Boneset – Eupatorium perfoliatum

Parts used: leaf, flower

Traditional uses: Used as a purgative. Infusion taken for colds. Used as a tonic, sudorific, stimulant, emetic and antiseptic. Infusion taken for “ague,” colds and flu. Used as a stimulant. Infusion taken for sore throat. Decoction of plant used as a gentle emetic. Plant used as a fever medicine.

“Stimulant, febrifuge and laxative. It acts slowly and persistently, and its greatest power is manifested upon the stomach, liver, bowels and uterus. It is regarded as a mild tonic in moderate doses, and is also diaphoretic, more especially when taken as a warm infusion, in which form it is used in attacks of muscular rheumatism and general cold. In large doses it is emetic and purgative. Many of the earlier works allude to this species as a diuretic, and therefore of use in dropsy, but this is an error, this property being possessed by Eupatorium purpureum, the purple-flowered Boneset, or Gravel Root. It has been much esteemed as a popular febrifuge, especially in intermittent fever, and has been employed, though less successfully, in typhoid and yellow fevers. It is largely used by the negroes of the Southern United States as a remedy in all cases of fever, as well as for its tonic effects. As a mild tonic it is useful in dyspepsia and general debility, and particularly serviceable in the indigestion of old people. The infusion of 1 OZ of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water may be taken in wineglassful doses, hot or cold: for colds and to produce perspiration, it is given hot; as a tonic, cold. As a remedy in catarrh, more especially in influenza, it has been extensively used and with the best effects, given in doses of a wineglassful, warm every half hour, the patient remaining in bed the whole time; after four or five doses, profuse perspiration is caused and relief is obtained. It is stated that the popular name Boneset is derived from the great value of this remedy in the treatment of a species of influenza which had much prevailed in the United States, and which from the pain attending it was commonly called Break-Bone Fever. This species of Eupatorium has also been employed in cutaneous diseases, and in the expulsion of tapeworm.” ~Grieve MH

*** Cautions: Contains trace amounts of the toxin pyrrolizidine. Caution should be taken when using internally. Large doses emetic. *** 

Tea for fevers and chills – “Boneset tea is a favorite remedy for chills, fever, and ague.” ~Randolph OMF 107

Root tea for colds – “My mother says as a child she had malaria with chills every other day and fever. An old aunt of her mothers came to visit and told her brothers to go into the woods and get the root of a certain plant called ‘bone set’. She took the roots, washed them, and boiled them, and made a tea. This my mother had to drink, and it cured her, and she has never had a chill to this day.” ~Parler FBA II 1767

Applied to body for malaria – “A cure for malaria is to take the oil from a plant called a bone set (Eupatorium) and apply to the person with malaria.” ~Parler FBA III 2676


Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)