BONESET - a Forgotten Cold and Flu Remedy
Echinacea, garlic, elderberry, and ginseng are all beneficial herbs that can help boost your immune system’s cold and flu fighting power. Did you know that a forgotten Native American herb, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is one of the best remedies for the relief of the associated symptoms that accompany cold and flu?
Boneset was a favorite medicinal herb among Native Americans for fevers. They drank steaming, hot boneset tea using the leaves and flowering tops to induce diaphoresis (sweating). A traditional treatment to suppress fevers which promotes sweating to cool the body and release excess heat. Native Americans used this method of internal cleansing to treat a variety of fever-causing afflictions, including colds, malaria, typhoid, cholera, influenza and breakbone fever.
Boneset’s name comes from its traditional use in the treatment of breakbone fever, the alternative name for dengue fever that affected North America in 1780 and early 1800s. Sufferers of the disease, an acute, infectious mosquito-transmitted viral illness experienced terrible fevers with such severe bone and joint pain that they felt their bones were breaking.
News of boneset’s healing powers soon spread among early American settlers. Boneset was introduced to the American materia medica sometime in the late 1700s following the Revolutionary War. This coincides with the use of the plant for treating fevers during the yellow fever epidemic years of U.S history in the late 1700s. By early 1800s boneset was being touted as the best remedy for yellow fever. The plant became so popular that many homes and farmsteads had dried boneset hanging in the attic, woodshed and rafters. Boneset became one of the most commonly used medicinal plants of the eastern U.S. It was recognized as a panacea for both chronic and acute illnesses by the African American slaves in the south where it was used to treat fevers and as a general tonic. Soldiers during the Civil War received infusions of boneset when they came down with a fever and as a tonic to keep them healthy. During the worst influenza epidemic the U.S. ever experienced in 1918 and 1919, the use of boneset was well documented for its effectiveness.
Boneset was one of the few herbs used by schools of herbalism and conventional medicine. It held official drug status for a lengthy period. From 1820-1916 it was listed in the U.S. Dispensatory a standard drug reference as a treatment for fever and in the National Formulary, the pharmacists reference from 1926-1950, even though it was seldom prescribed by physicians, at least during the latter part of that period. The bitter taste of boneset, its ability to cause nausea in large doses, and the advent of another fever fighter from the bark of the willow tree, aspirin, led to boneset’s decline.
Although research is limited to confirm the virtues of boneset in modern science, studies from the 1980s in Germany suggests nonspecific immune-system-stimulating properties, perhaps vindicating its historical use for flu.
Boneset is available as a dried herb (leaves and flowers) and as a tincture. To treat colds and fevers, infuse one oz. of dried boneset leaves to a pint of boiling water and allow to steep, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes. Drink half cup every 2-3 hours during an acute stage of cold or fever. A warm infusion acts as a diaphoretic, providing a slow and gentle perspiration in treating colds, flu and fever. Boneset may be combined with yarrow, elder flowers, cayenne or ginger in the treatment of influenza. A cold infusion 30 minutes before meals may help with loss of appetite, indigestion, and as a general bitter tonic.
Medical literature is lacking reports of adverse incidents attributed to boneset. However, the fresh plant contains a toxic unsaturated alcohol called tremetrol that may cause nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, thirst and constipation. This chemical is greatly reduced when the plant is dried. Some research shows that tremetrol is confined to white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) not boneset. To be on the safe side it is best to only use the dried leaves and flowering tops as a tea or tincture.
Caution: Potentially liver-damaging chemicals, called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, are found in some plants that are similar to boneset. The amounts found in boneset are negligible. Still, people with liver ailments should avoid the plant as long term use can cause degeneration of the liver and kidneys. Excessive doses of boneset can induce vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Use is not recommended if pregnant or breastfeeding.
by Joe Smulevitz, a nutritional researcher and author of numerous health articles. He can be reached at email@example.com
Copyright 2012 with Joe Smulevitz, C.H., M.H.
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