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What is boneset? What is it used for?

Boneset is a tall, thin, flowering plant found throughout North America. In addition to boneset, it is known under a variety of names, including feverwort, Indian sage and thoroughwort. It is in the same botanical family as echinacea and daisy, and has serrated green leaves and small, white or yellow-white flowers. The flowers and other aerial parts are used for medicinal purposes.

Boneset has been traditionally used by Native Americans, who employed boneset to treat a wide range of infections and fever-related conditions. European settlers also used it to treat fevers, with some practitioners claiming it was occasionally effective against malaria.

The active ingredients in boneset include sesquiterpene lactones, polysaccharides and flavonoids. Test tube studies have found boneset extract to stimulate the function of immune cells, which may explain its ability to combat colds and minor infections. Boneset also raises body temperature, which explains its use in fighting influenza. Some practitioners have used it to clear upper respiratory infections and mucous-related congestion.

How much boneset should I take?

Traditionally, boneset is taken as a tea or tincture, with one cup of boiling water added to 1-2 grams of boneset and being allowed to steep for 10-15 minutes. Three cups a day may be drunk; however, the tea is quite bitter. As a tincture, 1-4 millileters can be taken three times a day.

What forms of boneset are available?

Dried boneset is available, which is used to make boneset tea. It is also available in extract and tincture forms.

What can happen if I don't get enough boneset? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

Some people may experience episodes of nausea or vomiting when using boneset; this is more likely to occur when using fresh plant instead of a dried version. Patients with liver disease should avoid boneset, as should women who are pregnant or lactating. As boneset can cause an increase in body temperature, it should not be used by people who have a high (102 degrees or higher) fever. Boneset should not be used consistently for more than six months.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with boneset.

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  • Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds.) PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, Inc;1998:842.
  • Habtemariam S, Macpherson AM. Cytotoxicity and antibacterial activity of ethanol extract from leaves of a herbal drug, boneset (eupatorium perfoliatum). Phytother Res Nov 2000;14(7):575-7.
  • Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 48.
  • Winslow LC, Kroll DJ. Herbs as medicines. Arch Intern Med 1998;158(9):2192-99.
  • Woerdenbag HJ, Bos R, Hendriks H. Eupatorium perfoliatum L – the boneset. Z Phytother 1992;13:134–9.



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