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Common Name: Butterfly Weed | Scientific Name: Asclepias Tuberosi

Family Name: Asclepediaceae


Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Properties and Uses -Anodyne, emmenagogue, diuretic and alterative. Useful in amenorrhea, dropsy, retention of urine, dyspepsia, asthma, cough, dyspnoea, also, in scrofulous and rheumatic disorders. Both the root and inspissated milky juice possess anodyne properties. Dose of the powder, ten to twenty grains; of the decoction, two to four ounces; of the tincture, ten to sixty minims.

1874: Scudder
Preparation – Whilst I prefer a tincture made as above, I have used the alcoholic fluid extract of the dried root, made to represent ounce for ounce; the dose being from one drop for a child two yeard old, to ten drops for an adult.

It is expecially a child’s remedy, being feeble in action, thought quite certain. When given freely, it is one of the most certain diaphotetics we have, providing the pulse is not frequent, and the temperature increased. Even in the small doese of one drop, following the use of the special sedatives, it will markedly increase true secretion from the skin.
Recollect that there is a difference between sweating and secretion. There may be a profuse exudation of water, the surface being bathed in perspiration, and yet but little secretion. Excretion by the skin is a vital process, and takes place by means of secreting cells. It goes on best where the skin is soft and moist, and not when covered with drops of sweat.

I employ Asclepias in diseases of children, believing that it allays nervous irritability, is slightly sedative, and certainly increases secretion from the skin. I use it with Veratrum and Aconite, in febrile and inflammatory diseases, and in mild cases, very frequently give it alone. Bear in mind that it is a feeble remedy and too much must not be expected.

1895: Watkins
Pulse strong, skin moist, cough, pleuritic pain, aggravated by motion, pyrexia. Ten drops to four ounces of water; teaspoonful every two hours.

1898: Webster: (the muscles)
This agent has been highly extolled in some quarters for the treatment of rheumatism. Some have asserted that it rivals cimicifuga. I know nothing about the remedy from experience with it in such cases, but would suggest a trial of it in obstinate muscular pain.

Form for administration: A saturated tincture of the fresh plant.

Dose: From the fraction of a drop to twenty drops.

