Boneset, the Beautiful Warrior.   1 comment

Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Thoroughwort or Ague-weed, is a very common and familiar native, found in meadows, waste places and damp ground throughout Eastern North America, extending from Nova Scotia to Florida, through Louisiana, Texas and North Dakota.


Beautiful Boneset is a perennial herb, with an erect, sturdy, cylindrical, hairy stem, 2 to 5 feet tall, and branched at the top.

The leaves are large, opposite, conjoined at and around the stem, lance-shaped, 4 to 10 inches long, with finely toothed edges, prominent veins, rough above, and downy, dotted and resinous, underneath.

The leaves help to identify Boneset at first glance.  Botanically they are considered either, perforated by the stem, perfoliate (hence the specific name), or as having two opposite leaves joined at the base, and therefore, connate.

The flower-heads are terminal, prolific, large and slightly convex, the tiny white florets, have  bristly hairs. Boneset flowers are mildly aromatic, and taste very bitter and astringent. The popular name, Boneset, is derived from the value of this herbal warrior in the treatment of Dengue fever, (1) also known as Break-bone Fever, a strain of influenza which attacked the United States, in the late 1700’s.  No doubt the First People’s generosity in sharing their wisdom and long-time love of Ague-weed saved many lives.

Happily, flowering from July through September, allows a long window of harvest-ability; and Boneset is, also, a favorite butterfly habitat and food source. The leaves and tops are best gathered after flowering has begun. They contain volatile oil, tannic acid, and Eupatorin (hence the generic name), a bitter glucosidal principle.

Boneset has historically been used as a popular fever reducer, and has been employed, in typhoid, influenza and yellow fevers. For fever, an infusion (tea) of 1/4 oz. of  dried Boneset in 1 quart of boiling water may be taken, hot or cold.  For best results, drink in doses of  6 – 8 oz., warm, every half hour, remain in bed the whole time; after several doses, profuse perspiration is achieved, the fever breaks and relief is obtained. 

The flavor of Boneset tea is. . .well. . . intense!  The bitter astringency can be tempered with other more tasty herbs, like sweetfern, Comptonia peregrine (2), or red clover, Trifolium pretense (3), and/or spices, like whole cloves, star anise and/or a cinnamon stick and some honey, molasses or maple syrup, help Boneset tea go from argh to ahhhh!  I like to add an equal amount of dried flowers into the brew.  White Sweet Clover, Melilotus alba (4), has a sweet pleasant vanilla-ish flavor and makes a great addition to any harshly flavored herbal remedy.

As a mild tonic in moderate doses, 1 tsp dried herb to 8 oz boiling water, once a day, Boneset has diaphoretic, stimulant, febrifuge, anti-spasmotic and laxative actions; especially when taken as a warm infusion; it works slowly and persistently, on the stomach, liver, bowels and uterus.  Ague-weed is helpful in attacks of muscular rheumatism, indigestion, constipation and general cold symptoms. In large doses Boneset becomes emetic and purgative.   And, BONUS, Boneset has no known drug interactions (5).

Just click on any photo to enlarge for greater detail.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.

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Dengue fever (UK: /ˈdɛŋɡeɪ/, US: /ˈdɛŋɡiː/), also known as breakbone fever, is an infectious tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and join pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles.




(5) A-Z guide to drug-herb-vitamin interactions, Schuyler W. Lininger, Jr. DC, editor in chief

      Prima Health, 1999.

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      Element Books.  1996

 * SHAKER Medicinal HERBS, Amy Bess Miller. 

     Storey Books.  1998


     Destiny Books.  1997

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Nothing written here is intended as medical advice; or any kind of advice, at all.  I’m not a doctor; or other health professional.  What works for me, may not work for you.  I’m simply sharing my thoughts, opinions, experiences, hard learned lessons, and love.  I disclaim any and all liability resulting from the use of, collection of, preparation of, ingestion of, reaction to or contact with, any plant written about here; or anywhere else.  Use great caution when hunting, collecting, preparing and eating any wild food for the first time.  Make certain of your identification.  You, and you alone, are responsible for what you collect, prepare and consume; and for whatever consequences that may result.  Anyone can have an allergic reaction to any food, at any time.  Use common sense, go slow, do the research, check and double-check, and then check again, then proceed with extreme caution.  One mistake could cost your life; or worse, someone else’s life.  Know the laws where you intend to forage.  Whenever appropriate get permission.  Check public records for area pesticide spraying programs.  Never harvest right after spraying.  Find out if and when it will be safe.


One response to “Boneset, the Beautiful Warrior.

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  1. Pingback: Gathering Goldenrod « Forageporage's Blog

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