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March 2017--Boneset

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Eupatorium perfoliatum
[yoo-puh-TOR-ee-um per-foh-lee-AY-tum]

Family: Compositae 

Names: feverwort, sweat(ing) plant; thoroughwort; Indian sage; ague weed; crosswort; teasel, wood boneset, vegetable antimony;  Native American names: ‘skipwa’isi mamitcakanakesiti (sweet potato root and weeds with fowers round) and “manitowu’skw” (snake root) [Mesquakie]; Eupatorio (Spanish)   

Description: A hardy perennial with  round, erect, hairy, hollow stems which grow to 5 feet, then split into three branches, which produce tiny, densely clustered white to bluish florets from midsummer through fall.  Its leaves are long, narrow, pointed pairs connected and pierced by the stem. Fruits are dry, 5-angled, hairy achenes.  The odor of the plant is slightly aromatic, the taste astringent and strongly bitter. Common in the marshes of the eastern half of the US and Canada. 

Cultivation: Perennial, hard to Zone 3.  Prefers a rich, moist soil.  Can grow in full sun with adequate moisture or partial shade if moisture is somewhat scarce. Regular water is important; irrigate deeply at least once a week, if necessary, with either overhead or drip.  Somewhat competitive with weeds. Because of its size, early cultivation is important.  No known pest problems.  Plant can be harvested year after year in same location. If left in the ground for many years it must be fertilized annually with a balanced fertilizer.
Easily propagated from seed or cuttings.  Seeds will germinate reasonably well without stratification but will germinate better with it.  Up to 80%-90% germination is typical.  Germination time is 2-3 weeks, with nursery seedlings ready to transplant in approximately 2-3 months.  Cuttings are easiest when plant is not in flower, ideally in late spring or early summer.  Cuttings root readily and can be potted into larger pots in about 4-6 weeks. Older plants can be easily divided in early spring.
Plant as soon as seedlings are ready in late spring/early summer.  Cuttings can be planted when ready.  Easy to plant with transplanter.  Plants should be on 18-24 inch centers with row spacing 24-30 inches.  Boneset seedlings require a lot of water so either irrigate immediately or plant when rain is expected. 
Aerial portions are harvested when flowers are starting usually in mid-summer.  A second fall harvest is sometimes possible.  Harvest by hand and immediately put it into the shade as it starts to decompose quickly if it gets too hot.
It bruises easily and starts to decompose quickly so careful handling is important.  It is best to get it into the dryer as soon as possible with care being taken not to pile it too thick.  The plant should be dry in 4-6 days. 

History: Boneset's name comes from its traditional use as a treatment for "breakbone fever," an old term for dengue fever, a mosquito-borne, viral disease that causes muscle pains so intense that people imagine their bones are breaking.  The Indians introduced boneset to early colonists as a sweat-inducer, an old treatment for fevers.  The Indians used boneset for all fever-producing illnesses: influenza, cholera, dengue, malaria, and typhoid, which accounts for the other names of feverwort and sweat plant.  It was also used to relieve arthritis and to treat colds, indigestion, constipation, and loss of appetite.  Boneset was listed as a treatment for fever in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820-1916, and in the National Formulary from 1926-1950.  Boneset was also used as a charm by the North American Indians.  The root fibers were applied to hunting whistles, believing they would increase the whistle's ability to call deer.

Ritual Use: Gender: Feminine.  Planet: Saturn.  Element: Water.  Powers: Protection., Exorcism. 
Boneset guides ghosts elsewhere, attracting protective benevolent spirits instead.  Boneset may also be used to protect people and animals from “ghost sickness,” the illness that some believe may emerge after extended contact with the dead.  The most potent boneset is found growing on or near graves.  Supplement it with white pine for added enhancement.  Hang fresh boneset branches over doorways or burn young boneset branches and twigs within a cauldron to drive away existing ghosts.
To determine whether love will flourish, take two boneset roots and hold the roots together to see if they will intertwine. If they will, the signs are auspicious for relationship and romance. 
To curse an enemy, burn as an incense and chant while it burns,
I alone will break your bone,
You can no longer harm me,
The harm you’ve done returns to you,
As sure as sky turns blue.
As a skin ointment, grind the herb into powder, mix in equal proportions with vaseline, and form a salve for the affected area of sore or rash.

