Boneset, thoroughwort, vegetable antimony, feverwort, agueweed, Indian sage, sweating plant, eupatorium, crosswort
A ubiquitous plant found growing in swamps, marshes and shores from Canada to Florida and west to Texas and Nebraska. The plant is easily recognized by its long, narrow, tapering leaves that oppose each other around a single stout stem giving the impression of one long leaf pierced at the center by the stem. Hence its name "perfolia," meaning ''through the leaves." The plant grows from July to October to a height of 3 to 4 feet, flowering in late summer with white blossoms. The entire plant is hairy and light green in color.
Soneset has been used as a charm and as a medicinal remedy for centuries by the North American Indians. As a charm, the root fibers were applied to hunting whistles, believing they would increase the whis?tle's ability to call deer. As an herbal remedy, Indians used boneset as an antipyretic. The early settlers used the plant to treat rheumatisms, dropsy, dengue fever, pneumonia and influenza. The name "boneset" was de?rived from the plant's use in the treatment of break-bone fever, a term describing the high fever that often accom?panies influenza.
The plant is known to contain a glucoside (eupatorin), volatile oil, tannin, resin, inulin and wax. A number of sterols and triterpenes (including sitosterol and stigmasterol) have been isolated4,5 along with more than eight sesquiterpene lactones. The flavonoids quercetin, kaempferol and eupatorin have been identified in the plant?
In an analysis of nine species of Eupatorium, which included E. perfoliatum, all species were found to contain alkaloids; boneset was found to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids.Other investigators have found pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the roots of the related E. masculatum.
Based on data from early medical compendia, boneset is believed to have diuretic and laxative properties in small doses; large doses may result in emesis and catharsis. The "usual" dose of boneset was the equivalent of 2 to 4 grams of plant administered as a fluid extract. When used as a household remedy, the plant has been taken as a tea ranging in concentration from teaspoonfuls to tablespoonfuls of crushed dried leaves and flowering tops steeped in a cup to a pint of boiling water. Boneset had been used by physicians to treat fever, but its use was supplanted by safer and more effective antipyretics. It is not known which components of boneset reduce fever, or what the relative degree of effectiveness of these compounds is. An ethanolic extract of the whole plant has been found to exhibit weak anti-inflammatory activity in rats?
A number of the sesquiterpene lactones isolated from the plant and related species (ie, eupatilin, eupafolin) and flavones (eupatorin) have been shown to possess cyto?toxic or antineoplastic activity?,
An extract of E. perfoliatum combined with other herbs has been shown to stimulate phagocyte activity in vitro.
Compounds isolated from the related species E. odora?tum have been found to enhance blood coagulation by accelerating clotting time through the activation of certain clotting factors. Extracts of E. cannabinum exert choleretic and hepatoprotective effects in rat models.
Although few reports of adverse effects have been reported with the use of boneset, the FDA has classified this plant as an "Herb of Undefined Safety." 14 Large amounts of teas or extracts result in severe diar?rhea. The identification of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Eupa?torium species is disconcerting. This class of alkaloids is known to cause hepatic impairment after long-term inges?tion. While direct evidence for a hepatotoxic effect from boneset does not exist, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that any plant containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids should not be ingested.
The sesquiterpene lactones of the related species E. cannabinum L. have been reported to induce contact dermatitis, although no documented cross-allergenicity to E. perfoliatum has been reported.
A toxic unsaturated alcohol called tremetrol may cause hypoglycemia and may induce fatty degeneration of the liver and kidneys as well as gastrointestinal hemor?rhage.
Symptoms of toxicity are often observed in grazing animals and include weakness, nausea, loss of appetite,