1909: Felter and Lloyd
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Asclepias, or pleurisy root, was one of the most common of the indigenous medicines employed by the Eclectic fathers. it was favorably written upon by most of the earlier writers on American medicinal plants. The drug has fallen into unmerited neglect, and could profitably be employed att he present day for purposes for which much more powerful, and sometimes dangerous, drugs are used. It has an extensive range of usefulness, being possessed of diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, tonic, carminative, expectorant, and probably antispasmodic properties. Asclepias and coralorrhiza, are, par excellence, the diaphoretics of the Eclectic materia medica. Like crawley, it is not stimulating, and may be used to promote diaphoresis, no matter how high the degree of fever. It differs from most diaphoretics in producing a true secretion from the skin that more nearly resembles the normal function of insensible perspiration than any other agent of its class. It increases largely the elinination of solid material to the exclusion of copious perspiration. Crawley increases both the solid and liquid transpiration. Asclepias may be indicated even though the patient be freely perspiring. While the liquid flow is copious it may be deficient in power to cary off the solid detritis, an act which the asclepias will perform, provided the indications for its use are present. While it is serviceable even where the temperature is high, it does its best work where the temperature is but moderately exalted, and when the skin is slightly moist, or inclined to moisture, and where the pulse is vibratile and not too rapid. If the pulse be rapid, weak, and small aconite will assist it; if rapidly bounding and strong, veratrum should be administered at the same time. Pleurisy root has a deservedly good reputation in respitatory diseases. It acts upon the mucous membrane of the pulmonary tract, augmenting the secretions and favouring easy expectoration. Besides its action on the respiratory mucous surfaces its action upon the skin is a true diaphoretic, establishing the insensible perspiration when the skin is dry and harsh, and correcting that weakness of the skin which allows the sweat to pour out too freely, renders it of value of the colliquative sweating of phthisis. As its popular name indicates, pleurisy root is of much value in treatin pleuritis. Here it will greatly assist the action of bryonia and aconite, the latter being administered in the early stage, and bryonia and asclepias in alternation later. Not only is its action on serous membranes marked, as in the preceding disorder and in pleurodynia, but it is very effectual in intercostal neuralgia and rheumatism, as well as in pericardial pains. The chief action of asclepias is to lessen arterial tension, and acute diseases are those in which it is of most value. With the indicated sedative it is one of the best known agents in the early stage of pneumonia an dpleuro-pneumonia, provided always the indications alluded to are present. Some cases will yield to asclepias alone, but this is not generally the case, as the drug plays more the role of an assistant than a leading remedy. It is a safe drug, for while it may not act as efficiently when not indicated, it may be said to never be contraindicated, so far as expecting any harm from its use is concerned. Hyperemic states of the breathing organs seem to call for asclepias. In pneumonia, as well as in bronchitis, it is best adapted to the acute stage, where the lesion seems to be extensive, taking in a large area of lung parenchyma and mucous tissues. Webster believes it best adapted to control vascular disturbances in the area supplied by the bronchial arteris, and suggests that by reserving it for this place we shall lessen its liability to confusion with other appropriate remedies. It undoubtedly acts upon the general circulatory apparatus, lowering arterial tension. In the convalescing stage of pneumonia, and other respiratory lesions, when suppression of the expectoration and dyspnoea threaten, small doses at frequent intervals will correct the trouble. In dry asthma with fever, but lacking the spasmodic element, 5-drop doses of specific asclepias will do good service. As a remedy for dry and constricted cough it may be given in small amounts, preceded a half hour by specific lobelia in doses of 1 to 2 drops. In catarrhal troubles specific asclepias, well diluted, is useful as a local remedy when used early in the disease. It as well as euphrasia an dmatricaria (chamomilla), is among our best drugs for snuffles, or acute nasal catarrh of infants. In phthisis it is valuable to alleviate the distressing cough and to allay irritability of the mucous surfaces, and is not without good effects on the circulation and the stomach, through its subtonic action. It is an excellent remedy for ordinary colds, It is, in fact, one of our best drugs for catarrhal conditions, whether of the pulmonary or gastro-intestinal tract, especially when produced by recent colds.
Stomach troubles, particularly those of children, are often markedly benefited by small doses of specific asclepias. A weakened stomach, accompanied with nervous impairment, or with catarrhal complications, rendering digestion difficult and painful, is often toned to do its work pleasantly under the use of small doses of asclepias. Diarrhoea and dysentery, when of catarrhal character and due to cold, are benefited by alternating with other indicated remedies, from 10 to 15 drops of specific asclepias, or the infusion may be freely employed. As a remedy for gastric disorders it is well adapted to children and weak individuals. Headache from disordered digestion has been cured with it, and for flatulent colic in young children: R Specific asclepias, gtt. x to xv; aqua, fl3iv. Mix. Teaspoonful every 5 minutes. Dioscorea may also be administered with it in cases of flatus in adults and children. A pill composed of equal parts of alcoholic extracts of asclepias, aletris, and dioscorea 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. Asclepias is a remedy for nervous irritability of children, especially when due to gastric disturbances. The dry forms of cutaneous affections are benefited by it, especially where it is necessary to establish the true dermal secretions. It is likewise beneficial in this sense in those cases of neuralgia and acute rheumatism, accompanied with profuse sweating. It alters the character of the perspiration. In the exanthematous fevers it favors the eruptive process, and in painful inflammations gives some relief by its diaphoretic action. Asclepias has been used in dropsy, but we have better agents for that affection. It is not an active agent, yet on the whole, though apparently a feeble remedy, when indicated, it accomplishes a purpose which no other remedy in the materia medica fulfils. Dose of the powder, 20 grains to 1 drachm, 3 or 4 times a day; of a strong infusion (the best preparation), from 2 to 4 fluid ounces, 4 or 5 times a day, until perspiration is produced; specific asclepias, 1 to 60 drops; fluid extract 1 to 60 drops.

