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Boneset - Other Names, Past and Present

Chinese: pei lan / jiegu mu / lin ze lan
Japanese: fujibakama
French: bois perfolie / eupatoire / eupatoire perfoliee / herbe a fievre / herbe a souder
Spanish: eupratorio
English: boneset / agueweed / crossword / feverwort / Indian sage / sweating plant / teasel / thoroughwort / vegetable antimony / snakeroot
Latin (esoteric): eupratorium
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Eupratorium perfoliatum

Boneset - Background and History

Boneset is a plant belonging to the genus Eupatorium, with a wide range of species amounting to some sixty in total, under the Asteraceae family. Because of the sheer breadth of its total species count, boneset, as it is known to herbal practices specifically denotes one species of the plant in general, that being Eupratorium perfoliatum. While it is indeed possible that other species of boneset other than E. perfoliatum have been employed by one culture or other for medicinal purposes (among other species being E. fortunei, throughout the majority of Europe, it is the aforementioned which takes precedence for medicinal applications. The sheer breadth of the whole genus has prompted scientists and botanists to move a number of interrelated but wholly distinct species into other subgenres or genera of their own. [1]

E. perfoliatum or common boneset is a plant that is native to the Eastern parts of the United States as well as throughout Canada. Related species are also found in areas as far as China and Japan. Boneset is a relatively small shrub-like plant which grows to about one metre in height, and is possessed of delicate dark-green leaves that strongly clasp the stems. It is most distinctive for its inflorescence, which occurs as a dense white head of flowers that sprout above the foliage, sometimes in clusters. [2] Because of its unique appearance, it is now commonly employed as an ornamental plant for gardens and large-scale landscaping.

While it is called 'boneset' it was never truly employed by the ancients as a means to mend broken bones. The name boneset seems to have two distinct etymological origins - the first being that its distinctive foliage was believed, in the philosophy of esoteric healing (i. e. Doctrine of Signatures, and later on homeopathic healing) to 'knit' together broken bones, just as it wound tightly together unto itself. This belief resulted in the superstition that if leaves were wrapped around bandaged fractures, the injury would 'set' or fuse faster. [3] The second (and perhaps more plausible) explanation for its name is due to the fact that it was employed as one of the earliest cures for malaria and dengue fever - both diseases which caused severe pain and tremors seemingly originating from within one's skeletal system itself. The term 'boneset', it is believe, came from the fact that it helped to 'set' (that is, to ease) the pain that was caused by such diseases. Nowadays, boneset is rarely used as a medicinal plant due to the fact that it possesses compounds which are hepatotoxic, although some herbal practices such as homeopathy and allopathy continue to employ the plant for medicinal purposes, albeit in highly diluted forms. Boneset is of esteemed interest for individuals who specialise in the field of herbal medicine, as it is among one of the earliest known cures for the dread disease dengue fever and malaria.

Boneset - Common / Popular Uses

In the old days, boneset was employed as a cure for a number of diseases, although it is more well-known for being an early cure for the dreaded diseases dengue and malarial fever. Unlike most 'old-fashioned' herbal medicines, only the aerial parts of the plant were predominantly employed, chiefly the leaves (but more often the flowers) and sometimes the roots, which were decocted and either employed topically or otherwise drunk. Employed traditionally, boneset was always dried prior to usage, and the whole of which later infused or otherwise decocted. Nowadays, if at all used medicinally, boneset is often harvested and employed fresh, although some specialty herbalist stores and occult shops may sell dried boneset leaves and / or flowers, albeit its employment may be strictly for spellcrafting or some other symbolic purpose than any literal attempts and brewing medicine.

Boneset was employed as a remedy for a number of bronchial diseases, among them influenza, bronchitis, nasal infections, pneumonia, asthma, croup, emphysema, and even swine flu. [4] When employed for the treatment of such diseases, the constituent parts a mild decoction of the plant parts are required, which is then drunk once or twice a day, usually in thimblefuls, but no more than a half-a-cup to a wineglassful per day. This remedy is also a very potent diaphoretic which is given to decrease fevers (as a febrifuge) and encourage sweating, thereby hastening detoxification and helping to cool the overall temperature of the body. Milder decoctions or even milder infusions of the plant matter can also be employed as a remedy for colds and constipation. [5] It should be noted that even very mild infusions or decoctions of the plant may cause vomiting. While this is generally undesirable, it may be put to good use as a remedy for possible food poisoning (the esoteric Latin name of the plant in fact was based on a king renowned for his seeming immunity to poisons - Mithridates Eupator), although any attempts at purging poison from the body through vomiting is ill-advised, especially if done without the supervision of an expert herbalist or medical practitioner. Its ability to cause vomiting may have even prompted early herbalists to employ the plant as a type of purgative, using it to effectively rid the body of intestinal parasites, although the efficiency of such methods are at best unreliable and possibly very dangerous. [6] It was once believed that, depending upon the state in which the decoction was served, it would elicit different medicinal effects; generally, tisanes which were served hot acted as diaphoretics and as potent febrifuges, while cold tisanes acted as general tonics which nourished (it was believed) the spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and the digestive system as a whole. [7]

