The Common Milkweed plant is not so “common” after all. Aptly named, this milkweed species goes unnoticed, growing along roadsides and in fields when it is not in bloom. However, beneath its dull exterior, the milkweed is full of uncommon attributes.
The Common Milkweed has poisonous powers. Inside the plant, a sticky white sap with a bitter taste warns away the insects and animals that try to eat its leaves. The monarch butterfly is immune to the toxin and feeds on it exclusively, making these insects distasteful to predators.
Milkweed has been used throughout history as a natural remedy. Infusions of the roots and leaves were taken to suppress coughs and treat typhus fever and asthma. The milky white sap was also applied topically to remove warts, and the roots were chewed to cure dysentery. Today, the oil from the milkweed plant is used as an anti-inflammatory agent in Milkweed Balm.
The milkweed plant has been used for other functions, too. The stem’s fibers have been twisted into twine and rope and woven into coarse fabric. The fluffy white floss, attached to the seeds, has been used to stuff pillows, mattresses and even life jackets during WWII.
Over the years, milkweed has been investigated for its use in papermaking and textiles and as a possible substitute for fossil fuels and rubber. Most recently, a chemical from the seed was being tested as a pesticide. It may come as a surprise to many that this “common” plant has many amazing uses.