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The Healer Asclepias and Milkweed

Asclepias (or Aesculapius in Latin) was the son of the god Apollo and the princess Coronis. Although Coronis was the mother of Apollo's son, she was in love with a moral. This didn't sit well with Apollo, and he had Coronis killed. Apollo put Coronis on a funeral pyre, but realized just in time that she was pregnant and was able to save the baby, Asclepius. At the time of his caesarean birth; Asclepias did not cry out; he observed everything there was to know about his birth. The Greek god Hermes took note of this unusual trait and bore him off to be raised by the wise centaur Chiron, who taught Asclepias many things, including herbology. He was so talented, he angered the Greek god of the Underworld, Hades, by snatching too many from entering his realm.

Coronis may have been cruelly named; a coronis is a symbol in Greek writing to mark the end of a major work. Or it could be derived from "corona," which means "crown." And Corona, as in Corona virus. Coronavirus affects the lungs. And the lungs are often tied in with grief and the mortal self.

Coronis is Asclepias's mother. When you think of a mother and child, you think of the bond that forms. Part of that bonding can be through nursing - the mother's milk. Asclepias did not get the opportunity to nurse. And yet, there is a whole genus of plants that dedicated to his name: Asclepias, the Milkweeds.

The beautiful Milkweed plant has five petals for its crown. The latex is what gives Milkweed its name. If you take a close look at the leaves of many Milkweeds, they are large. Many large-leaved plants are thought to be lung-like. The hairs on the stems suggest cilia, the fine hairs that are in the lungs. And the grouping of the unopened buds are like groups of alveoli.

Monarch butterflies feed and lay their eggs on this lovely plant. Who is a monarch but one who wears the crown? Butterflies are associated with joy, as much as joy is associated with the heart. The lungs and the heart are very connected. Where the heart is joy, the lungs are grief. They define each other. Monarchs create chrysalises, and Milkweeds create chrysalis-like pods. The flora and the fauna have a signature for each other. Perhaps the pods are like the pleura, surrounding and protecting the soft material inside.

Maybe when you think of Monarchs, you see them moving their wings, seemingly with each respiration. Or maybe you see the wings as a pair of lungs themselves. Butterflies are creatures of the air and of the breath.

The plant above is Asclepias tuberosa. It is also known as Butterfly Weed or Pleurisy Root. The Pleura is a lining that surrounds the lungs and the heart. The root of the plant was traditionally used for pleurisy, a condition of the lungs where the pleura is inflamed, and it rubs against the lung and makes it difficult to breathe. Even though the root is used, we see its signatures resonating through the entire plant. The latex isn't used in this manner, but it has a nice image: cool, soothing milk on a raw inflamed surface.

Herbalist Matthew Wood mentions that it can be used for other lung issues, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, where the top of the lungs are dry, by wet below. Herbalist Michael Moore explains that it can shift the balance between water in the kidneys and water in the lungs and skin, helping someone with that tends to have dry skin, poor respiration, and frequent urination. This underscores Matthew Woods comment about being dry above and wet below. This may also prove an extremely beneficial herb for treating Coronavirus.

The lungs also have a close relationship with the skin. They, along with the kidneys and colon are all channels of elimination. Matthew Wood mentions that is can be used for skin that is scaly. You can see the "scales" present in veining leaf pattern.

Pleurisy Root can also be used for chest tightness or stuffiness. This included the area of the heart, which shares with the lungs its bond of joy/grief and that of the pleura, bringing in that sense of lightness and freedom of a butterfly.

This plant holds within it the signature of breath - the spiritus. Due to his unusual birth, Asclepius almost had his spirit denied him. In the end, he was delivered and allowed that beautiful breath of life.


The Greek Gods: Evslin, Evslin, and Hoopes

Mythology: Edith Hamilton

Bulfinch's Mythology: Thomas Bulfinch

The Earthwise Herbal (New World): Matthew Wood

Phyllis Light


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This plant is stunningly beautiful. Would you harvest the roots in the fall?

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