The use of boneset as a medicine persisted until the latter part of the 18th century, where it was strongly relied upon to treat and cure influenza, dengue fever, and malaria - diseases which, prior to the development of modern cures, caused highly debilitating symptoms and often death when left untreated. [8] In spite of the hepatotoxic nature of the herb, and its bevy of unwanted side-effects (nausea, dizziness, vomiting, overall feeling of sickness and malaise, possible worsening of symptoms being treated), being then the only cure for such deadly diseases made it a tolerated, and even a lauded herbal remedy. Moderately strong decoctions of the plant were even employed topically as a potent antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal agent and general disinfectant. [9]

Outside of its employment in Europe and in the pre-Industrial Era Americas, boneset has long been used by the Native Americans as a remedy for fever, flu, colds, and other respiratory ailments. A decoction of the leaves was often used as a disinfectant for the treatment of wounds, while chewed or crushed leaves were made into a poultice and applied to the forehead or affected area is employed to help lower fevers and to lessen swelling glandular or muscular swelling. Some Native American tribes may have even employed the herb as an emmenagogue and a rudimentary abortifacient - a practice which was later taken up by the Colonials, alongside much of all other herbal practices introduced to them by the First Peoples. [10] In Traditional Chinese Medicine (specifically employing the variety available in the area, generally E. fortunei), it is believe to be a tonifying herb that helps to increase heat to the spleen and other extremities, helping to treat general weakness, wasting diseases, tremors, and other yin imbalances.

Modern applications for boneset are rare, chiefly due to its highly toxic nature and the fact that it can easily be overdosed if employed by an inexpert herbalist. Some modern herbalists do suggest that boneset, if taken in minor dosages, could actually help treat certain types of cancers due to its assumed cytotoxic properties, although the need to consume significant amounts of the herb for prolonged periods of time poses great dangers to one's health and is ill-advised. [11]

Boneset - Esoteric / Magickal Uses

Having a long reputation as a medicinal plant, the esoteric uses of boneset are nigh inextricable from its medicinal properties. Aside from being employed as a powerful medicine, it was highly valued and feared by Native Americans as a Power herb, a true Medicine in the shamanic sense. It was employed not only as a medicine however, but as a talismanic herb, which, it is said, were carried by hunters to help attract deer or elk. Some tribes, such as that of the Iroquois Nation employed the plant for divinatory purposes, and as a hexing herb. [12] In the practice of voodoo and hoodoo, the leaves or roots of the plant (often referred to as 'white snakewood') is often encased in juju bags and worn as a protective and curative amulet against disease. When burnt as a incense, the leaves are said to help hasten healing, and to negate any hexes, curses, and ills that may be present upon one's person. Modern herb spellcraft ascribes boneset leaves and flowers the power to 'cure any and all unnatural diseases'. [13] In modern shamanism, the leaves are used as a cleansing and banishing smudge, or, if decocted, as a cleansing bath to rid oneself of negative energy or malign forces that seek to disturb the balance of one's life.

Boneset - Safety Notes

While boneset may possess powerful medicinal properties, its usage is ill-advised due to its extreme toxicity. Not only is boneset hepatotoxic, with the capacity to slowly poison the liver and impair the function of the kidneys and bladder if partaken of for prolonged periods, or if consumed in very high doses, but it also causes other unwanted side effects even if consumed in small dosages. Among its many side effects are nausea, vomiting, dizziness, general weakness, and, in large doses, tremors, palpitation, erratic heartbeat, headaches, and stomach upset. If the use of boneset is decided upon, one is urged to use it only at the guidance of an expert herbalist, and at one's discretion. Because of its highly toxic nature, boneset must never be partaken of by any person, of any age, without expert guidance or prior experience to its proper dosage and use.

Boneset - References:










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Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt. © 2014

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