Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Botanical Name:Eupatorium perfoliatum
Family:    Asteraceae
Genus:    Eupatorium
Species:    E. perfoliatum
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order:    Asterales
Other Names: Feverwort, Agueweed, Thoroughwort, Sweating plant,
Indian sage.

Related Terms:
Agueweed, Asteraceae (family), astragalin, common boneset, Compositae (family), crosswort, dendroidinic acid, eucannabinolide, eufoliatin, eufoliatorin, eupafolin, eupatorin, Eupatorium connatum Michx., Eupatorium perfoliatum, Eupatorium perfoliatum D2, euperfolide, euperfolitin, feverwort, flavonoids, gravelroot, hebenolide, helenalin, hyperoside, Indian sage, kaempferol, quercitin, rutin, sesquiterpene lactones, snakeroot, sterols, sweat plant, sweating plant, tearal, teasel, thoroughwax, thoroughwort, thorough-stem, vegetable antimony, wild Isaac, wild sage, wood boneset.

Notes: Avoid confusion with gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum), which is also known as boneset. Snakeroot is a common name used for poisonous Eupatorium species, but boneset should not be confused with Ageratina spp., which are more commonly known as snakeroot.

Range & Habitat: Moist ground; thickets. Nova Scotia to Florida; Louisiana; Texas to North Dakota. Common Boneset has been reported from most counties of Illinois, and is fairly common (see Distribution Map). However, it appears to be somewhat less common than either Eupatorium serotinum (Late Boneset) and Eupatorium altissimum (Tall Boneset). Habitats include openings in floodplain forests, poorly drained areas of black soil prairies, and various kinds of wetlands, including marshes, bogs, fens, seeps, edges of rivers, and sand flats along Lake Michigan. This plant also occurs in or near roadside ditches. Generally, it doesn’t stray far from wetland areas of one kind or another.
Boneset is a perennial plant found in swampy areas and along stream-banks in eastern North America. The rough, hairy stem grows to a height of 1 to 5 feet from a horizontal, crooked rootstock. The leaves are rough, serrate, and taper to a long point. Terminal corymbs of numerous, white flowers appear July through October. The fruit is a tufted achene. The plant has only a weak odor but a very bitter taste.

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It is tall and unbranched. Except for some flowering side stems near the apex. The central stem and side stems are covered with long white hairs. The opposite leaves are up to 8″ long and 2″ across, and light or yellowish green. Their bases surround the central stem and merge together (perfoliate). In shape, they are lanceolate with long narrow tips and serrate margins. There is a conspicuous network of veins, particularly on the lower leaf surface. This lower surface is also pubescent. Some of the upper leaves near the inflorescence(s) are much smaller in size and sessile. The upper stems terminate in clusters of white flowerheads, spanning about 2-8″ across. Each flowerhead is about 1/6″ across and consists of about 15 disk florets. Each disk floret has 5 spreading lobes and a long divided style, in the manner of other Eupatorium spp. The blooming period is late summer to early fall, which typically lasts about 1-2 months for a colony of plants. There is a pleasant floral scent. The florets are replaced by achenes with small tufts of hair  they are dispersed by the wind. The root system is fibrous and produces rhizomes in abundance. Common Boneset typically forms vegetative colonies.
Common Boneset has interesting foliage and fragrant flowers. It tolerates flooded conditions better than many other Boneset species. It can be distinghished from these other species by the perfoliate leaves that surround the central stem. The other species have opposite leaves that are sessile or have distinct petioles. All of these species have spreading clusters of white flowers with a similar appearance    It is in flower in  July – October.   These flowers are quite popular with diverse kinds of insects.

History: The American Indians introduced boneset to early colonists as a sweat-inducer, an old treatment for fevers. The Indians used boneset for all fever-producing illnesses:
such as influenza, cholera, dengue (pronounced DENG-ee), malaria, and typhoid. The Indians also used boneset to relieve arthritis and treat colds, indigestion, constipation, and loss of appetite.
Boneset was listed as a treatment for fever in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 through 1916, and in the National Formulary, the pharmacists’ manual, from 1926 through 1950. But over time it fell from favor, replaced by another herbal fever-fighter, aspirin.
Contemporary herbalists continue to recommend boneset enthusiastically for fever.

