Boneset, also called thoroughwort or agueweed, is common throughout the eastern parts of North America. There, Native Americans used an infusion of its leaves and flowering twigs to help induce sweating in cases of fever and colds, and to ease rheumatism. They also employed it as a treatment for malaria. According to one source, boneset’s popularity as a medicinal remedy inspired the statement: ‘probably no plant in American domestic practice has been more extensively and frequently used’. Today the herb is listed officially in the United States Pharmacopoeia (it is not included in the UK Pharmacopoeia). Boneset’s name probably stems from its value as a remedy for the aches and pains that often affect the muscles and joints caused by break-bone or dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease.
Boneset’s leaves and flowering tips are used as medical remedies. They are gathered once the plant has started to flower.
The primary active ingredients in boneset are sesquiterpene lactones and polysaccharides (both immune stimulants), phytosterols, flavonoids (which have an anti-oxidant effect), tannic acid and a volatile oil.
Boneset is prescribed principally to relieve flu, colds, acute bronchitis and congestion in the throat and nose by bringing on intense perspiration. It appears to stimulate the immune system. According to the US Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, certain chemicals in boneset may work like anti-cancer medications, and may also help fight bacteria. Boneset is prescribed to:
- Fight fevers such as colds and flu.
- Ease acute bronchitis and congestion in the throat and nose.
- May soothe aching muscles.
- May alleviate discomfort caused by rheumatism.
- May strengthen the immune system.
- May ease constipation.