Boneset (Ague-weed) is a beautiful native American plant found in moist meadows, woodlands, along stream banks, or in swamps across Eastern North America and west to Louisiana and Minnesota. A member of the aster family, it blooms July–September with flat clusters of white flowers. Once established, boneset resembles a small shrub at 3’ to 4’ tall. The base of the leaves appear to wrap around the stem, as if pierced by the stem. This perforated arrangement of the leaf and stem led to the species name E. perfoliatum. Because the leaves are wrapped around the stem, early herbalists concluded the plant would be useful as a plaster, along with bandages, for setting broken bones.
Boneset was also infused as a tea to treat fevers, colds, and digestive ailments. A Modern Herbal suggests the name boneset rose from its use as a treatment for Dengue fever, also known as Break Bone Fever, and declares, ‘Probably no plant in American domestic practice has had more extensive and frequent use.’ The summer flowers attract pollinating insects, such as butterflies. In the fall, the seeds draw a variety of songbirds.
“Boneset was one of early America’s foremost medical plants, a popular panacea of extraordinary powers. Native Americans introduced the settlers to this New World herb. Its name reflects its use during a particularly harsh strain of flu called “break bone fever”. Come cold and flu season, boneset can be invaluable in relieving coughs and upper respiratory congestion. Today, it is chiefly regarded as a weed with an interesting past.”
From another interesting site: http://www.alchemy-works.com/eupatorium_perfoliatum.html
“In West Virginia folk medicine, boneset was simmered with lemon and honey to make a cough syrup. The Eclectic physicians used it with success during the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. In modern herbalism, it is usually combined with elder and willow for fevers with aches, and with scullcap and milkweed for flu.”
That’s pretty darned amazing because that was a killer flu.