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Butterfly weed

Herbal Butterfly Weed Nourishes Monarchs and Humans

Wednesday, October 06, 2010 by: M.Thornley
Tags: butterfly weed, monarchs, health news

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(NewsTarget) Butterfly weed waves its brilliant orange crowns on country and urban sites June to September. It sends up stalks one to three feet high. This unassuming plant has an impressive list of credentials, and a unique link to the Monarch butterfly.

Fluttering over the butterfly weed is likely to be a Monarch butterfly which uses the plant as a major food source in its larval stage. Butterfly weed is also a favored nectar source for black swallowtails and tiger swallowtails. This makes butterfly weed a natural choice for butterfly gardens.
Both edible and medicinal, it was once a valuable alternative medicine and one of the most important plants of all American species, used for food, medicine, and clothing by Native Americans.

Variously known as Butterfly Milkweed, Orange Milkweed, Chiggerflower, Pleurisy Root, Tuberous Swallowwort, Orange Swallow-wort, and Yanagi-Towata, it is a perennial native to North America from southern Ontario and New York to Minnesota, Florida and Colorado. Its scientific name is Asclepias tuberosa. Asclepias is derived from the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios. Tuberosa refers to its knobby root system.

In midsummer the sprightly deep orange blooms can be seen dancing in the breeze along roadways and back lots in its preferred dry soil and full sun. The stems branch into corymbs or umbels each with its flower to form the familiar clusters of undaunted orange. These can be eaten and reportedly taste like sweet peas. The leaves and buds can be cooked and eaten like spinach.

The bark can be made into a good quality fiber suitable for making twine or weaving into cloth. In fall the plants are cut and split to obtain the long fibers. These are twisted together to form clothing or rope. It can also be combined with hemp fiber.

The seed floss can be used for stuffing pillows and life jackets. Relative to our time, this floss is effective for cleaning up oil spills.

Native Americans used the root of the butterfly weed as a body wash for strength in lifting and running. It was used as a chant lotion and a ceremonial emetic. The roots were highly valued, and the harvesting of this plant and its distribution were conducted ceremonially.

The list of beneficial medicinal uses of butterfly weed is long, but it can be toxic if not properly prepared. Native Americans used butterfly weed to treat snow blindness, diarrhea, dysentery, chronic rheumatism, swelling, sore throat, colic and snakebite. A tea made from the roots has been used for lung problems. The root is antispasmodic, carminative, mildly cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, tonic and vasodilator.

Recipe for infusion: to a cup of boiling water, add one teaspoon of powdered or mashed root. Steep 10 to 20 minutes and enjoy warm at bedtime. For lung congestion, take this recipe in 1/2 cup doses 4 to 6 times a day.


About the author

M. Thornley enjoys walking, writing and pursuing a raw vegan diet and lifestyle.

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