Asclepidin, or oleo-resin of asclepias, 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 resin of cimicifuga. It was formerly used for all purposes to which the crude article is applied, in doses of from 1 to 5 grains, 3 or 4 times a day, or as indicated.

Specific Indications and Uses - The specific indications for asclepias, according to Dr. J. M. Scudder are: “Pulse strong, vibratile; skin moist, pain acute, and seemingly dependent on motion.” The skin may be hot and dry or inclined to moisture; the urine is scanty; the face flushed; vascular excitement is marked in the parts supplied by the bronchial arterioles; inflammation or serous tissues; gastro-intestinal, catarrhal troubles due to recent colds.

1919: Ellingwood
Synonym – Pleurisy Root.
Constituents – Gluocoside, tannic and gallic acids, resin, fixed oil, volatile oil, fat, gum, starch.
Preparations – Extractum Asclepiadis Fluidum, Fluid Extract of Asclepias. Dose, from one to five grains. Specific Asclepias. Dose, from one to sixty minims.
Action – Diaphoretic, expectorant, cathartic, tonic.

Physiological Action – In regard to the influence of asclepias, Grover Coe, M. D., writing in 1858, gives the following wide range of action. He says: “No other remedy with which we are acquainted is so universally admissable in the treatment of disease, either alone or in combination. In fact we think of no pathological condition that would be aggravated by its employment. It expels wind, relieves pain, relaxes spasm, induces and promotes perspiration, equalizes the circulation, harmonizes the action of the nervous system, and accomplishes its work without excitement; neither increasing the forse or frequency of the pulse, nor raising the temperature of the body. It is of special service in the treatment of affections involving the serous membranes, as pleuritis, peritonitis, etc.” In this it resembles bryonia closely.

The most active apparent influence of this agent is upon the sudoriparous glands. it is distinctively an eliminative agent of general utility. it is mild in its influence, but if given with confidence it will produce good results.

Specific Symptomatology – Its first direct effect is upon the serous membranes within the thorax. it is specific in pleuritic pains, both of the acute and subacute variety, in doses of fifteen drops every two or three hours. For these I have long prescribed this agent with positiveness, and have yet to be disappointed. If effusion be present, its rapid removal is facilitated. The pain and distress abate, the cough disappears, the respiration becomes free and natural, the inspiration being especially pleasant; the heart takes on increased tone, and the entire contents of the thoracic cavity seemed benefited. I have treated with this remedy the “stitch in the side,” which had been present for many months after pleurisy, and have removed it satisfactorily.
This agent will cure pains in the chest unaccompanied by prominent symptoms, acute, sharp and cutting, recurrent or persistent in their character, if given in doses of half a dram every two or three hours and persisted in for a few days.

Therapy – It is beneficial in acute pleuritis specifically, also in bronchitis, pneumonitis and peritonitis. It has distinct expectorant properties. In tight and painful coughs with difficult respiration, especially where there is a general suspension of secretion, with dry skin and mucous membranes, and in soreness of the chest from coughing, with dry skin and mucous membranes, and in soreness of the chest from coughing, it is a most excellent remedy. In all these conditions if there is the least elevation of temperature its influence will be greatly enhanced if given in conjunction with aconite.

It was in great repute among the older Eclectiv physicians in the treatment of acute pleuritis, as suggested above. They also used it in acute inflammations of serous membranes, especially if there were acute, quick pains, and a tendency to serous effusion. Its eliminative action upon the skin greatly enhances its influence in these cases.
If the powdered asclepias be combined with ipecac and camphor, a powder is produced with diaphoretic properties of an Improved Dover’s Powder.
To obtain active diaphoresis, asclepias should be given in strong, hot infusion. Its influence in acute rheumatism should not be overlooked. It may be combined with such agents as macrotys and colchicum, and will markedly intensify their action, especially if aconite be indicated.

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