Constituents:  Aromatic compounds: essential oil; terpenoids; sesquiterpene lactones: euperfolin, euperfolitin, eufoliatin and eufoliatorin (which have cytotoxic and antitumor activity); diterpenes (hepenolide); dendroidinic acid and others; triterpenes; alpha-amyrin and others; sesquiterpenes; chromenes; resin; Astringent compounds: tannin; Bitter compounds: saponins; sitosterol and tohers; alkaloids; Flavonoids: eupatorin, quercetin, kaempferol, astragalin, rutin and others; Mucilaginous compounds; polysaccharides; inulin (15%) 

Medicinal Uses:  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. 

Properties: antibacterial, aperients, diaphoretic; laxative; antipyretic; bitter tonic; antispasmodic; emetic; carminative; astringent 

Applications: For colds, flu, arthritis and minor inflammation, use an infusion or tincture.  For an infusion, use 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves per cup of boiling water.  Steep 10-20 minutes.  Drink up to 3 cups a day.  Add sugar or honey and lemon to improve taste.  For tinctures, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to 3 times a day.  Should not be given to children under age 2.  Traditionally combined with fenugreek.  Extract: 1.5 gm dried herb, 7 ml alcohol, 8 ml water. 

Remedies: For asthma: mix 1 tablespoon each of boneset, Irish moss, coltsfoot, mullein, thyme, rosemary, valerian, and lobelia.  Add 1 teaspoon of the herbal mixture to 1 cup of boiling water.  Cover and steep for 15 minutes.  Strain.  Peppermint or cherry oil may be added for flavoring if desired.  Drink 4 cups daily to obtain relief. 

For blood-strengthening spring tonic: pour 1 quart of boiling water over 1 ounce each of burdock root, dandelion root, boneset herb and sarsaparilla and boil for 15 minutes.  Strain and drink 1 wineglass full 3 times a day. Continue treatment fort 2-3 days.  Refrigerate and drink cold.

For sinus congestion: this may take several days to loosen up congestion.  Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoon of boneset. Cover and steep 15 minutes.  Strain and sweeten.  Drink with every meal and before bed.

For arthritis: Mix 1 tablespoon each of corn silk, broom flowers, skullcap and boneset. Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tablespoon of herb mixture and steep 15 minutes.  Strain and sweeten. Drink with meals. 

Catarrh Tea
1 tsp boneset
3 tsp peppermint leaves
2 Tbsp elder flowers
1 Tbsp yarrow
2 cups boiling water
Combine the herbs and cover with the boiling water in a nonmetallic container; steep 30 minutes, cool, and strain.  Take up to two cups a day. 

Cough and Cold Formula
2 tsp boneset herb
2 tsp licorice root

2 to 3
slices ginger root
2 tsp wild cherry bark
2 cups boiling water
Combine the above herbs in a nonmetallic container and cover with the boiling water; steep for 30 minutes, cool, and strain.  Take one to two tablespoons at a time, up to two cups a day, as needed, for a dry tickling cough.

Constipation Tea

One large handful of boneset flowers
One large handful of dandelion flowers
4 oz cascara bark
2 quarts water
Combine the above herbs in a pan and cover with two quarts of water; bring to a boil; boil until the mixture reduces to one quart; strain.  Take one cup before breakfast and one at bedtime.  You may want to add honey to sweeten. 

Fever/Flu Remedy
2 parts boneset flowers & leaves
2 parts white yarrow flowers
1 part horehound flowers and leaves
1 part calendula flowers
2 parts mullein leaves
Use as a tea or tincture.  Can be bitter so many prefer the tincture.  For acute symptoms, children can take 2-5 drops of tincture or 1/8 – ½ cup of tea every 1-2 hours; adults 25-50 drops of tincture or 1 cup of tea every 1 to 2 hours until acute phase diminishes.  Continue same amount of drops, 3 times a day for at least 7 – 10 days after the acute symptoms have subsided.   

Homeopathic: Anus (herpes of), Back (pain in), Bilious fever, tincture of whole plant--bones (pains I), cough, dengue, diarrhea, fractures, gout, hiccups, hoarseness, indigestion, influenza, intermittent fever, jaundice, liver (soreness of), measles, cracks of mouth, ophthalmia, relapsing fever, remittent fever, rheumatism, ringworm, spotted fever, syphilitic pains, thirst, wounds.  A clinical experiment in Germany compared the effectiveness of a homeopathic tincture of boneset to aspirin on 53 patients affected by the common cold.  No significant differences were found between the two groups, indicating that the drugs were equally effective.  Other German research indicates that boneset contains large polysaccharides that have significant immunostimulatory effects. 

Toxicity:  In large amounts, boneset can cause nausea, vomiting and violent diarrhea.  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.  For otherwise healthy non-pregnant, non-nursing adults who have no history of alcoholism, cancer, or liver disease, boneset is considered safe in amounts typically recommended. 

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