The preference is full or partial sun, and wet to moist conditions. The soil should contain considerable organic material so that it can retain moisture. This plant can withstand flooded conditions for short periods of time, but it is not really aquatic. The foliage appears to be little bothered by pests and disease.

Constituents: Quercetin, Kaempferol, Rutin, Eupatorin, Sesquiterpene, Volatile oil, Resin.

Medicinal Properties   & uses:
Properties: Stimulant, Tonic, Diaphoretic, Emetic, Aperient, Antispasmodic, Cathartic, and Febrifuge.

Parts used: tops and leaves. European studies show this herb helps treat minor viral and bacterial infections by stimulating white blood cells to destroy disease-causing microorganisms more effectively. In Germany, physicians currently use boneset to treat viral infections, such as colds and flu. One study shows boneset is mildly anti-inflammatory, lending some support to its traditional use in treating arthritis.
Taken in small doses it often gives relief very quickly. It reduces fever and clears up mucous build-up in the lungs. It gently empties any toxins which may be stored in the colon. It relaxes the joints and eases the terrible pain which often accompanies the flu. Some people have found it to be very useful for their rheumatism. Boneset is dual in action, depending on how it is administered, when cold a tonic, when warm emetic diaphoretic. It is extremely bitter to the taste and is disliked by children, but in these cases a thick syrup of boneset, ginger and anise is used by some for coughs of children, with good results.

The flavonoids and the sesquiterpene lactones in the essential oil appear to work together in an as yet undetermined fashion to produce the antipyretic and diaphoretic effect. The essential oil also irritates mucous membranes resulting in its expectorant effect. The irritation may also stimulate peristalsis.

Besides the bitter and aromatic components of the herb, it contains the mucilaginous polysaccharride inulin which could mitigate the harshness of the herb. Tannins are also present which tone inflamed tissue. One study also mentions the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These are apparently of the same chemical class as the hepatoxic alkaloids found in comfrey. Flavonoids have even shown some antitumor properties.
Colds and Flu: European studies show this herb helps treat minor viral and bacterial infections by stimulating white blood cells to destroy disease-causing microorganisms more effectively. In Germany, where herbal medicine is more main-stream than it is in the United States, physicians currently use boneset to treat viral infections, such as colds and flu.
Arthritis: One study shows boneset is mildly anti-inflammatory, lending some support to its traditional use in treating arthritis.

Preparation And Dosages:
To treat colds, flu, and arthritis, and for minor inflammation, use an infusion or tincture.
Infusion: Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried leaves per cup of boiling water. Steep 10 to 20 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups a day. The taste will be very bitter. Add sugar or honey and lemon, or mix it with an herbal beverage tea.
Tincture: Dry plant – (1:5). 20 to 40 drops in hot water.
Clinical Effectiveness:
1. Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is native to eastern North America and was used by Native Americans to treat fevers, including dengue fever and malaria. Today, boneset is used primarily in homeopathic medicine for fevers, influenza, digestive problems, and liver disorders.

2. In the past, boneset was used extensively for a number of conditions, including constipation, fever, and influenza. Currently, however, the use of boneset is limited because other drugs generally are more effective.

3. Boneset may be effective when used orally as an immunostimulant and anti-inflammatory agent. There is insufficient reliable information available about the effectiveness of boneset for its other uses.

4. Products containing boneset have been placed in the “Herbs of Undefined Safety” category by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
CAUTION: Do not eat fresh boneset. It contains a toxic chemical (tremerol), which causes nausea, vomiting, weakness, muscle tremors, increased respiration, and at high doses, possibly even coma and death. Drying the herb eliminates the tremerol and the possibility of poisoning.

Allergic hypersensitivity can result in contact dermatitis due to the sesquiterpene lactone constituents.

Other Uses:  Eupatorium perfoliatum is a specific Butterfly food and habitat plant.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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