Boneset, also called agueweed, feverwort and sweating-plant, is a perennial whose flowers were traditionally used in Western herbalism to alleviate influenza, flu, bronchitis, congestion of the upper respiratory tract and fever. Boneset also soothes coughs, especially when the body produces an excess of mucus that someone ill is too weak to expectorate. It renders phlegm more fluid and boosts the immune system to help fight colds. In small doses it also speeds recovery, stimulates appetite and aids in digestion.
Photo by @krnel
The are several species, but the one in the photo goes by the scientific name Eupatorium perfoliatum. Other names for boneset include Agueweed, Bois Perfolié, Crosswort, Eupatoire, Eupatoire Perfoliée, Eupatorio, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Feverwort, Herbe à Fièvre, Herbe à Souder, Indian Sage, Sweating Plant, Teasel, Thoroughwort, Vegetable Antimony.
Eupatorium perfoliatum can reach up to 39 inches or 100 cm. Tiny white flowers are in dense clusters above the foliage. Butterflies like the flower nectar as a food source, particularly the White M hairstreak and the Bronze Copper butterfly.
- fever, flu and cold treatment
- native to North America
- long history of use
- helped save lives during Spanish flu
The plant gets its name from the superstition that wrapping the leaves in bandages around splints would help set broken bones, hence boneset. Another relation to bones for the name is the soothing effect on fever that seems to seep all the way down into the bones.
The plant was used in traditional medicine by Native Amerindians for breaking fevers to induce heavy sweating. Extracts are still used in herbal medicine to treat fever and colds.
In the 1918 flu epidemic, a boy who later became a doctor was treated with Boneset by his mother when he and his sister fell ill with the flu and high temperatures. Bitter tea made from Eupatorium perfoliatum leaves allowed them to recover, while hundreds of people in their hometown died.
Where is it found?
It's native to Eastern North America, from Nova Scotia down to Florida, and goes as far west as Texas and up to Manitoba. The main place to find it is in low wet areas.
What's it used for?
In addition to the aforementioned use:
"to alleviate influenza, flu, bronchitis, congestion of the upper respiratory tract and fever. Boneset also soothes coughs, especially when the body produces an excess of mucus that someone ill is too weak to expectorate. It renders phlegm more fluid and boosts the immune system to help fight colds. In small doses it also speeds recovery, stimulates appetite and aids in digestion."
Boneset also increases urine output, can cause vomiting and treat constipation. It's also used to treat fluid retention, nasal inflammation, joint pain (rheumatism), and pneumonia.
Boneset contains chemicals that might be anti-cancerous, and be mildly anti-bacterial. Some animal and in-vitro studies have shown anti-inflammatory effects and activity against the parasite that causes malaria.
Are there any risks?
The plant might be unsafe in large doses. Related plants have a chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can damage the liver, which Boneset has been also found to have. To be safe, women who are pregnant or breast feeding should avoid it for possibly being unsafe.
Those allergic to ragweed chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others in the Asteraceae/Compositae family might have a similar sensitivity and allergic reaction with Boneset.
Use of boneset should not be long-term.
- Eupatorium perfoliatum
- Potentially toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Eupatorium perfoliatum and three related species. Implications for herbal use as boneset.
Previous posts on Getting to Know Herbs:
Elecampane | Lungwort | Cramp Bark | Motherwort | Common Plantain | Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) | Black Cohosh | Common Bearberry | Mahonia Mountain Grape (Oregon Grape) | Blue Cohosh | Goldenseal
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