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Pleurisy root comes from the orange pleurisy plant native to North America. It’s also known as butterfly milkweed. Despite some major safety concerns, the root of the pleurisy plant has been used medicinally for many years, beginning with Native Americans. It’s thought to be helpful for:

  • loosening congestion
  • helping with respiratory problems
  • reducing lymph swelling
  • treating diarrhea
  • promoting sweating
  • reducing menstrual cramps

The root of the plant is an herbal medicine that is said to have the most benefit for people. You can find the root ground down and in capsule form, or sometimes in a tea or tincture.

Pleurisy root — not to be confused with pleurisy, a medical condition that produces a sharp, stabbing pain when you breathe — has many purported benefits, but it’s also known for its long list of potentially harmful side effects. We’ll cover both the benefits and the side effects of pleurisy root.

There are many purported benefits of taking pleurisy root, and it has been used by herbalists for hundreds of years, though there is very little scientific evidence to back up these claims.

May decongest the lungs and treat coughs

Pleurisy root can aid in minor pulmonary edema, which means it helps drain excess fluid in the lungs. This can make it easier to breathe for someone who is experiencing a cough or congestion. The root is also thought to be a diaphoretic, meaning it can loosen phlegm and other secretions.

May promote sweating

Pleurisy root is said to stimulate the vagus nerve, which may promote perspiration, expectoration, and bronchial dilation. Sweating is a good way to rid the body of toxins, and the root may be helpful for those who can’t sweat through exercise.

May relieve menstrual cramps

The herb is said to have antispasmodic properties, which means it may make menstrual cramps less intense. Pleurisy root is thought to have emmenagogue properties, which means it may trigger blood flow to the pelvis and help jump-start a late period.

There are many side effects to be aware of when taking pleurisy root, and you may find that there is a safer herbal remedy for your specific need. Below are the known side effects of pleurisy root.

It’s unsafe for pregnant women

Pleurisy root is not safe for pregnant women, as it can cause uterine contractions even when taken in low doses, which could cause premature labor. It can also be unsafe to use while breastfeeding.

Might interact with heart medications

Pleurisy root contains cardiac glycosides that increase cardiac contraction. This may interfere with heart medicine, rendering it less effective.

Might interact with estrogen

Pleurisy root may have similar effects on the body as estrogen does, though conversely, it may interact and make estrogen less potent if you’re taking estrogen pills.

Might interact with diuretics

Diuretics can decrease the amount of potassium in the body. When potassium is low, the adverse side effects of pleurisy root may be more pronounced.

Skin rash

Pleurisy root may cause a rash on the skin, though it’s not totally understood why this happens.

Nausea and vomiting

Pleurisy root can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, especially if more than the recommended dosage (1 teaspoon of the ground root) is taken at a time.

If a doctor decides the plant is right for you, there are several ways to use pleurisy root.

Pleurisy root tea

Pleurisy root is often taken as an herbal tea. If you purchase the root (dried and chopped), it’s usually steeped in hot water. Follow the directions from the herbologist or manufacturer and be careful not to take too much.

Pleurisy root tincture

You can buy premade pleurisy root tinctures — which typically consist of the root mixed with alcohol and other ingredients — online or in many herbal medicine shops. Avoid making your own tincture, as the dosage may be too high.

Pleurisy root capsules

Pleurisy has a bitter taste that some find hard to sip, and pleurisy root capsules are a way to bypass the taste.

You can buy pleurisy root online or through a reputable naturopath or herbalist. Follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions.

Shop for pleurisy root products online.

If you’ve taken pleurisy root and are experiencing nausea and vomiting that doesn’t improve within a few hours, a skin rash, breathing problems, or a racing heart, call a doctor right away.

The pleurisy root comes from the orange pleurisy plant, also known as butterfly milkweed because butterflies flock to it. While there are very few, if any, medical studies on the benefits of pleurisy root, it’s been used by herbalists for many years.

The root is said to help treat coughs and loosen secretions in the lungs. It’s also been used to treat menstrual cramps and promote sweating.

There are side effects, including rash, nausea, and diarrhea. Additionally, it’s not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women to take.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor the quality of herbal medicines. More research needs to be done on pleurisy root to understand its effects on a specific condition. Speak to a doctor before taking any herbs. They may suggest a better choice for your condition.