Botanical Description & Habitat
Ascelepias Butterfly weed Canada root Orange milkweed Orangeroot Tuber root Wind root White root
Indigenous to North America and found in some areas of South America. It flourishes in dry, sandy, and gravel soils.
Has large, irregular, yellowish-brown roots producing numerous erect stems which grow from one to two feet in height. The stems are hairy, with a green or red hue, and contain a milky fluid. The leaves are lanceolate, hairy, and grow alternately along the stem paler on the underside. The flowers are bright orange and bloom during June and August. The fruit is a narrow, green pod containing ovate seeds.
Root dried, collected in autumn
Historical Properties & Uses
Pleurisy root has a reputation extending back several centuries. It is a favored treatment for colds, flu, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and pleurisy. In America, it was the primary expectorant of choice for several decades.
One early practitioner, after 25 years of continuous clinical observation, wrote the herb possessed "...an almost specific quality of acting on the organs of respiration, powerfully promoting... expectoration," and that it...proved equally efficacious... in pneumonic fevers, colds, catarrhs, and diseases of the breast in general."
Such enthusiasm was shared by the majority of early American medical doctors. Today, after several decades of obscurity, pleurisy root is once again rising in popularity among herbalists and public alike. While it has not been extensively investigated, it has displayed strong antibiotic and diaphoretic properties. Effects on heart and circulation have been noted, as well as estrogenic and uterine stimulating properties.
Method of Action
Pleurisy root strongly inhibits mycobacterium tuberculosis
Incubated at 37 degrees C. for seven days with the H37Rv strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, pleurisy root extract produced inhibition at dilutions of 1:160 to 1:300, making it one of the most effective among those plants exhibiting such activity.
Pleurisy root has uterine stimulant and estrogenic properties
The fluid extract of pleurisy root exerts an appreciable oxytocic-like action on the uteri of several species of lab animal, including guinea pig and rabbit, both in vitro and in vivo, and contains substances having a strong estrogenic effect on castrated rats.
Miscellaneous Pharmacology Of Pleurisy Root
Tonic effects on the heart and circulation, as well as stimulation of the sweat glands, have been established.
Drug Interactions & Precautions
Since pleurisy root's diuretic action increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride, the herb may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuricemic effects of glucose-elevating agents.
Diuretics in general may potentiate the action of antihypertensive, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine and, to a lesser degree, norepinephrine.
In addition, the oxytocic-like action of pleurisy root may produce neonatal jaundice, which would interfere with serum bilirubin test results.
The antituberculous activity of pleurisy root may potentiate the adverse effects of other antituberculous drugs, especially ethionamide.
When taken in conjunction with corticotropin (ACTH) or corticosteroids, this diuretic herb is more prone to produce hypokalemia. The diuretic action of pleurisy root may also reduce renal clearance of lithium. In general, the use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs.
The presence of estrogen-like substances in pleurisy root may increase the production of procoagulant factors which, in turn, may inhibit the anticoagulant action of heparin or coumarin. The estrogenic constituents of this plant may also potentiate oral antidiabetics, folic acid antagonists, and some corticosteroids.
Conversely, the presence of estrogen can inhibit antihypercholesterolemics by inducing hyperlipemia. It can also inhibit the activity of most parenteral medications by reducing the rate of spreading. However, the estrogenic activity of pleurisy root may be inhibited by meprobamate and phenobarbital.
Due to the presence of estrogenic substance, oxytocin may augment the neural conductivity and contractility of uterine smooth muscle. The estrogen in this herb may also raise blood glucose levels enough to alter insulin requirements in diabetics.
Prolonged use of this diuretic herb may affect certain laboratory test results such as electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), uric acid, glucose, and protein bound iodine (PBI).
It should also be noted angina pectoris drugs, such as nadolol and propranolol HCl, may reduce AV conduction induced by this herb.
Safety Factors & Toxicity
Preparation & Administration
Three times a day
made from 1/2-1 tsp of dried root
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 1-4 ml
1:10 in 45% alcohol, 1-5 ml
Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.
