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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Medicinal properties of milkweed

Milkweed is a great plant for the garden and provides habitat for many creatures. In addition to being a host plant to the monarch butterfly, milkweed offers many other benefits:

 Milkweed flowers produce nectar that all butterfly species benefit from. Honey bees take nectar from milkweed flowers. With the decline of honey bee populations in the US, planting milkweed in your garden can help to provide feeding stations as they fly between crop fields and orchards.

Hummingbirds often use the floss from milkweed seed pods to line their nests.

Though weeds are considered unwanted plants, many species of weeds are being used as herbs from decades. Milkweed or Calotropis gigantea is a one of those useful weeds which is used as a medicinal plant. It is used in herbal medicine for a variety of ailments such as fevers, rheumatism, indigestion, cough, cold, eczema, asthma, elephantiasis, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.



 Calotropis gigantea is known as milkweeds because of the sap they produce. It is also called swallow wort. The plant is known as aak in Ayurveda

Milkweed is the primary food source of the incredibly beautiful Monarch butterfly. This large shrub looks like a small tree, sports clusters of waxy flowers that are either white or lavender in colour. Each flower consists of five pointed petals and a small, elegant “crown” rising from the centre, which holds the stamens.

The plant has oval, light green leaves and milky stem. The flowers last long, and in Thailand they are used in various floral arrangements. They were also supposed to be popular with the Hawaii queen Liliuokalani, who considered them as symbol of royalty and wore them strung into leis.
In India, the plant is common in the compounds of temples.
Medicinal properties of milkweed (according to Ayurveda):

Dried whole plant is a good tonic, expectorant, depurative, and anthelmintic (anthelmintics or antihelminthics are drugs that expel parasitic worms)
The dried root bark is a substitute for ipecacuanha. The root bark is febrifuge, anthelmintic, depurative, expectorant, and laxative.
The powdered root used in asthma, bronchitis, and dyspepsia. The leaves are useful in the treatment of paralysis, arthralegia, swellings, and intermittent fevers.
The flowers are bitter, digestive, astringent, stomachic, anthelmintic, and tonic.
In inhalation therapy, smoke from the bark is inhaled for coughs, asthma, and to cause sweating. Calotropis contains chemicals that might help thin mucous and make it easier to cough up.
In large doses it acts as a purgative and an emetic.
Caution: Calotropis is not safe in high doses. It contains chemicals that can interfere with heart function, particularly at high doses. It can cause serious side effects including vomiting, diarrhea, slow heartbeat, convulsions, and death.

The use of Calotropis during pregnancy and breast-feeding is not recommended.

Health benefits of milkweed:
Milkweed helps in getting relief and cure from:
  • Cutaneous diseases
  • Pain relief from toothache, cramps, and joint pain
  • Digestive disorders including diarrhea, constipation and stomach ulcers
  • Parasitic infections including elephantiasis and worms
  • Cough
  • Ascites
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Dyspepsia
  • Paralysis
  • Swellings
  • Intermittent fevers
  • Anorexia
  • Inflammations and
  • Tumors.
Extracts from the flowers of Calotropis procera have shown strong cytotoxic activity in the patients of colorectal cancer.

Reference:

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