If you are not already familiar with Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) this could be one of the best plant allies you make this winter! Boneset is one of the best-known herbs for flu - especially the kinds of flu we get here in Ireland where the cold and damp get ‘into the bones’ as we love to say!
A native of North America this plant has a long-standing traditional use by their native peoples for influenza. Throughout the 18th and 19th century colonialist physicians used Eupatorium perfoliatum for fevers and influenza epidemics.
Boneset is specific for flu with intermittent fever and chills and that comes with muscle aches and pains that are felt in the joints and the bones. It stimulates the immune system, is anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxant, eases rheumatic pain, brings up bronchial phlegm, relieves coughs and pleuritic pain and most importantly induces sweating. This diaphoretic action of Boneset which aids the body in fever is best achieved from a hot tea made from the dried plant. It was also traditionally used for malaria and dengue fever. Various native tribes of North America had many other uses for Boneset too including as a laxative and indeed setting broken bones.
In clinic we mostly use Boneset in combination with other respiratory herbs for bronchial conditions which accompany hard to shift colds and flu. It is often the first herb we think of to use for those classic symptoms of fever and body ache that come with viral infections like the flu.
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is a handsome hardy perennial that doesn’t need much care. It’s ideal for our damp ground as it thrives in moist soils. It likes an open sunny position and can self-seed if given this as the seeds need light to germinate. Our plants grow to 3 ft tall. I love the crinkly twisting leaves which tips turn a purple tinge as it matures. The unusual sessile attachment of the leaves to the stem make it distinctive in the garden. We harvest this perennial each year usually at the end of summer to make tincture - taking the whole plant above ground just before the flowers come to into full blossom. We dry some to save for emergency fever tea – for drying best to harvest while flowers are in bud. These baby Boneset plants will now die back for the Winter and then be going to new homes next Spring when we reopen the herb nursery