The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

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Milkweed

Scientific Names

Milkweed

  • Asclepias syriaca L.
  • Asclepiadaceae
  • Milkweed family

Common Names

  • Common milkweed
  • Common silkweed
  • Cotton-weed
  • Milkweed root
  • Pai-t’u-huo (Chinese name)
  • Silkweed
  • Silky swallow-wort
  • Snake milk
  • Emetic root
  • Milk ipecac
  • Swallow-wort
  • Virginia silk

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Parts Usually Used

Rootstock
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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Milkweed is a common, milky-juiced, downy perennial plant; the simple, usually solitary, erect stem grows 3-6 feet high and bears opposite, relatively large, oblong-ovate to oblong, short-petioled leaves. Terminal or lateral umbels of small, dull purple flowers, often drooping in clusters from leaf axils; appear from June to August. Warty seedpods distinguish this species from other milkweeds.

Other varieties: Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata); Four-leaved milkweed (A. quadrifolia).
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Where Found

Found in fields, roadsides, fence rows, and waste places of eastern North America, as far west as Kansas and Saskatchewan. The most common milkweed in the Northeast.
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Medicinal Properties

Diuretic, emetic, purgative, alterative, tonic
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Biochemical Information

Asclepiadin, asclepion, and galitoxin
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Legends, Myths and Stories

One species of the milkweed family in the Far East was possibly used as a hallucinogen, which is known in the Hindu religion as “Soma”.

The genus name, Asclepiadaceae, is named in honor of the Greek God Asclepius (God of medicine).

Native Americans used the juice of milkweed and tea from the leaves of creosote bush as poultices to draw out poison. Shoshone name for mildweed “Banumb.” The Shoshones break the tall milkweed and collect the milk and roll it in the hand, until it becomes firm enough to chew. Tonopah and Beatty call it “Samoko.”
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Uses

Milkweed is useful for kidney problems, dropsy, scrofula, conditions of the bladder, water retention, asthma, stomach ailments, and gallstones, female disorders, arthritis, bronchitis. Causes increase in perspiration, thus reducing fever. Some Native Americans rubbed the (latex) juice on warts, moles, ringworms; others drank an infusion of the rootstock to produce temporary sterility or as a laxative. A folk cancer remedy.

One Mohawk antifertility concoction contained milkweed and Jack-in-the-pulpit, both considered dangerous and contraceptive.

Native Americans used the inside fibers for rope and fishing nets; the milk was collected and rolled until firm enough to make chewing gum (not recommended). The boiled root tastes like asparagus. The green plant is collected when very small and boiled in 2 waters to use as greens. We do not advise this for the general public as the amount and correct species is of importance in quantity. Correct identification is significant. Some milkweed species are highly poisonous.
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Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: for gallstones, mix equal parts milkweed and althea. Steep 1 tsp. in 1 cup boiling water. Take 3 cups over the course of a day, one of them hot on retiring.
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Warning

Milkweed is poisonous in large quantities, especially for children.

May be dangerous for people over 55. Take no more than is necessary.

Contains cardioactive compounds.
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Bibliography

Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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