Asclepias tuberosa. Pleurisy Root.
Nat. Ord. — Asclepiadaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Digynia,
Description. — This plant has several names by which it is known in various parts of the country, as Butterfly-weed, Windroot, Tuber-root, Asclepias, etc. ; but it is most commonly described as Pleurisy -root. It has a perennial, large, fleshy, branching, white, and sometimes fusiform-like root, from which numerous stems arise, growing from one to three feet high ; these are erect, or more or less procumbent, round, hairy, green or red, and growing in bunches from the root. The leaves are alternate, the lower ones pedunculated, the upper sessile, vary from linear to oblong-lanceolate, hairy, dark-green above, paler beneath, waved on the edge, and in the old plants sometimes revolute. The flowers are numerous, erect, of a beautifully .bright-orange color, and are disposed in terminal, rarely lateral, corymbose umbels, with an involucre of numerous, linear, subulate bracts. The calyx is much smaller than the corolla, five-parted ; the segments subulate, reflexed, and concealed by the corolla. Corolla rotate, five-parted, the segments oblong and reflexed. The stamineal crown has five erect, cucullate leaves or cups, with an oblique mouth, having a small, incurved, acute appendage or horn, proceeding from the base of each, and meeting at the center of the flower. The mass of stamens is a tough, horny, somewhat pyramidal substance, separable into five anthers; each two-celled, bordered by membranous, reflected edges contiguous to those of the next, and terminated by a membranous, reflected summit. Pollen masses ten, distinct, yellowish, transparent, flat and spathulate, ending in curved Stalks, which unite them by pairs to a minute dark tubercle at top ; each pair is suspended in the cells of two adjoining anthers, so that it' a needle be inserted between the membranous edges of two anthers and forced out at top, it carries with it a pair of the pollen masses. Carpels two, completely concealed beneath the stigma and anthers, ovate, with erect styles, terminated by a flat, pentagonal disk-like stigma. Follicles two, often one or both abortive, long, narrow, acuminated, green, with a reddish tinge and downy. Seeds ovate, flat, margined, and terminated by long silken hairs.
History. — This is an indigenous plant, growing in gravelly and sandy soils, but most abundant in the south, and flowering in July and August. Unlike the other species of Asclepias, this plant does not emit a milky juice when wounded. The root is the officinal part, which when fresh has a subacrid, nauseous taste, but when dried it is easily pulverized, and has a bitterish but not disagreeable taste. Boiling water or alcohol extracts its virtues.
Properties and Uses. — Diaphoretic and expectorant, without stimulating ; likewise said to be carminative, diuretic, tonic, and antispasmodic. Principally used in decoction or infusion in pleurisy, pneumonia, catarrh, febrile diseases, acute rheumatism, and dysentery; in which it is administered warm to promote diaphoresis, without increasing the temperature of the body. In flatulency and indigestion, it is efficient, and when combined with the Dioscorea Villosa, it is very beneficial in all cases of flatus in adults and children. A number of cases of prolapsus uteri have been cured under the use of one ounce of pleurisy-root mixed with half an ounce of the root of Aletris Farinosa, and given in drachm doses, three times a day. In uterine difficulties this plant deserves further investigation. It is, undoubtedly, one of our most useful agents. Dose of the powder, one scruple to one drachm, three or four times a day ; of the decoction or infusion, a teacupful, every hour or two, until diaphoresis is produced.
Two concentrated preparations are obtained from this article, termed Asdepidin and Ascletine. The former was first manufactured by Mr. W. S. Merrell, the latter by some chemists in N. York ; of the particular method of preparing the latter, we have been unable to get any account. The asdepidin is a dark, semi-liquid mass, and is prepared by evaporation or distillation of the saturated tincture in water, similar to the plan pursued for obtaining cimicifugin. It may be used for all purposes to which the crude article is applied in doses of from one to five grains, three or four times a day, or as may be indicated.
A pill composed of equal parts of asdepidin and dioscorein, will be found very beneficial in flatulency, borborygmi, and where persons are subject to flatulent and bilious colic. In some cases, especially of long standing, the addition of pulverized African ginger will much improve its efficacy.
Asdetine is said to be the active principle of the plant ; it is a beautiful, white powder, with but little taste or odor, soluble in water, but insoluble in alcohol. It is recommended in the same diseases in which the root is employed, to fulfill similar indications, in doses of from one to three grains, three or four times a day.
Off. Prep. — Extractum Asclepidis Hydro-alcoholicum ; Infusum Asclepidis ; Pulvis Asclepiae Compositus ; Pulvis Ipecacuanhae Compositus ; Tinctura Lobeliae Composita ; Asclepidin.