Herb: Swamp Milkweed


Latin name: Asclepias incarnata


Family: Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)



Medicinal use of Swamp Milkweed:

A tea made from the roots is anthelmintic, carminative, diuretic, emetic, strongly laxative and stomachic. The tea is said to remove tapeworms from the body in one hour. It has also been used in the treatment of asthma, rheumatism, syphilis, worms and as a heart tonic. An infusion of the roots is used as a strengthening bath for children and adults.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
120 cm
(4 feet)

Flovering:
July to
August

Habitat of the herb:

Swamps, wet thickets and shores.

Edible parts of Swamp Milkweed:

Unopened flower buds - cooked. Tasting somewhat like peas. They can also be dried and stored for later use. Young shoots - cooked. An asparagus substitute. Tips of older shoots are cooked like spinach. Young seed pods, harvested when 3 - 4 cm long - cooked. A pea-like flavour, they are very appetizing. The flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup.

Other uses of the herb:

A good quality fibre is obtained from the bark. It is used in twine, cloth etc. It is easily harvested in late autumn, after the plants have died down, by simply pulling it off the dead stems. The seed floss is used to stuff pillows etc or is mixed with other fibres to make cloth. It is a Kapok substitute, it is used in Life Jackets or as a stuffing material. It is very water repellent. The floss has also been used to mop up oil spills at sea. Rubber can be made from latex contained in the leaves and stems. Pods contain an oil and a wax which are of potential importance.

Propagation of Swamp Milkweed:

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn or in late winter. We have also had good results from sowing the seed in the greenhouse in early spring, though stored seed might need 2 - 3 weeks cold stratification. Germination usually takes place in 1 - 3 months at 18C. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out when they are in active growth in late spring or early summer and give them some protection from slugs until they are growing away strongly. Division in spring. With great care since the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and place them in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly, then plant them out in the summer, giving them some protection from slugs until they are established. Basal cuttings in late spring. Use shoots about 10cm long with as much of their white underground stem as possible. Pot them up individually and place them in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse until they are rooting and growing actively. If the plants grow sufficiently, they can be put into their permanent positions in the summer, otherwise keep them in the greenhouse until the following spring and when they are in active growth plant them out into their permanent positions. Give them some protection from slugs until they are established.

Cultivation of the herb:

Swamps, wet thickets and shores.

Known hazards of Asclepias incarnata:

Although no specific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids and cardiac glycosides. They are usually avoided by grazing animals. The leaves and the stems might be poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.