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Botanical Description & Habitat

Eupatorium perfoliatum


Common Names

FeverwortIndian sage
Sweating plantTeasel
ThoroughwortVegetable antimony
Wood boneset

North America and parts of Europe; common in damp places.

An indigenous perennial plant, boneset has numerous herbaceous stems growing from 1-5 feet in height. The stems are erect, rough, hairy, and bear opposite serrated leaves with prominent veins on the underside. Numerous white flowers grow in a flattened cluster at the top of the plant, blooming from August to September.

Medicinal Parts
Fresh leaves and tops while in flower

Historical Properties & Uses

The use of boneset as an herbal remedy apparently began with the Native American Indians. White settlers incorporated the use of the herb into their medicine.

Boneset was used to treat colds and fevers by breaking up congestion in the chest and throat. It is used to induce sweating and to reduce the painful aches and pain associated with colds, flu and other feverish conditions.

Method of Action

Boneset contains alkaloids similar to the active alkaloids of echinacea. In European herbal medicine, boneset is one of the most prescribed herbs for stimulation of the immune system.

In a controlled clinical trial with human patients, boneset extract had the same therapeutic effect as acetylsalicylic acid on treating flu symptoms.

Although boneset contains many chemicals (quercetin, rutin, etc) identical to or similar to the active constituents of other eupatorium species. It is not clear whether this plant shares the pharmacological activity of the other species. If it does, then the plant would have good cytotoxic and neoplastic properties.

Boneset has a small amount of anti-inflammatory activity.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions
Boneset, due to its cathartic activity, may potentiate anticoagulant therapy by reducing absorption of vitamin K from the gut. It may also inhibit absorption of dextrose from the intestines.

As a cathartic herb, boneset may increase the intestinal transit time of digitalis glycosides, inhibiting their absorption and cardiac action. Cathartic-induced hypokalemia, however, increases the toxicity and potency of absorbed digitalis and potentiates muscle relaxants.

In addition to the specific interactions listed, the cathartic action of boneset tend to hasten the passage of all oral medications through the gut, thereby inhibiting their action.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Boneset is emetic and cathartic in large doses, especially if taken hot. These effects are probably due to its content of euparotin.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried herb
1-2 grams

made from 1/2 tsp dried herb

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 1-2 ml

1:5 in 45% alcohol, 2-4 ml

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


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Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.

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Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Prescott, L.F. Dec. 6, 1969. Pharmacokinetic drug interactions. Lancet, 2. pp. 1239-1243.

Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Med. Assoc, Lane House, Cowling, Keighley. l983

Triratana, T et al., Effect of Eupatorium odoratum on blood coagulation. J. Med. Assoc. Thai. 1991, 74:283.

Wagner, H. Immunprophylaxe und -therapie durch pflanzenpraeparate. Zeitschrift Fur Allgemeinmedizin, 24, 1282-1289, 1983.


Eupatorium perfoliatum

? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine


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