The Magi's Garden : Asclepias
Folk Names: Bastard Ipecacuanha, Blood-weed or Redhead (A curas-savica), Butterflyweed or Pleirisy Root (A tuberosa), Ippecacuanha (A curassavica), Emetic Root, Milk Ipecac, Milkweed, Snake Milk or Silkweed (A syriaca), Soma (A acida), Swamp Milkweed (A incarnata), Tame Poison (A vincetoxicum)
Description: The asclepias is an herbaceous perennial with milky juice with several species cultivated for their flowers. Many species are native to North America and may be found in dry fields and woods from June to September. The stem may grow from two to four feet high, and the branching root is large and yellowish. The leaves are scattered and sessile, oblong and smooth in some plants and very hairy in others, ranging at about one to two inches in length. The flowers may be white or purplish white producing a three-celled capsule fruit.
Soma juice is named for the god Soma, the Vedic equivalent of Bacchus and the second-most important god of the earth. He is said to give life, and even immortality, to gods and some men. Soma juice is an intoxicating liquid squeezed from A. acida. It is said Indra created the universe under its influence, and all 114 hymns of the 9th book of the Rig Veda are in praise of the god Soma. In post Vedic literature, Soma is the name for the moon. It wanes as the gods drink, till the sun fills it up again. Soma is considered the king of plants in the Rig Veda and the Zend Avesta, and a medicine which gives long life, health, and removes death.
Known Combinations: none noted
Medical Indications: Parts Used:
The three species of Asclepias most used in medicine are Calotropis, A. tuberosa, and A. incarnata. Ipecacuanha is used in the West Indies as an emetic, and Butterfly weed has mild purgative properties. Butterfly weed is an expectorant and promotes perspiration.
The young shoots of A syriaca are boiled in Canada and by Native Americans and is said to taste like asparagus. The sap was rolled between the fingers until it resembled chewing gum. Very young leaves were harvested and boiled in two changes of water for use as greens. It is important to get the correct species for these uses however and so eating A syriaca should be left to the experts.
A syriaca is a native of Canada and the US often found in gardens. The scent of the flowers is very sweet. The natural silky hairs, which grow on the seeds of this type of Asclepias, have been used in making hats and stuffing pillows and beds. Native Americans used the fibers for rope and fishing nets. Attempts have been made to use it as a cotton substitute, and it is a textile herb in France and Russia where the fibers are prepared in the same manner as flax or hemp and produce a fine, glossy white thread.