      Cardiotonic
  •      Carminative
  •      Diaphoretic
  •      Diuretic
  •      Laxative
  •      Expectorant
  •      Nervine relaxant
  •      Vasodilator

Medicinal use:

  • Has its historical basis in the treatment of pleurisy to relieve the associated pain and ease breathing. The specific indications are shortness of breath, strong pulse, sweating/moist skin, acute pain that is worse with motion, and inflammation and catarrh of serous tissues.
  • Used primarily in chronic respiratory conditions (e.g. pneumonia, bronchitis), acutely for influenza (earliest stages), and intercostal diseases. Will induce perspiration (diaphoresis) and relieve suppressed expectoration while exerting an antispasmodic effect.
  • Considered to decrease arterial tension and creates mild sedation overall.


  • Chemistry is poorly documented, but phytochemical studies on related Asclepias species have identified many cardiac glycoside constituents. A as rule, cardiac glycosides inhibit the sodium potassium pump leading to a rise in intracellular calcium, which increases contractile force and speed of the heart muscle. A positive inotropic action (in vivo and in vitro) has been reported for asclepin, which was found to be more potent, longer acting and with a wider safety margin when compared with other cardiac glycosides (including digoxin). Asclepin was also reported to exhibit a more powerful activity towards weak cardiac muscle.
  • Low doses of extracts have been documented to cause uterine contractions (in vivo) and to exhibit estrogenic effects.
  • Flavonoids rutin and quercetin are cardioactive steroids.


  • Decoction: ½ -1 tsp/cup , TID
  • Tincture: 1-3 ml (1:5, 40%), TID. 80 ml Weekly Max
  • Dried herb: 1-3 g, QD.
  • Note:  traditionally given in small, frequent doses.


  • Avoid in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Has been documented to cause dermatitis (milky latex is reported to be irritant).
  • Large doses may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Note: Asclepin has been documented to have a wider margin of safety than digoxin in animal and in vitro studies.


  • Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


  • Potential to interact with other medicines administered concurrently with similar or opposing effects (e.g. Digitalis).


  • Find a complete list of references for this monograph as well as images and a review of its evidence based applications in Dr. Marciano’s Herbal Textbook.


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