Asclepius tuberosa ~ Butterfly weed or Pleurisy root ~ This is one of my favorite blooms of the year! The vibrant, firey-orange catches the eye like nothing else! This herbal ally is rare, so we only harvest a *very* small amount from a large and thriving stand of plants. She is used for both ailments of the heart and lungs (as the name Pleurisy root implies).
Considering that the lungs take in oxygen which then oxygenates the blood, the bond between the heart and lungs is evident. And, with the Summer months upon us ~ which means increased heat in the body, more activity in our daily lives, and a bit more dilation of the arteries and blood vessels ~ our hearts work harder this time of year. Some of my favorite herbs for the heart would be hawthorn flowers or berries, rose petals and rosehips, wood betony, motherwort, bugleweed, and reishi.
Back to Asclepius tiberosa then… She is a milkweed, which means butterflies love her (as her common name indicates). And, actually all milkweeds are loved by butterflies (and larvae/caterpillars). There are many species. Milkweeds like forest edges, pathways and open fields, corridors that butterflies frequent. Protect them AND plant them whenever you can!
Finally, the genus name for milkweeds, Asclepius, refers to the Greek god of healing and medicine. Temples were erected in his name called Asclepions. The aspect that I am fascinated with is that many of not all of these temples were situated on or around hot springs. People could go there, not only for medical advice and medicine, but for a healing experience.
The Greeks associated much of someone’s ailments with matters of the spirit. One common practice at the Asclepion temples was “incubation.” Basically, a person would go to the temple, lie in a dark place with hot springs vapors rising, and sleep until they had an epiphanal dream. They would then take their dream to the priestess (and sometimes priest) of that temple to have them work through the dream. The person would then take actions accordingly in their lives to honor the dream and regain balance in their lives.
Dreams are actually a common diagnostic tool of ancient medics. In the Tibetan medical system, the tradition never faded. Dreams are one of three main diagnostic tools (the others being pulse and urine). They can tell from a dream if the body is out of balance and the proper steps to be taken to regain balance.
End note: For those of you interested in growing at-risk species of plants, please check out the United Plant Savers website.