Costello, G.H. & E.V. Lynn. Estrogenic substances from plants: I. Glycyrrhiza. Journ Of The Am Pharm. Association, 39, 177-180, 1950.
Costello, C.H. & C.L. Butler. Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Co., The estrogenic and uterine-stimulating activity of asclepias tuberosa. A preliminary investigation. J Of The Am Pharm Assoc,39, 233-237, 1950.
Fitzpatrick, F.K. Plant substances active against mycobacterium tuberculosis. Antibiotics And Chemotherapy, 4(5), 528-536, 1954.
Albert-Puleo, M. 1980. Fennel and anise as estrogenic agents. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2. pp. 337-344.
Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.
Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.
Chambers, G., R.J. Kerry & G. Owen. 1977. Lithium used with a diuretic. British Medical Journal, 2. pp. 805-806.
Chiles, V.K. 1968. Drug interactions and the pharmacist. Canadian Pharaceutical Journal, 101(7). pp. 241-247.
Clark, T.H., A.H. Conney & B.P. Harpole, et.al. 1967. Drug interactions that can affect your patients. Patient Care, 1(11). pp. 33-71.
Committee on Pharmocopaeia of the Am Institute of Homeopathy, The Homeopathic Pharmacopaeia of the United States. 8th ed., Vol 1. Otis Clapp and Son, Agents, Boston, l981.
Costello, C. & C. Butler. 1950. The estrogenic and uterine-stimulating activity of asclepias tuberosa. A preliminary investigation. J of the Am Pharm Assoc, 39. pp. 233-237.
De Martinis, M., et.al. Milk thistle (silybum marianum) derivatives in the therapy of chronic hepatopathies. Clin. Ter. 94(3). pp. 283-315. 1980.
Drug package insert (FDA approved official brochure) and other labeling based on sponsored clinical investigations and New Drug Application data.
Goldner, M., H. Zarowitz & S. Akgun. 1960. Hyperglycemia and glycosuria due to thiazide derivatives administered in diabetes mellitus. New England Journal of Medicine, 262(Feb 2). pp. 403-405.
Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. MacMillan, NY.
Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.
Hansten, P.D. 1968. Antidiabetic drug interactions. Hospital Form. Management, 4(2). pp. 30-32.
Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.
Hurtig, H.I. & W.L. Dyson. 1974. Lithium toxicity enhanced by diuresis. New England J of Med, 290(Mar 28). pp. 748-749.
Hyde, F.F. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. British Herbal Medicine Assoc: West Yorks, England, 1983
Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila(St. Louis).
List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Lutz, E.G. 1975. Lithium toxicity precipitated by diuretics. Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey, 72(5). pp. 439-440.
Martin, E.W. 1978. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.
Miller, R.D., et.al. 1976. Enhancement of d-tubocurarine neuromuscular blockage by diuretics in man. Anesth, 45. p.442.
Miller, L. & R. Lindeman. Red Blood Cell and Serum Selenium Concentration as Influenced by Age and Selected Diseases. Journal Of Am College Nutrition, 2. 1983.
Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.
Nelson, D.H., et.al. 1963. Potentiation of the biologic effect of administered cortisol by estrogen treatment. Journal of Clin Endocrinology and Metabolism, 23(3). pp. 261-265.
Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Med Assoc, Lane House, Cowling, Na Keighley, West Yorks, Bd Bd220lx, l983
Spangler, A.S., et.al. 1969. Enhancement of the antiinflammatory action of hydrocortisone by esrtogen. J of Clin Endoc, 29(5). p.650-655.
Stuart, D.M. 1968. Drug metabolism Part 2. Drug interactions. PharmIndex, 10(10). pp. 4-16.
Thorn, G.W. 1966. Clin considerations in the use of corticosteroids. New England J of Medicine, 274(Apr 7). pp. 775-781.
Tuttle, C. 1969. Drug interactions. Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. 22(5-6). pp. 2-15.
? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine
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