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.
Family: Compositae (Sunflower family)
Other Names: Feverwort, Agueweed, Thoroughwort, Sweating plant,
Flowers: July – October
Parts Used: Aerial parts
Habitat: Moist ground; thickets. Nova Scotia to Florida; Louisiana; Texas to North Dakota.
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.
Constituents: Quercetin, Kaempferol, Rutin, Eupatorin, Sesquiterpene, Volatile oil, Resin
Properties: Stimulant, Tonic, Diaphoretic, Emetic, Aperient, Antispasmodic, Cathartic, and Febrifuge.
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.
Caution 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.
Contact Dermatitis Allergic hypersensitivity can result in contact dermatitis due to the sesquiterpene lactone constituents.